The Book of Flying by Keith Miller

Almost a year ago I had written a post asking what people’s favorite books were…what books had left the biggest impact on you, stuck with you…and Carl had mentioned Keith Miller’s The Book of Flying. So I added it onto my wishlist as I tend to have very similar reading tastes to his. I’ve just finished reading this book and it’s left me completely in awe of Keith Miller’s ability as a writer and teller of tales.

Keith Miller has created a melancholy masterpiece with The Book of Flying. If it’s possible for a book to evoke the five senses solely through the eyes in reading it, then Miller has done it. He writes such beautiful prose that makes us long for a time that we’ve never known ourselves…that makes us want to eat pomegranates, dates, almonds and oranges whether we like them or not…sit in cafes listening to poetry and discovering books for the first time all over again…falling in love over cups of coffee and rolled tobacco.

So what’s the story actually about you may ask? Pico is a young man living in a city by the sea where he takes care of the only library and collects tales. He is a poet and is devoted to words and literature. Pico was born without wings and forced to live an earthbound life. You see, the city by the sea is populated by those with wings and those without and the two do not intermingle. When his mother delivered him wingless, she took care of him and then retired him to the library where he learned to read and began his love affair with books. However, Pico falls in love with a winged girl by the name of Sisi and she in turn falls in love with him. But their relationship cannot last, for it is taboo and forbidden by Sisi’s father. There is, however, rumor of a book called The Book of Flying that lies in a city by the name of Paunpuam but it will take many days journey to an uncharted territory for Pico to get there. If he does get there though, he can gain his wings by reading this book.

Consumed by his love for Sisi, Pico sets off on his journey and I will leave the rest of the story in your hands. But along the way, He collects tales from those that he meets and we are told those tales. He meets other people and beings that are alien to his way of life in the city by the sea and he in turn is alien to them, but they learn from each other and grow. The back cover says that this is a “story about stories, a book about books, and how they open our hearts and minds.” And that is a perfect description of this novel. Absolutely beautiful book and I’m imagining that it’ll be in my top 3 for the year unless something else just blows it out the water.

Here are the opening lines of the novel to show you the beauty of Mr. Miller’s writing:

I am dreaming. I’m dreaming of a city, a white city in the sun by the sea, a city of bells and birdcages, boatswains and ballyhoo, where heart-faced wenches lean bare-breasted from balconies to dry their hair among geraniums and the air is salt and soft and in the harbor sailors swagger from ships that bear cargos of spices. In this city a thousand doves live in the hundred towers of a hundred bells and in the mornings when the bell ringers toll a summons to the sun the doves scatter like blown ash across the tile roofs and light under eaves whispering lulling words to sleepers, bidding them stay in bed a little longer. And on the silver sky other wings rise.”

There are some copies available on Book Closeouts for 4.99 which is an awesome price! That’s for the hardcover too. The book itself is presented beautifully with some really cool, yet simple artwork that’s fitting to the story that the author himself did. Sadly it looks like this book is out of print everywhere else. Can’t find it on Amazon…only used copies.

Edit/Update: It came up in the comments that my review could lead one to believe that this is a young adult book and I can see that now, but it’s not. I just didn’t want to go too much into the plot because every word and every tale and story along Pico’s journey is so important to book. However, there are aspects to this book that are more adult and while they are not horribly graphic, I do think that some of these things remain for adults…having said that, I don’t think this book would be unsuitable for someone say 15+ If you’re unsure of it, you may want to read it first. They may not get the enjoyment out of it that an adult would though as it’s not very action driven…I think the power behind this book lies in it’s atmosphere and it’s stories that it tells.

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25 Responses

  1. oh my gosh! Wow, wow, wow!!!!!!! I love stories with tales within tales…and I love lovelorn folks who set out on adventures to gain something that will bring them their love.
    It sounds like there’s a bit of a class issue. Are the wingless merely different folks or are they treated as lower-class citizens somehow? -C

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Be sure to join in the ‘discussion’ on my site on April 25th! Since the book has been less than easy to track down I think there will only be a small handful of us participating at all.

