The Balloonist

The Balloonist

by MacDonald Harris

As in the best of Jules Verne or Albert Sanchez Pinol, The Balloonist is a gripping and surreal yarn, chilling and comic by turn, that brilliantly reinvents the Arctic adventure.It is July 1897, at the northernmost reach of the inhabited world.

In The Balloonist , we see all of his qualities at their best."

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.67
  • Pages: 273
  • Publish Date: 1976 by Farrar Straus & Giroux, Inc.
  • Isbn10: 0374108749
  • Isbn13: 9780374108748

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It is typical of the major (and the book's style generally) that he dislikes the idea of the zeppellin (which was soon to make deadly contributions to the war) since its cigar shape made it phallic, in contrast to the favoured feminine contours of the balloon. While the major is amusingly resistant to and contemptuous of feminism, he responds to te question of whether a woman can perform some technology related action with the observation that only experts can tell female and male skeletons apart; he cannot locate the impulse towards supporting gender equality anywhere but in physical science. The major is out of his depth in Luisa's feminine world, but that Harris is able to invest this world with such depths as well as limits that are in fierce contention; borders of gender, sexuality and empowerment, makes for a novel that expands internally, beyond the journey that is its ostensible subject, beyond the limits of its narrator's vision. However, later Waldemer kills animals for meat, for example a polar bear, and once again the major reflects on this creature as a living being in extraordinary language: "Did the bear ask to show us that he was red inside? As well as offering me food for thought as a feminist, vegan and physics-fan, Harris offers me rich nourishment as a linguist from cover to cover in this work! Phillip Pullman is a fan, and Harris' influence is detectable in the former's work.

The book jacket description and the quote from Philip Pullman about not being able to stop turning pages once one starts reading this book led me to expect a very different type of story--a literary "Arctic adventure" that would primarily focus on getting a balloon to the North Pole.

Yes, hello, do you need a book where half of it is an expedition to the North Pole in a hot air balloon and the other half is a mixed up remembrance of a gender-bending romance? HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU. Had I read the bright red book with the glowing reviews and therefore developed some reason to trust its recommendation? And from there, complementary oatmeal creme pie in my belly, tire fumes in the air, I had to know what the heck was going on. So I read the book. So I read the book.

The first 150 pages are tough but rewarding; the way Harris twines his plots creates a unique reading experience, continually lurching us between the present-tense narrative of an arctic balloon expedition and the tumultuous past-tense romance between our narrator and a vivacious young woman named Luisa.

I was completely unconvinced for most of the book that the relationship with Luisa and his retreats into memory/daydream were real vs representations of his own existential struggle, but that ambiguity made it kind of fun.

I picked this up on my boyfriend's bookshelf, with the tantalizing premise of an artic explorer to the North Pole by hot air balloon.

I stumbled across this book and it looked intriguing. It was never formulaic or predictable - in fact the last third of the book was exactly the opposite.

It was definitely odd, and I dont think Ill ever come across another book quite like it.

After the war he earned a B.A. at Redlands and a doctorate in comparative literature at the University of Southern California. Mr. Harris's first story appeared in Esquire in 1947.