Take the Long Way Home
Peter Leroy returns in memory to the fourth grade, where he finds himself gazing at Veronica McCall across the Gulf of Puberty. Remembering Veronica, the hottest little number in Babbington's elementary grades at that time, inevitably leads him to reflect on the many varieties of love and lust to which the human animal is subject; to consider the roots of the animosity between Babbington's clamdiggers and chicken-farmers; to recall the occasion of his first meeting Porky White, who was to become the brains behind the Kap'n Klam chain of bivalve-based fast-food restaurants; and forces him to recreate his attempt to rollerskate.
LENGTH: novella, approximately 20,000 words, 96 pages in the trade paperback edition
Cover Illustration: William Glackens, Children Rollerskating (circa 1912–1914)
Reviewing Take the Long Way Home in Baltimore's City Paper on January 11, 1985, John Strausbaugh wrote:
Kraft has constructed a complete comic universe, an American Macondo. He calls it Babbington, a seaside community on "Bolotomy Bay," somewhere on Long Island. . . . By Take the Long Way Home, Peter has reached the [fifth] grade. He faces one of those crucial dilemmas of young manhood — whether to take a girl to the roller rink or spend the money on a gas-powered model airplane. . . . He resolves the conflict by a strategem so complex and dumb it works.
Gentle irony, deadpan understatement and a wistful but self-mocking sentimentality are the hallmarks of Kraft’s humor. The people and institutions of Babbington are all finally ludicrous — the Babbington Clam Council, the Babbington Central Upper Elementary School, and every dad's favorite magazine, Impractical Craftsman. . . . Kraft never provokes savage mockery or brutal sneers, but quiet, sweetly melancholy smiles of recognition. . . .
One suspects and hopes that the Peter Leroy saga will amble on at its own pace for several years to come. You can leap into it at any time, or go back and read from the beginning. Each [novella] takes about an hour to zip through and they're addictive as salted peanuts.