The Book of Flying

( 5 )


In Keith Miller's debut novel, our hero is Pico, a poet and librarian who is and forbidden to pursue the girl of his dreams - for she has wings, and Pico does not. When he discovers an ancient letter in his library telling of the mythical Morning Town where the flightless may gain their wings, he sets off on a quest. It's a magical journey and coming-of-age story in which he meets a robber queen, a lonely minotaur, a cannibal, an immortal beauty, and a dream seller. Each has a story,...

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In Keith Miller's debut novel, our hero is Pico, a poet and librarian who is and forbidden to pursue the girl of his dreams - for she has wings, and Pico does not. When he discovers an ancient letter in his library telling of the mythical Morning Town where the flightless may gain their wings, he sets off on a quest. It's a magical journey and coming-of-age story in which he meets a robber queen, a lonely minotaur, a cannibal, an immortal beauty, and a dream seller. Each has a story, and a lesson, for Pico-about learning to love, to persevere, and, of course, to fly. A gorgeously poetic tale of fantasy for adults, The Book of Flying is a beautiful modern fable and daring new take on the quest narrative.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Solemnly sonorous and emptily pretty, this ersatz quest novel tells how a poet struggles to learn to fly and regain a lost love. In a city where some inhabitants sit in cafes while others fly over the sea, Pico, a wingless poet who works as a librarian, falls in love with one of the winged people. When she eludes Pico's grasp, he despairs until he discovers, hidden near his library, a book telling of a ruined town where he can get his own wings. He immediately sets off for the fabled town, his mission taking him through deep forests into the arms of a lusty, gorgeous robber queen whose charms diminish for the reader when she utters clich s like "It's the ultimate theft, the stealing of another's heartbeat." Other encounters with a talking rabbit who has compiled many fascinating tomes on local flora; with a young man who, in addition to being the poet's near-spitting image, is a cannibal bring the poet ever closer to his goal, though each new twist in his journey saps his strength. Wallowing in high-flown whimsy and laughably bad poetry ("His tears have entered every well/ and his semen is the sap of peaches"), the novel rolls along predictably, despite Miller's mix of archetypal fantasy elements (flying people, talking animals, journeys through dark woods) and contemporary detail (the love of cigarettes, ever-present cafes, one city composed largely of booksellers). The downbeat ending skirts the obvious, but little else does in this hot-air-filled debut. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Miller has written a poem, disguised as a fable, about Pico, a librarian in a city near the sea. Pico was born to winged parents, but having no wings, had to live on Earth with others who could not fly. One day, he falls in love with Sisi, a beautiful winged girl, but, alas, their love is doomed because he is wingless. So he must travel and learn about himself so he can find the Book of Flying and get his wings. Like great myths, this tale is one of self-discovery as well as an adventure and love story. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Penguin, Berkley, 272p., Ages 12 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
Though not quite as masterly, this first novel about a fantastical journey can be compared to Alice in Wonderland or Jeanette Winterson's fiction. Protagonist Pico is an orphaned poet-librarian whose quest to gain a pair of wings for the love of a winged girl leads him to become a thief, tell tales to a minotaur, live in a whorehouse, eat human flesh, and cross the desert. He meets friends and monsters, artists and travelers, and hears many stories. The beginning is too full of fanciful words, but as the story gains momentum, the reader is drawn in. By the end, which is quite surprising, Miller's style is relaxed enough to let the story tell itself. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries. [Miller is an American who was born in Tanzania, raised in Kenya, and now resides in Egypt.-Ed.]-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Memorial Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Rambling debut about a young man's epic quest to reach the mythical city of Morning Town and gain the hand of his beloved. The City by the Sea contains two types of people: the winged and the wingless. Our story concerns a wingless librarian named Pico. Reclusive and lonely, he reads voraciously, finding solace in the tales of those loves and adventures that have so far eluded him in life. One day, Pico happens to be walking by the sea when he sees a winged girl, Sisi, drowning in the surf and rescues her. He and Sisi soon fall in love, but there is no chance of a union between the winged and the wingless. On the point of despair, Pico discovers an ancient manuscript describing a lost volume, The Book of Flying, which instructs the wingless on how they may grow wings. The only copy of this book is in the distant city of Morning Town, however, and a dark forest full of monsters and brigands stands between here and there. What's fear to a young man in love? Pico sets off full of hope and in high spirits, but soon learns that the dark forest's reputation is no myth. Kidnapped, raped, attacked, and tempted by a succession of robber queens, minotaurs, cannibals, rabbits, and beauties, Pico definitely gets to Morning Town the hard way. But then, that's the only way to earn your wings. As usual in faux mythologies of this sort, the author lavishes us with overwrought prose ("Solya flourished in sunshine when the light spelt out the conjugations of orange in her hair") and names (Adveni, Balquo, Zelzala) that sound as though they fell out of some Esperanto epic. Strictly for New Agers-who will eat it up with a trowel. Agent: Jimmy Vines/Vines Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594480669
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 363,141
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith Miller is an American who was born in Tanzania, raised in Kenya, and wrote this novel while living in southern Sudan. He now lives in Egypt, where he is a design consultant and art teacher at a center for refugees. The illustrations in The Book of Flying are his own.

