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The citizens of Babbington, New York, think that Peter Leroy is a daring aviator, maybe even the nation’s most daring aviator — at least in the teenage division — but the limelight and adulation are changing him, and not for the better. He’s in danger of becoming an arrogant, insufferable little egoist.
Then something happens that saves him. He falls in love with Albertine Gaudet.
Almost at once, almost “at first sight,” he realizes that Albertine would make a far better center for his life than he would himself. That is the end of egoism—and the start of one of literature’s great romances.
Indefatigable memoirist that he is, Leroy doesn’t merely tell the story of his wooing and winning Albertine. He interweaves that story with an account of the troubles that beset him during the writing of the story of his wooing and winning her.
Among the obstacles to completing the story (and this book) are self-doubt, procrastination, and the demanding clients for his memoir-ghost-writing service Memoirs While You Wait—but that’s not all. He begins getting telephone calls intended for a local business, Peerless Television Service and Repair.
These oddly compelling calls lure him out of the isolation of his writing room and into the lives of the callers. With compassion and humor he listens to their woeful tales of the troubles they’ve had trying to get Peerless to repair their television sets.
The result is a poignant, thoughtful meditation on the frustrations of everyday life, the used-television market, cultural elitism, the transitory nature of fame and success, persistence, loyalty, the weight of a promise, loss and grief, responsibility, the vanity of human wishes, luck, realism, and romance.
Praise for Eric Kraft and His Books
“Eric Kraft has spent his writing career creating a series of comic masterpieces. . . . and am I ever glad he did. . . . The books can be read in any order, but be warned: Once you start the series, you won’t want to read anything else until you finish them all.”
Nancy Pearl, Book Lust
“Eric Kraft is an oddball, an eccentric, a bit of a genius — the writerly equivalent of a dreamer who puts together weird and wonderful contraptions in his garage. . . . Kraft has made his career out of high-wire performance, seizing on the merest hint or detail and spinning it into magic.”
Richard Rayner, The Los Angeles Times
“Kraft’s imagination, like Leroy’s, is endlessly fertile, not merely in its creations but in its connections, as well, so that each apparently innocent anecdote chimes with Kraft’s broader theme of the imagined life, of its thrilling, enhancing, and ultimately dangerous connection to the real.”
Claire Messud, Newsday
“Mr. Kraft’s work is a weird wonder, successfully mating tales from the kind of small-town life that hardly exists anymore with a never-ending examination of what it’s like to create such a world. His preoccupation with the homely lives of the citizens of Babbington is adroitly offset by his passion for the story of telling the story. . . . In an age when computer technology is on the verge of unleashing the all-singing, all-dancing novel, Eric Kraft’s true theme, the awesome power of the low-tech human imagination, has never seemed so timely or so wise.”
Karen Karbo, The New York Times Book Review
“Because Kraft expresses an abiding faith in steadfast love and impossible dreams, because he uses humor to shape a humanistic ethos, and because he takes profound pleasure in the resonance of language and the magic of storytelling, reading Kraft’s inventive and effervescent tales is a rare and sustaining joy.”
Donna Seaman, Newsday
“Perhaps the most ambitious and rewarding literary enterprise of our time. . . . Even when you find yourself laughing aloud, it would be a mistake to take Eric Kraft lightly.”
Andrew Ervin, The San Francisco Chronicle
Cover image: Julius Kronberg, Romeo and Juliet on the Balcony (detail, 1886)