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The Balloonist

MacDonald Harris

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ISBN 13: 9781590209806
Trim Size: 5 3/8 x 8
Paperback
Overlook
11/6/12

Product Description

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. A Swedish scientist, an American journalist, and a young, French-speaking adventurer climb into a wicker gondola suspended beneath a huge, red-and-white balloon. The ropes are cut, the balloon rises, and the three begin their voyage: an attempt to become the first people to set foot on the North Pole, and return, borne on the wind. Philip Pullman says in his foreword: "Once I open any of MacDonald Harris’s novels I find it almost impossible not to turn and read on, so delightful is the sensation of a sharp intelligence at work. In The Balloonist , we see all of his qualities at their best."

Praise for The Balloonist:

"It's leisurely, it's subtle and reflective, it's funny, it's accurate and fascinating about the technical business of flying balloons and meteorology and the mysteries of early radio; there's a love story that is tender, sexy and ridiculous all at once, there are characters who are firmly conceived and rounded and surprising, there's an immaculate and jazz-like sense of rhythm and timing; but best of all there's that sensation that comes so rarely, but is as welcome as a cool breeze on a hot day when it does - the sensation that here is a subtle, witty and intelligent mind that really knows how to tell a story. Actually, it's almost impossible to read any of Harris's first pages without helplessly turning to the next, and the next. I'm astonished that he's not far better known." —Philip Pullman, printed in The Guardian

"The Balloonist just took me over. I loved it… an immensely entertaining book that is, at the same time, much more, interweaving the scientific, the sensual, and the philosophic. I couldn’t put it down." —Michael Malone, Philadelphia Inquirer

"There can no longer be any question whatever that MacDonald Harris is one of our major novelists." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Re-reading it in the reissue from Overlook Press ($14.95 paper) I was happy to find that it is just as elegant, quirky, witty and surreal as I remembered.” —Editor Marilyn Dahl in today’s "Shelf Awareness for Readers" newsletter.


Donald Heiney(MacDonald Harris was a pseudonym) was born in 1921. After serving in the Merchant Marine and the Navy, he joined the faculty of University of California, Irvine, where he taught writers including Michael Chabon. He died in 1993.

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