Season’s readings: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. A very modern fantasy set in a snowbound turn-of-the-century New York, this isn’t obviously. Winter’s Tale [Mark Helprin] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Now a major motion picture New York Times bestseller Utterly extraordinary. From the very first sequence here (a white milk-cart horse bounds over the newly- built Brooklyn Bridge in a bid for freedom), Helprin makes it.
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By Ted Gioia Woody Allen has been both praised and criticized helpprin creating a fantasy version of New York in his movies —depicting a city that is no longer “a grimy urban jungle,” in the words of film critic William Rothman, but “the most photogenic city ta,e earth, boasting buildings and trees that even Paris would die for.
And among authors, none has attempted a more ambitious or thorough literary regeneration of Manhattan than Mark Helprin.
In his novel Winter’s TaleHelprin aims for nothing less than an apotheosis of the city, a sanctification by fire that, at times, crosses beyond the familiar terrain of the novel and enters into the realm of myth or dogma.
Peter Lake, the main character in Helprin’s epic work, undergoes a personal redemption as well. A one-time burglar, previously known as Grand Central Pete a name borrowed from a real life NY con man of the nineteenth centuryLake reinvents himself, first as consort of a Manhattan heiress, and later as a catalyst in the millennial transfiguration of New York itself.
The messianic overtones of Helprin’s story gradually become more obvious as the novel progresses—Lake learns to travel through time, later develops psycho- kinetic powers, and eventually plays a key role in raising a girl from the dead. Lake possesses a dim comprehension of the destiny awaiting him—sensing that he may play a key part in dawn of a new age.
This anticipation of a coming splendor is shared by many other characters in Helprin’s novel.
Lake’s lover Beverly Penn, slowly dying from consumption, is mesmerized by transcendent images—discovering “grace, or madness, in her visions of the starlight” where she sees “a sky full of animals whose pelts were made of an infinite number of stars.
They moved slowly and smoothly, for, really, they were motionless. Lake also encounters an even more visionary individual: Lake also meets up with Hardesty Marratta, who gives up the family fortune to a ne’er do well brother, and travels talee New York, as part of a vision quest to find a perfectly just city.
Other dreamers who populate this book include newspaper owner Harry Penn, brother of Beverly, and his editor-turned-mayor Praegar de Pinto; while even the villains Pearly Soames and Craig Binky have their heads in the clouds. Lewis ‘ s Aslan than Seabiscuit or Secretariat. In short, Helprin’s New York is anything but a hard-headed, practical city—instead spawning cadres of prophets, sages and dreamers. And there is plenty of it: Countryside, cityscape, shoreline, skyline: Helprin piles sentence on sentence, paragraph on paragraph, winger on page, and by the time you have read the th poetical evocation of water, cloud and skyscraper, you will fall back in both admiration and weariness.
Few writers can set a scene with more sheer gusto than this novelist, but should scenery really take center stage in any drama?. Helprin is especially inspired by winter settings, and his ingenuity in describing white on white reminds one of those proverbial Eskimos with their hundred terms belprin snow.
By the same token, a hundred or so pages of this frosty, breathless prose could have been excised from Winter’s Taleand would hardly have been missed. Despite all his adjectives and subordinate clauses, a relentless ambiguity permeates Helprin’s New York. This too is part of literary style of Winter’s Tale.
Take, for example, the following passage: What is meant by an ‘arsenal of roses’? How can a street get crossed ‘in chimes’? When are pigeons ‘shaped like shells’? What is the ‘shuddering sound’ of trees that are like bells?
I have no answers to these questions. Yet such passages are typical of Helprin’s mystical tone. Where other authors deliver precision in a few sentences, he provides vagueness in many paragraphs—intentionally, no doubt, and with the plan of hinting at grand things “through a glass darkly,” but in a manner that will leave some readers just as frustrated as others are exhilarated with his intimations of a more majestic city behind the visible one.
For this same reason, Helprin is drawn to the fuzzy side of nature, and devotes endless passages to fog, mists, clouds, snow. He is champion of anything that obscures our view, anything that replaces clarity with vagueness.
Few writers would take on the mission of describing that which cannot be described, but this, it seems, is Mr. Helprin’s most cherished ambition. All this comes out most clearly in the final pages of Winter’s Tale. Here Helprin in a book, remember, published in presents the final days of and the dawn of the year No Y2K doomsayer or fearmonger quite envisioned the kind of cataclysmic changes that Helprin lays out in his concluding chapters.
But even here our author is coy, and holds back from explaining the transformations afoot. The result is a sprawling, poetic and unconventional novel.
I was enchanted and dismayed by turns in reading it. Even as I grumbled about the author’s oblique prose and roundabout method of storytelling, I marveled at the sheer abundance of his descriptions and the daring of the narrative. True, there are plenty of other New York novels, and many are more accurate than this alternate history, or more sharply plotted, or richer in character and dialogue.
He made Manhattan magical. And even in a novel, that is no small matter. Yet, in the final analysis, Winter’s Tale remains a failed masterpiece. And the obstacle here is not New York—I accept that it can be redeemed or glorified or whatever you want to call it—but the essence of fiction itself.
By abandoning the constraints of storytelling, and seeking instead to infuse his narrative with the reverberations of scripture, Helprin reaches for effects that perhaps no novel can achieve. Click on image to purchase. The Year of Magical Reading click here.
Season’s readings: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin | Books | The Guardian
Welcome to my year of magical reading. My choices will cross conventional boundary lines of genre, style and historical period—indeed, one of my intentions in this project is to show how the conventional labels helpein to these works have become constraining, deadening and misleading. In its earliest days, storytelling almost always partook of the magical. Only in recent years have we segregated works arising from this venerable tradition into publishing industry categories helptin as “magical realism” or “paranormal” or “fantasy” or some other ‘genre’ pigeonhole.
These labels are not without their value, but too often they have blinded us to the rich and multidimensional heritage beyond category that these works share. This larger helpein is mimicked in our individual lives: As such, revisiting this stream of fiction from a mature, literate perspective both broadens our horizons and allows us to recapture some of that magic in our imaginative lives.
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin: Plot and Quotes
The Year of Magical Reading: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie Week 2: Magic for Beginners by K elly Link Week 5: T he Golden Ass by A puleius Week 7: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin Week Dhalgren by Samuel R.
Norrell by Susanna Clarke Week D angerous L a ughter by S teven Millhauser Week Hleprin Wife by Fritz Leiber Week T he Hobbit by J. A ura by C arlos Fuentes Week Faustus by T homas Mann Week O rlando by V irginia Woolf Week L ittle, Big by J ohn Crowley Week T he White Hotel by D.
N everwhere by N eil Gaiman Week F ifth Business by R obertson Davies Week Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges Week B eloved by T oni Morrison Week P ractical Magic by A lice Hoffman Week The M agicians by L ev Grossman Week C loudstreet by T im Winton Week G ulliver’s Winnter by J onathan Swift Week H arry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.
Rowlin g Week The C hronicles of Narnia by C.
Hieroglyphic Tales by Horace Walpole Winted Follow Ted Gioia on Twitter at www. The State of the Art Ballard, J. The Atrocity Exhibition Ballard, J. The Crystal World Ballard, J. Childhood’s End Clarke, Arthur C. Babel Delany, Samuel R. Dhalgren Delany, Samuel R. Nova Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Ubik Dick, Philip K. Camp Concentration Disch, Thomas M. The White Hotel Tiptree, Jr.
Slan Van Vogt, A. The Island of Dr. Robert Heinlein at A.