Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer Reading: Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin

I finally finished this book. I bought it last year after reading other Helprin works, and got halfway through before summer rudely ended and I had to go back to school. Paperback or not, I didn't want to carry a 700-page book back to New York, so I left it here. This past Memorial Day, I decided not only was I gonna read it, I was gonna start from the beginning. Luckily, I then caught the flu (that's what I've been doing all week), so I didn't have anything much to do except read this and watch I Love Lucy and Celebrity Fit Club (I love Celebrity Fit Club. Don't tell anyone.)

I'm not gonna try to explain the plot, since I still haven't quite grasped it. The reach of this novel is ridiculous, time- and space-wise, but it always seems to be taking place in a chilly Belle Epoque moment. The scope of Helprin's imagination never fails to astound, and the little glimmers of magic throughout are so precise and well-rendered that they aren't eclipsed by the big bangs and lightshow of the rest of the story. The story centers around several characters, most important of which are the white horse and Peter Lake, a burglar who falls in love with the dying Beverly Penn, and in doing so, manages to enter into a state of being that spans the entire century. The setting is New York City and a few surrounding areas as the city heads into a fiery, cataclysmic, perhaps Apocalyptic millennium.

There are some off putting points with Helprin's sociological worldview, which I have had problems with in his short stories, but his ability to craft a story and his genius in prose is strong enough to make that a minor complaint. Every passage bursts with color, and there is such clarity and skill behind each moment that even when what is going on gets a little muddled, the visual elements behind the action are still present and strong.

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