Winter's Tale (Helprin)

Winter's Tale 
Mark Helprin, 1983
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
768 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780544320420

Mark Helprin’s masterpiece will transport you to New York of the Belle Epoque, to a city clarified by a siege of unprecedented snows.

One winter night, Peter Lake—master mechanic and second-storey man—attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home.

Thus begins the affair between a middle-aged Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter Lake, a simple and uneducated man, will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature. (From the publisher.)

The book's 2014 film version stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay.

Author Bio
Where—New York City, New York, USA
Education—B.A., M.A., Harvard University
Awards—National Jewish Book Award
Currently—lives in Earlysville, Virginia

Mark Helprin is an American novelist, journalist, conservative commentator, Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. While Helprin's fictional works straddle a number of disparate genres and styles, he has stated that he "belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend"

Helprin was born in Manhattan, New York in 1947. His father, Morris Helprin, worked in the film industry, eventually becoming president of London Films. His mother was actress Eleanor Lynn Helprin, who starred in several Broadway productions in the 1930s and 40s. In 1953 the family left New York City for the prosperous Hudson River Valley suburb of Ossining, New York. He was raised on the Hudson River and later in the British West Indies. Helprin holds degrees from Harvard University, and Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Helprin's postgraduate study was at Princeton University and Magdalen College, Oxford, University of Oxford, 1976-77. He is Jewish-American, and he became an Israeli citizen during the late 1970s. He served in the British Merchant Navy, the Israeli infantry, and the Israeli Air Force. Helprin is married to Lisa (Kennedy) Helprin. They have two daughters, Alexandra and Olivia. They live on a 56-acre farm in Earlysville, Virginia, and like his father and grandfather who had farms before him, Helprin does much of the work on his land.

Novels, Short Stories and Periodicals
His first novel, published in 1977, was Refiner’s Fire: The Life and Adventures of Marshall Pearl, a Foundling. The 1983 novel Winter’s Tale is a sometimes fantastic tale of early 20th century life in New York City. He published A Soldier of the Great War in 1991. Memoir from Antproof Case, published in 1995, includes long comic diatribes against the effects of coffee. Helprin came out with Freddy and Fredericka, a satire, in 2005. His latest, In Sunshine and In Shadow, was released in 2012, and has been described as an extended love song to New York City.

Helprin has published three books of short stories: A Dove of the East & Other Stories (1975), Ellis Island & Other Stories (1981), and The Pacific and Other Stories (2004). He has written three children’s books, all of which are illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg: Swan Lake, A City in Winter, and The Veil of Snows. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Helprin's writing has appeared in The New Yorker for two decades. He writes essays and a column for the Claremont Review of Books. His writings, including political op-eds, have appeared in The Wall Street Journal (for which he was a contributing editor until 2006), The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, National Review, American Heritage, and other publications.

Helprin published an op-ed for the May 20, 2007 issue of The New York Times, in which he argued that intellectual property rights should be assigned to an author or artist as far as Congress could practically extend it. The overwhelmingly negative response to his position on the blogosphere and elsewhere was reported on The New York Times's blog the next day. Helprin was said to be shocked by the response.

In April 2009, HarperCollins published Helprin's "writer's manifesto", Digital Barbarism. In May, Lawrence Lessig penned a review of the book entitled "The Solipsist and the Internet" in which he described the book as a response to the "digital putdown" heaped upon Helprin's New York Times op-ed. Lessig called Helprin's writing "insanely sloppy" and also criticized HarperCollins for publishing a book "riddled with the most basic errors of fact."

In response to such criticisms Helprin wrote a long defense of his book in the September 21, 2009 edition of National Review, which concluded: "Digital Barbarism is not as much a defense of copyright as it is an attack upon a distortion of culture that has become a false savior in an age of many false saviors. Despite its lack of mechanical perfections, humanity, as stumbling and awkward as it is, is far superior to the machine. It always has been and always will be, and this conviction must never be surrendered. But surrender these days is incremental, seems painless, and comes so quietly that warnings are drowned in silence."

In May 2010, Helprin wrote an article which stated that China's military is "on the cusp" of being able to dominate Taiwan and the rest of the Far East.

Honors and Accomplishments
A Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and a former Guggenheim Fellow, Helprin has been awarded the National Jewish Book Award and the Prix de Rome from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

He is also a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. In 1996 he served as a foreign policy advisor and speechwriter to presidential candidate Bob Dole.

In May 2006, the New York Times Book Review published a list of American novels, compiled from the responses to "a short letter [from the NYT Book Review] to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to identify 'the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.'" Among the twenty-two books to have received multiple votes was Helprin's Winter's Tale.

In 2006 Helprin received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. This award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.

On November 8, 2010, in New York City, Helprin was awarded the 2010 Salvatori Prize in the American Founding by the Claremont Institute. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
[T]he heart of this book resides unquestionably in its moral energy, in the thousand original gestures, ruminations...writing feats that summon its audience beyond the narrow limits of conventional vision, commanding us to see our time and place afresh. Is it not astonishing that a work so rooted in fantasy, filled with narrative high jinks and comic flights, stands forth centrally as a moral discourse? It is indeed.... I do not pretend to know why or how the marvelous concord of discords in Mr. Helprin's Winter's Tale is achieved. I can testify only to the force of the book's summons to wider vision.... Not for some time have I read a work as funny, thoughtful, passionate or large-souled. Rightly used, it could inspire as well as comfort us. Winter's Tale is a great gift at an hour of great need.
Benjamin De Mott - New York Times (1983)

Helprin's portrait of a snow-bound New York from a 1900s that we just about recognise is peopled with Dickensian grotesques and fancies; gangs who battle in the streets, a race to build a bridge all the way to infinity, hidden communities surviving in corners of New York that never were, fantastical families in tumbledown houses at the centre of frozen lakes. There are vast newspapers, almost living things, in intense rivalry with each other, and a magical, Aslan-like horse that can leap across this icy vision of Manhattan. It's wonderful and perplexing and philosophical and, yes, sometimes infuriating.... On every re-reading, [I am] carried along by Helprin's lyrical prose and surreal depiction of New York.
David Barnett -

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