  3. Gah! I was going to order this one for the discussion but ended up completely forgetting about it :/

    I’ll still get it, though, even if it doesn’t get here in time. It sounds like an amazing book. Like Carole, I love stories within stories! Thanks for the beautiful review, Chris.

  4. I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds great! I’m ordering my copy now! Thanks for the review and the link for the 4.99 copies.

  5. Chris, what is the genre of this book? Your review seems to imply YA fantasy, or at least, something very close to it. Is there any content inappropriate for kids?

  6. This sounds really good. I’m going to add it to my bookmooch wishlist. Hey, I love the look of the new blog! I just noticed your Movies 2008. I’m not a super regular reader of yours, so I haven’t noticed you reviewing movies. Do you just list them there? I personally would LOVE if you started doing movie reviews, too. I’m thinking of adding movie reviews to my own blog. Anyway, I am about to watch Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai this weekend, and I wonder if you’ve seen it. I’m ambivalent about Jim Jarmusch. Dead Man is one of my favorite movies ever, but I hated Broken Flowers. I wonder which way this one will go?

  7. Glad you enjoyed the book, I hope you got it from Bookcloseouts! I had made a search and let Carl know that when he suggested reading that book.. I didn’t send for one though… I have too much here tbr ! (I can hear you now, like when has that ever stopped either of us from getting more books~ lol lol)

  8. Sounds very cool am definitely putting it on my list. His writing is beautiful and I love the amazing cover too. Thanks for the review Chris.

  9. Carole, I think that you would REALLy like this book. I thought about you while reading this one. It’s a beautiful story. There are class issues throughout the book, but I don’t think it’s the main theme of the book. I still think the main theme of the book is just a journey of love and sharing tales of love lost and found. There is some division between the winged people and the non-winged people but we spend so little time with them as most of the book takes place during Pico’s journey.

    Carl, I’ll definitely be in the discussion! I’m so glad that you recommended this one to me. I absolutely loved it. I wish more people would’ve read it. They have 100 copies on Bookcloseouts, but I guess it’s too late now to get it in time 😦

    Nymeth, I’m glad that you’re going to read it anyway! I know that you’re going to love this book. It’s enchanting from it’s opening pages and I thought that there was no way that he could keep it up throughout the whole book, but it just got better and better. Amazing book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

    Lisa, It doesn’t seem to be a very well known book and that’s really a shame. It’s such a beautiful book. Hope you enjoy it!

    John, It’s hard to classify this book…It’s not young adult…I’ve edited my post to include that info. Sorry for the confusion. I was trying not to give much of the plot away because it’s all so important to the story, but there is sex, though none of it graphic at all, just very sensual…there are elements of cannibalism, though once again not graphic (strange how he pulls that off). I don’t think that young adults would really get into this book though as it’s not very action driven, though I could be wrong. There are some that would depending on what they like to read….I’d say it’s safe for a more mature young adult if you’re ok with them reading about the above topics. It’s definitely a fantasy book, but fantasy in the way that The Time Traveler’s wife was Sci-fi. It’s essentially a beautifully told tale that just happens to fit into the fantasy genre if that makes sense…you almost forget it’s fantasy for awhile while you’re reading it…all of a sudden you’re like “oh right, he’s trying to get wings!” Great book.

    Dewey, It’s a great book! And glad you like the look of the blog! I got bored with the old one :p I haven’t really been reviewing movies, I just decided to start keeping track of what I watched this year because I can never remember what I’ve seen and what I thought of it :p Isn’t that horrible? I’m a huge movie fan though. Every now and then I’ll blog about a movie if I really enjoy it. I think it would be great if you started reviewing movies! I just added you to my Google reader by the way…I can finally keep track of all these blogs that I used to sporadically read now since I discovered that! I haven’t seen Ghost Dog yet, but I’ve been curious about it too…I haven’t seen Dead Man either, so I’m afraid I’m no help 😦 I’ve been wanting to see Broken Flowers because I love Bill Murray, but I’ve heard horrible stuff about it…I’ll probably still give it a go. I hope Ghost Dog is good though!

    Deslily, I did indeed get it from Bookcloseouts! Is there any other way to go 🙂 I always check there first when I’m ordering a book online now. Too much on the TBR….psht…like you said, when did that stop you? lol…You would fall on the floor in hysterics if you saw my TBR pile right now. More like TBR room!

