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.
0 thoughts on “What I am not reading”
good to know. maybe i’ll skip Helprin’s latest as well.
Hah! The Book Thief of Lenovo is book thieved in return! Justice triumphs! 🙂
David–never knew you were also a Helprin fan. But I must admit I began losing my faith in him years ago, when he published A Solider of the Great War. Unlike the idealism and self-reliance, with a tinge of magic realism, of Refiner’s Fire and his early short stories such as Dove of the East, I found AGOTGW ponderous, pretentious and devoid of any new thinking. His characters, which had seemed so noble in his earlier works, verged on caricature. I nevertheless loyally bought and attempted to read Ant Proof Case but just couldn’t get into it. This time around, I couldn’t even bring myself to purchase Freddie and Fredericka. Judging by your reaction, sounds like I made the right call. What a shame but maybe he can still surprise us with another winner.
I agree with your assessment. Helprin was strong and refreshing inthe early days, got a little repetitive in the latter books, still — I don’t think I had as negative a reaction to A Soldier as you did. But, F&F? Stay away.