Keith Miller is a 33-year-old American. He grew up in Nairobi and wrote this novel (his first) in a cabin in southern Sudan. He now lives in Cairo where he teaches art at a centre for refugees.
Though not quite as masterly, this first novel about a fantastical journey can be compared to Alice in Wonderland or Jeanette Winterson's fiction. Protagonist Pico is an orphaned poet-librarian whose quest to gain a pair of wings for the love of a winged girl leads him to become a thief, tell tales to a minotaur, live in a whorehouse, eat human flesh, and cross the desert. He meets friends and monsters, artists and travelers, and hears many stories. The beginning is too full of fanciful words, but as the story gains momentum, the reader is drawn in. By the end, which is quite surprising, Miller's style is relaxed enough to let the story tell itself. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries. [Miller is an American who was born in Tanzania, raised in Kenya, and now resides in Egypt.-Ed.]-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Memorial Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Solemnly sonorous and emptily pretty, this ersatz quest novel tells how a poet struggles to learn to fly and regain a lost love. In a city where some inhabitants sit in cafes while others fly over the sea, Pico, a wingless poet who works as a librarian, falls in love with one of the winged people. When she eludes Pico's grasp, he despairs until he discovers, hidden near his library, a book telling of a ruined town where he can get his own wings. He immediately sets off for the fabled town, his mission taking him through deep forests into the arms of a lusty, gorgeous robber queen whose charms diminish for the reader when she utters clich?s like "It's the ultimate theft, the stealing of another's heartbeat." Other encounters with a talking rabbit who has compiled many fascinating tomes on local flora; with a young man who, in addition to being the poet's near-spitting image, is a cannibal bring the poet ever closer to his goal, though each new twist in his journey saps his strength. Wallowing in high-flown whimsy and laughably bad poetry ("His tears have entered every well/ and his semen is the sap of peaches"), the novel rolls along predictably, despite Miller's mix of archetypal fantasy elements (flying people, talking animals, journeys through dark woods) and contemporary detail (the love of cigarettes, ever-present cafes, one city composed largely of booksellers). The downbeat ending skirts the obvious, but little else does in this hot-air-filled debut. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.