Critics have compared him to Proust, Pynchon, and Fred Astaire—an artful, slyly intelligent, wildly inventive observer of Americana. Now Eric Kraft has landed an ambitious comedy set both in our present and in an alternative 1950s universe—Flying.It is the tail end of the 1950s, and in the town of Babbington, New York, a young dreamer named Peter Leroy has set out to build a flying motorcycle, using a design ripped from the pages of Impractical Craftsman magazine. This two-wheeled wonder will carry him not only to such faraway places as New Mexico and the Summer Institute in Mathematics, Physics, and Weaponry, but deep into the heart of commercialized American culture, and return him to Babbington a hero. More than forty years later, as Babbington is about to rebuild itself as a theme park commemorating his historic flight, Peter must return home to set the record straight, and confess that his flight did not match the legend that it inspired.Drawing together Eric Kraft's previously published Taking Off and On the Wing with the brand-new final part of the story, Flying Home, Flying is a buoyant comedy of remarkable wingspan, a hilarious story of hoaxes, digressions, do-it-yourself engineering, and the wilds of memory—and a great satire of magical thinking in America.
"This comedic novel explores the diverging reality and myth of the adventures of a young man who builds a flying motorcycle in the 1950s and takes off cross country and how he returns home years later to tell the true story of his trip."—Jeff Cretan, New York Press "With Flying, Eric lighter-than-air Kraft barnstorms several miles above where most writers' imaginations dare to ascend."—Ed Park, author of Personal Days"This delightful omnibus volume includes three novels: the previously published Taking Off and On the Wing and the never before published Flying Home, which completes the adolescent adventure of Kraft’s serial alter ego character Peter Leroy—aka the 'Bird Boy of Babbington.' Flying Home revisits the 1950s, when Peter’s 'flight' from Long Island to New Mexico via a home-made 'aerocycle' (which, in truth, only 'taxied' at virtual ground level) made him a local celebrity—and also shows him in the near-present, now in his 60s, resigned to tell the unromantic truth about his adventure. We’re also made privy to his youthful experiences at a most unconventional institution of, uh, higher learning: the Summer Institute of Mathematics, Physics, and Weaponry (SIMPaW), a precariously dangling branch of the New Mexico Institute of Agriculture, Technology, and Pharmacy. This southwestern Arcadia is a breeding ground for miscellaneous young geniuses and crackpots, and a vehicle, some might say, for Kraft’s deadpan reworking of the imaginary discipline of 'pataphysics' concocted by super-eccentric surrealist author Alfred Jarry. SIMPaW’s inspired simulations of applied science are nicely juxtaposed with Peter’s abovementioned later return home, accompanied by his unflappably cool and comforting spouse Albertine, as he scrambles for a palatable explanation of his 'lies,' which may discourage Babbington from exploiting his local fame as the main attraction of a tourist-friendly theme park . . . the tomfoolery retains its power to charm, and Peter’s habit of 'mental traveling' . . . adds up to something like a Proustian exploration of the phenomenon of memory."—Kirkus Reviews"Once again, wizardly Kraft mixes boy-wonder high jinks with metaphysical musings, tall tales, and true love in a zany, heart-lifting escape from the everyday."—Donna Seaman, Booklist"Kraft’s protagonist through 12 novels, the memoirist Peter Leroy is both an egoist and an egotist who by all rights should be a crashing bore, but his curious idiosyncrasies, strange perspectives, and satirical wit render him fascinating. His ego is held somewhat in check by his wryly brilliant wife, Albertine, and their pithy, erudite conversations resemble those of a markedly hornier William Powell and Myrna Loy. The account of a mostly fraudulent 'aerocycle' voyage to and from Long Island, New York, to a summer institute for potential spies in New Mexico by 15-year-old Peter around 1960 alternates with the tale of Peter and Albertine retracing the voyage in the present day. Both voyages could be described as picaresques, featuring a delightful variety of odd hostelries and characters. Kraft employs actual and altered illustrations and advertisements from popular science magazines from the 1930s through the 1950s to hilarious effect . . . recommended for academic libraries."—Jim Dwyer, Library Journal"This chunky paperback collects Flying Home, the final installment to Kraft's Flying trilogy, along with its predecessors to give readers the full, nutty story of Peter Leroy's solo cross-country 'aerocycle' flight 50 years ago. Alternating with Peter's memoir of the summer after his cross-country odyssey is the story of his return to hometown Babbington, N.Y., as a man in his 60s prepared to confess that his hand-built contraption never made it off the ground. As Peter and his wife, Albertine, continue the road trip begun in On the Wing, Peter reads aloud from his memoir, recalling the bizarre goings-on at the Summer Institute of Mathematics, Physics, and Weaponry. His recollections show Peter to be an unreliable narrator whose wandering mind ends up being far more revealing than his impressions of reality might have been. The simple narrative structure belies the complex way that Kraft interweaves philosophy and science while gently pushing Peter and Albertine toward the big moment of truth. Kraft brings the trilogy to a fitting end, and the collected works comprise an intricate, intelligent and finely crafted saga."—Publishers Weekly
Eric Kraft has taught school, written textbooks, and was the co-captain of a clam boat, which sank. He was the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. He lives in New Rochelle, New York, with his wife, Madeline.