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Table of Contents

1 The Sad Poet and His Library 1
2 The Robber Queen 17
3 Duets with a Minotaur 43
4 Master Rabbit's Tale 67
5 The Dream Seller 83
6 The City in the Mountains 101
7 The Dark Castle 193
8 The Valleys of the Country of Death 217
9 The Morning Town 237
10 The Sea 251
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2008

    What a wonderful surprise. A real gem!

    In addition to reading "mainstream" authors, I generally enjoy reading debut novels, where my expectations are limited to notes and recommendations on the book jacket. You never quite know what you're going to get, which adds to the enjoyment. I read Ursula Le Guin as a teenager and enjoyed her books, so, when I read her notes regarding this book, I decided to give it a read. I was enthralled from the very beginning. I read The Book of Flying, while on vacation, over a year ago, and have since reread it twice more; once to make sure that it was really as good as I thought, and again recently as a means of escape from the daily drudgery. The writing is so wonderfully descriptive that you feel more like a fellow traveler, than an observer. Hiking through the forest with Pico, encountering unique individuals in situations which seem fantastical in "real" life, but so plausible in this setting, eating by the campfire, enjoying lavish meals in The City in the Mountains.... While the story belongs to Pico, the journey is shared by everyone and will leave you feeling well fed, but hunger for more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2006

    A highly creative first novel, fantasy in the truest sense of the word

    The Book of Flying tells the tale of Pico, a young librarian on a quest to gain wings--literally. Poetic and delightfully literary in style, like a delicious chocolate confection it's a book to savor and read slowly, bits a time. The chapter in which Pico meets an immortal cannibal would make a striking novella or short story, and the story of Balquo charms. I could have spent an entire novel just in the story of the mountain town, with its warm cafes and food and book vendors. There were weaker spots that had nothing to do with the writing: a bit of a stereotypical jaunt with a band of thieves led by a fierce female and a long chat with a talking rabbit that reminded me rather of Tolkien (the movies wisely left most such things out) or C.S. Lewis, and in some sections the author tends to use sentence fragments that proved distracting in a vast field of otherwise pristine writing, but the strong parts more than made up for these. All in all, a *very* promising debut by a new novelist, and highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2004

    Fun & Enjoyable Read!

    This is a light-hearted read with twists and turns -- this is not a Nobel Prize, but a wonderous break -- like popcorn rather than cake! Fun, poetic, a bit over the top, and reminscent of something you've read before --again, still a delight. I want to see Miller's next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Exciting fantasy

    Wingless librarian Pico is a loner who finds life worth living only in the books that he devours insatiably. He especially finds release from his mundane forlorn existence with stories of daring do and adventures of love. Alas his dream is to star in such a tale, but knows this will never pass.......................................... While strolling by the sea, Pico rescues the drowning winged Sisi. They begin seeing one another and quickly fall in love. However, one of the worst taboos that can never be broken is a relationship between winged and wingless. Despondent, Pico learns of the existence of an ancient manuscript THE BOOK OF FLYING that provides detailed instructions on how the land bound can grow wings. However, to obtain the tome, Pico must journey through the dark forest of monsters some disguised as cute and pretty, who will do anything to divert the lad from attaining his dream............................... This is an engaging fantasy with a deep message that works on most levels though at times Keith Miller becomes too flowery with his prose. The story line is delightful as the lead couple come across as Romeo and Juliet. As the hero now has a cause to live life to its fullest (one of several solid ideas fostered within the tale), he must contend with vile cretins including some that seem human in appearance, but all share in common that they feel genuine. Fans will enjoy journeying through Miller¿s Mythos that hopefully will have future treks................................ Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

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