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February 19, 2024

Review in Haiku: The Book of Flying

By Katrina Stonoff

Librarian longs
for wingéd girl, goes on quest
to earn his own wings.

The Book of Flying, by Keith Miller, came highly recommended by my oldest sister, and I expected it to be one of my favorites for the year. Of all the people on the planet, she is the one person who consistently loves what I love and vice versa.

Elegant and lyrical, this is a modern allegory. The main character, Pico, is a librarian in a seaside town, and Book of Flying is about his quest to gain wings, so his beloved winged girl will love him back.

It's a traditional quest: Pico fights other characters to the death (good and evil characters, and even better, some that are both). He loves and leaves. Faces death many times, including death from thirst. Fights himself, both literally and figuratively. And in the end, he finds?well, you'll have to discover that yourself.

It's well worth reading, and if you (like me) were a girl who read the original Grimm's (at least, as original as you could get in the 1960s) and sighed over Hans Christian Andersen, I recommend it.

But be prepared. Book of Flying has a very stately pace.

Maybe I read it at a bad time of life, when I was too busy and living from fire to fire, but I had to push myself through to finish. I loved the language, the characters, the story, but?well, frankly it was a slog. Very, very slow-paced.

So if you like your books to clip along in a brisk or exciting fashion, then I do not recommend it to you.

The only specific complaint I have is that in Chapter 10 the tense suddenly changes from past ("he walked") to present ("he walks").

I seriously despise present-tense novels. It feels affected to me, and screams, "LOOK! I'm LITERARY!!!!" There is rarely a good enough reason to justify it. Very few authors write well enough to get past my distaste of present tense, though a few have (I note Barbara Nelson's Summer of Rescue, which was so well written I didn't realize it was in present tense until I was two-thirds of the way through it).

But to switch from past to present? Granted, it's 90 percent of the way through Book of Flying before Miller switches, but I found the switch clumsy and without purpose.

Still, that's a minor, nitpicky point, and overall I must admit I do recommend Book of Flying.

But my recommendation is lukewarm and qualified.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-12-24
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