The Changeability Of Manhattan: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin

I’m reading Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. Mitchell raved about it to me (before ABANDONING ME, that is), using the words fin de siecle and ancien regime in his ravings, which means 1. Mitchell is an asshole (but at least he’s got company!) and 2. I felt I had to read it. And Ted has mentioned it to me numerous times. But … but … it’s so BIG. I am overwhelmed. What is it ABOUT? I’m scared. Someone hold me.

I am so busy now with my own projects that I don’t have much time for reading – I’ve got enough on my plate with family stuff, bridesmaid dresses, crying jags, writing marathons, Trinidadian caretaking involving frankincense, and emails/texts from my ex-boyfriends jostling for position in the Sheila Ex-Boyfriend Lexicon: “Is it ME that’s the most important?” “Is it ME?” I am not even kidding. Important to remember that I love men with healthy egos. I have gotten these emails and texts independently of one another. These are not men in touch with one another. They don’t even know each other. But I got two in the last week alone. I love those men. But honest to God. My plate is full, boys, without RANKING you in importance for my eventual autobiography, but I’ll get to it. I promise.

But I started Winter’s Tale and I’m not even going to begin to talk about it yet. I’m scared. Hold me. I’m only 3 chapters in. It is weaving a spell – there is some cloud wall around Manhattan – the marshes of Bayonne are populated with a strange kind of primitive man … and there’s a thief named Peter Lake – and a scene that blew my freakin’ socks off that takes place in a huge reservoir tank – a den of thieves – I held my breath the entire time – BUT – I am not ready to talk about it yet – except to just mention that I’m reading it and … and I’m really really excited. What is it ABOUT? No, wait, don’t tell me. WHAT IS THAT WHIRLING CLOUD WALL? No, don’t tell me!!!

I know a lot of what is reaching out to me in this book is the New York it depicts, and what it has to say about New York. This is my home. I am tied to my home. I love my home. Mark Helprin, in his majestic narrative, seems to capture some of the … je ne sais quois … of New York. Along with the fin de siecle. And the trompe l’oeil. And the aricoverts. As well as Leslie Caron.

Here is a brief paragraph. But it immediately made me think of something – my daily looking-right ritual – and if I have my camera on me, I capture it … whatever it is that I see:

The next morning, Peter Lake saw the city through different eyes, as he would from then on whenever he awoke. It was never the same from one day to the next. Dark, close, smoky afternoons; oceans of rain; autumn days clearer than crystal paperweights; sunshine and shadow – no one city existed.

You got that right.

















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7 Responses to The Changeability Of Manhattan: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin

  1. Rick says:

    SO WEIRD. I am reading this book right now and I’m basically right where you are, too.

    I started it several months ago and put it down for several reasons that have nothing to do with the book itself and now that I’ve picked it up again, I appear to be ready for and craving the strangeness the storytelling seems grow inside my head.

    Very strange. Lovely.

  2. eM says:

    I’m in a new York State of Mind lately. Living on bland and gray Seattle will do that do a person.
    and i read that book in another life – how long ago did that come out anyway??

  3. red says:

    It came out in 1983! I’ve had it for years – just never picked it up until now!

  4. Ted says:

    I envy you reading Winter’s Tale. It’s big but it’s a comfortable-under-the-covers saga. Certain images from that book have stuck with me since reading it when it first came out and then again in the last six years or so.

  5. Dan says:

    Wow. I’ve had the book for some time, but haven’t started it yet. Guess I better get going!

  6. mitchell says:

    i cant wait for u to get into the meat of it..ted is right..there are some images that haunt me still…im in Civitavecchia, italy right now…im sipping cappucino and using free wifi…and yet im homesick..go figure…when is the wedding? what are ur projects ur working on?? i need sheila!!!!!

  7. I adore thematic consistency

    See the second paragraph here. Read this. Then of course there is this. There have been a couple of other incidents along these lines. The most blatant was when one guy – arguably the most important guy of all (but…

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