Mark Helprin is a big favorite of mine. A Soldier of the Great War, Refiner’s Fire, Winter’s Tale, Memoir From Antproof Case — all very good books and enjoyable reads.
Then my brother-in-law over the Christmas holidays asked me if I had read Freddie and Fredericka. Nope. So I bought it, the wife stole it, left it lying around, and I gave it a try last week.
And put it down. I don’t know. I gave it my best, but satire is not Helprin’s strong suit and maybe it was seeing Helen Mirren in The Queen a couple weekends ago, but satire about the British Royal Family doesn’t float my boat and I tossed it down after 100 pages.
I also started and have stalled on Pynchon’s latest, Against the Day. It did the usual Pynchon trick of sucking you in with a slightly comprehensible plot until about page 100 when the drugs kick in, or whatever it is that makes Pynchon drift off into Pynchon-land. So I know I need to suck it up, just as I sucked it up with Gravity’s Rainbow and get into Pynchon mode (which is like reading Shakespeare, it takes a while to get into the language), and slog through it. I still haven’t finished Mason/Dixon, but I still maintain Gravity’s Rainbow is the most important novel of our times and did more to shape my personal weltschauung than any other piece of philosophy, art, or sermon.