    Rhinoa, It’s so good! Glad it’s going onto your list. Isn’t that cover great? It’s by an artist named Remedios Varo. I fell in love with it right away. I want to go check out some more of his stuff.

  10. I’ll add this one to my tbr pile! I’m just happy that my library has it! And at the branch I love too 🙂

  11. Wow that sounds like a great book. Thanks for the rec, I’ll have to look for it at the used book store perhaps.

  12. Becky, Awesome that your library has this one! I never thought of that as a resource for people :/ It’s really sad how much I neglect my poor library. I really do love it too, I just don’t go often enough…I think you’ll like it!

    Kim, It really is a good book! Hopefully you can find a copy. I think you’d enjoy it…very atmospheric if you like that kind of stuff.

  13. Okay, Chris. I’m definitely going to buy this one. Thanks. -C

  14. Carole, yay! I think you’ll really like it 🙂 And you can’t beat that price!

  15. We started Ghost Dog tonight and weren’t really in the mood for it, so we didn’t finish it. Like Broken Flowers, there’s a very long scene of just a guy driving. I hope you’ll see Dead Man eventually; it’s really amazing.

  16. I really like the sound of this one and that cover is gorgeous. If it’s hard to get hold of I’d better start my quest *now*. LOL.

  17. I’d love it if folks would get it sometime during the challenge and still read it and share their thoughts in the upcoming discussion post. I am going to extend it a week farther out I think mostly because this week at work is going to be a killer and posting/hosting that discussion is something I don’t think I can do any justice to at all until the the week after the 25th.

  18. Dewey, I’m adding Dead Man to my Netflix! Sounds like a good one since you liked it so much…I know what you mean about those long driving scenes :p That’s too bad…

    Cath, Isn’t the cover great? I hope you can find a copy. I don’t know if Bookcloseouts ships overseas or not, but they’re really cheap. I think you’d enjoy this one!

    Carl, I hope that people read this one too. Great idea to push this one back a week anyway…maybe it will give people a bit more time to read it and partake in the discussion…we’ll see. Looking forward to it!

  19. I am definitely going to have to track a copy of this one down, maybe during the OUaT challenge. Sounds like a book I would love.

    Beautiful review Chris, as always. Loved it.

  20. This sounds like such a fantastic book. I’m really dying to read it now, but afraid your post has made it so popular in its scarcity I’ll have a hard time getting my hands on a copy!

  21. Quix, I can’t praise this book enough…I just got lost in it. It’s sad that it’s not better known. Really beautiful language and imagery throughout the whole book. I hope you can find a copy!

    Jeane, It’s a remarkable book! Oh no…Is bookcloseouts out of copies? That would be horrible 😦 That’s the last place that I had seen copies though I think Amazon had quite a few copies from used sellers. You may want to check there! It’s definitely worth researching!

  22. I could not praise this book enough. Too be perfectly honest, when I heard that the next novel he would be writting was not a sequel (or at least not set in the same world) I felt crest fallen I fell in love with the characters so. However, I understand it will be about a book thief’s journey to the library of Alexandria, which strangely mirrors some of my own fantasies.

  23. Hi – This is Keith Miller, author of The Book of Flying. Thank you for the very kind comments about my work. I just wanted to let you know that my second novel, The Book on Fire, is out. It’s about a book thief who arrives in Alexandria to steal from the fabled library, but falls in love with one of the librarians. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, etc. You may read the first chapter at millerworlds.com.

  24. Hey! I’m new to this forum, but I noticed you were praising Keith Miller’s, The Book of Flying and I had to post. I’m soon to be a published fantasy author, I’m 23 years old, but when I was in my early teens I found The Book of Flying- or rather it found me.
    After reading it I felt changed, not just as a writer/reader but as a person. I knew that this was the talent I was aspiring to one day become, and am still motivated to write as magnificently as Mr. Miller. I couldn’t believe there weren’t more people who read it! Now I can’t wait to read Book on Fire! Thank you for your post and to Miller for continuing to write.

  25. […] – Stuff As Dreams Are Made On […]

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