Sep 23, 2008

The Book of Flying

by Keith Miller

This gently moving story speaks in poetic language, each chapter a quiet vignette of its own. Set in an entirely imagined land, a world inhabited by fantastic beasts as well as men, where half the people have wings and can fly. The winged people and the earthbound don't really mix. Pico, lonely poet and librarian in his little town, was born wingless, but he loves a girl who has them. So he sets off on a journey to a fabled city where supposedly there's a book that can teach him to gain wings and fly.

I had high hopes for The Book of Flying. The dreamlike setting and events, the beautiful language. The wandering poet who must travel the world. It feels like one long, elaborate parable. But two things failed me. I was unable to feel anything for Pico. He seemed such a gentle, almost innocent person I really wanted to like him. Yet although chasing a dream for the love of a girl evidences some passion, his actions appeared so passive; besides a token vocal protest, he never resisted (at least as far as I got) when others forced him to do things against his character. After fifty pages I just didn't care enough about him to continue. And the sensual parts of the story bothered me (again, because of how Pico responds to them). Yet the setting and events are so imaginative the pages still tug my curiosity, so I'm setting this one aside, perhaps to return to later. Maybe I just wasn't in right mindset for it.

I first heard of this book on Chris' fantastic blog, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On. It's in such short supply I feel lucky to have acquired a copy from Paperback Swap, so I'm not going to let go of mine soon, even though it failed to enthrall me on the first reading attempt.

Abandoned                 272 pages, 2004


Nymeth said...

I remember Chris' review of this book. It really made me want to read it too. That kind of dreamlike and poetic book can go both ways for me. There are some I fall in love with, and some I can't get into at all. I think that my mood does influence how I respond to them, though. If I manage to get my hands on a copy of this one, I'll make sure I leave it for the right moment.

Chris said...

Sorry you didn't have quite the same experience with this one as I did :( I agree with you and Nymeth...I really think it's one of those books that you have to read at the right time...I just happened to pick it up at the right time!

Fyrefly said...

I absolutely agree that there's a disconnect between the language and the story/characters in this one - I though the one was beautiful, but the other just failed to grab me. I think maybe treating it more like short stories - to be read one per day, or so - and less like a novel proper might have helped me get more into it.