Taking Off (Book One of Flying, A Trilology)

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Overview

It was fifty years ago that young Peter Leroy unintentionally pulled a fast one on the people of Babbington, New York. With a design ripped from the pages of Impractical Craftsman magazine, he built a flying aerocycle in his parents' garage. Then, before a breathless audience, he took off into the skies on the contraption, flew to New Mexico and back, and returned a hero. Now, Babbington has fallen on hard times, and his hometown is being transformed into a theme park commemorating Peter's flight. The time has ...

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Taking Off: A Novel

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Overview

It was fifty years ago that young Peter Leroy unintentionally pulled a fast one on the people of Babbington, New York. With a design ripped from the pages of Impractical Craftsman magazine, he built a flying aerocycle in his parents' garage. Then, before a breathless audience, he took off into the skies on the contraption, flew to New Mexico and back, and returned a hero. Now, Babbington has fallen on hard times, and his hometown is being transformed into a theme park commemorating Peter's flight. The time has come for Peter to return, to set the record straight, and to tell the people of Babbington that his feat of aviation spanned only about six feet.

The first book in a trilogy, Taking Off plays at the intersection of Proust and Rushmore, it is a hilarious story of hoaxes, digressions, DIY mechanical engineering, and the wilds of memory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wildly inventive . . . Beneath Eric Kraft's bright surfaces and dazzling comic antics, there's some serious investigation going on into the interactions of memory, reality, and invention. . . . A splendid start to the promising Flying trilogy."—The Seattle Times

"Hilarious and charming . . . Sweetly philosophical and archly literary, this is one very smart, tender, and funny novel."—Booklist

"The only American author since Pynchon to completely erase the line between the literary novel and the spit-out-your-coffee comedy."—The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly
This addition to Kraft's well-received body of work (Passionate Spectator, etc.) serves as the premier installment of the Flying trilogy and features the ever-engaging Peter Leroy. Upon hearing rumors that his Long Island hometown is being turned into a theme park based on his childhood cross-country flight, Peter returns with his levelheaded wife, Albertine, and a "fearsome conscience" to set a few things straight. Peter fears the media will uncover the truth about his heroic, history-making, 4,000-mile round-trip solo flight to New Mexico when he was 15: that the "earthbound portions" of the flight made up most of the mission. Nostalgic, homespun backstory reveals Peter's childhood, his early fascination with flight and the frenetic events leading up to the construction of the "aerocycle" (based on plans printed in The Impractical Craftsman). The "Birdboy of Babbington" attempts to right his wrong with a heartfelt, revised expedition, but trouble looms, as Albertine may or may not have been kidnapped by a group of flyboy emergency medical technicians in this installment's closing pages. Kraft's unpretentious and engrossing storytelling make for a pleasant, escapist read. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Kraft's (Passionate Spectator) latest pseudo-memoir by Peter Leroy, a quirky, intelligent, and admittedly unreliable narrator, recalls the summer he was 15, when he built an aerocycle in his garage and traveled 4000 miles from his hometown of Babbington, Long Island, to New Mexico and back. Leroy, a self-described hapless dreamer, is now a "seat-of the-pants memoirist." As he puts it, "You don't write about your life; you live your memoirs." After receiving a cryptic postcard from a childhood classmate, Peter and his wise, ever-indulgent wife, Albertine, return to Babbington to find that city planners have re-engineered the town to its full 1950s glory. Central to the myth is Leroy's legendary flight as the Birdboy of Babbington, which overlooked some technicalities that Leroy has been meaning to clear up for decades. This is an earnest, warmly nostalgic flight of fancy dotted with philosophical musings on the nature of fiction vs. reality, memory, and loss. Unfortunately, as the first of a planned trilogy, it seems slight, and the abrupt cliff-hanger disappoints. Buy where Peter Leroy's other screwball adventures are popular. Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The past is recaptured in accents ruefully funny enough to turn Marcel Proust into Jacques Tati, in the latest Chronicle of Peter Leroy. It's a dual narrative, in which middle-aged Peter (who now lives in Manhattan with his unflappable wife Albertine) is recalled to his hometown of Babbington, Long Island to set the record straight regarding his celebrated flight (as the teenaged "Birdboy of Babbington") to New Mexico, in a homemade "aerocycle" built in his family's garage. The years have elevated Peter's daring feat to the status of local legend. The truth is sadly more mundane ("My longest sustained period of flight might have covered six feet. For the rest of the outbound trip, I was on the ground, ‘taxiing' "). As Peter recalls events preceding and complicating this venture, Kraft deftly juxtaposes past and present, subjecting any possible grandiosity on Peter's part to Albertine's irreverent wit. (She isn't at her best here, but does manage to become hospitalized following a "dogboarding" accident.) The narrative sputters, as Kraft indulges his penchant for (and, to be fair, mastery of) the art of digression, treating us to meditations on the nature of memory and the affliction of "antinostalgia" (the overwhelming urge to be somewhere else), principles of aerodynamics as (almost) explained in the popular magazine "Impractical Craftsman," Peter's developing relationship with his sometimes unreadable father ("the Grand Naysayer") and the nonscience of "pataphysics," as articulated by waggish French surrealist author Alfred Jarry. This first volume in a planned trilogy) improves as it moseys along, culminating in Albertine's benevolent abduction by admiring "flyguys" (airborne EMTs) andthe imminent voyage of the unconventional aircraft (inevitably) dubbed "The Spirit of Babbington."Still, only sporadically equal to the best of the Chronicles. But if you're a Peter Leroy completist, don't even think of missing it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426897
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: Flying Book Series , #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Kraft is the author of ten books. He lives in New Rochelle, New York.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A well crafted character flying thriller

    Peter Leroy is stunned to learn that Babbington, his Long Island hometown, is being turned into a theme park built around his famous teenage cross country flight from there to Corosso, New Mexico. Upset that the media will sniff out the truth of his flight at fifteen that was more grounded than aviary, Peter and his wife Albertine head to his hometown to prevent a travesty from occurring.------------- Peter begins his quest, but the townsfolk seem swept away by euphoria that is those not soaring on avaricious wings. He is stunned to see a replica of his aerocycle (see THE IMPRACTICAL CRAFTSMAN), but as he tries to insure the truth comes out without destroying his name, Peter decides to reenact the flight, but this time do it right by mostly if not totally remaining in the air. The only problem is that the enemy apparently has flows the coop with Albertine as their prisoner, guest or hostage.----------------------- TAKING IT OFF is a terrific clever sequel that can stand alone very nicely, but is incredibly enhanced by reading the flight at fifteen as chronicled in THE IMPRACTICAL CRAFTSMAN. The story line grips the audience from the moment an astonished Peter finds out that his town is honoring his solo flight and never slows down as the hero faces adversaries and himself. This is a well crafted character flying thriller.------------- Harriet Klausner

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