Saturday, July 22, 2017
a divine work of art
Oh, it is a fine morning indeed. It is one of those mornings I believe with all my heart that life is a splendid adventure. I am feeling this way for many reasons, but the one I will mention here is this: I just discovered that Mark Helprin's new novel is imminent. Paris in the Present Tense. Publication date October 3rd, 2017. The Overlook Press. Advance reading copies are roaming free in the world as we speak, and as usual I am torn between tracking one down right now or living with the delicious feeling of anticipation until publication day. Am leaning toward the latter. Worth waiting for:
He isn't everyone's cup of tea, I know. His themes are romantic and immense and emotional and his writing is lush. But he is one of the few authors whose words I will always read. I've carried on about his work for years, here and elsewhere, and hope to continue to do so far into the future. Even though I must say that the publisher's description of this novel rings an alarm bell, for me - it mentions that the hero (a seventy-four-year-old widower) falls in love with a woman a third his age. Hmmm. Not my favorite plot twist, by any means, but I am willing to proceed with trust. Because the author is Mark Helprin. And his fiction is redemptive and loving, and is never about just one thing. Spoiler: it's about everything.
This recent essay, "Falling into Eternity" - from the journal First Things - is a fine example of his style and writerly fearlessness. A sample:
"Let us say that you ride in a train from Paris to Rome. With one glance out the window, you take in such an enormous amount of visual information that in mechanical terms, it would be expressed in terabytes. Wherever you are now, look ahead, and then close your eyes. You can reproduce only the most skeletal detail. After you have watched the passing terrain for ten hours, what you have seen, down to blades of grass and millions of sparkles on a river flowing toward low sun, would, if reproduced in coded form, fill all the libraries in the world a thousand times over."
Another, describing one of his near-death experiences:
"Falling into the crevasse, I saw, as if for an eternity but in no more than seconds, galaxies of sun-sparkling particles that followed me after I had smashed through a deceptive crust of hardened snow, the latter phrase a perfect metaphor for what is here asserted. Weightless among a thousand golden stars, I felt neither fear nor regret, but rather the assurance that everything made sense, everything was ultimately just, and all would be redeemed in a perfect, timeless universe, a divine work of art."
This is his writing, in a nutshell. A journey he invites you to take, and at first you simply gaze and gaze at the beauty he describes, as if through glass. Then somewhere along the way you cross over and travel with him, as a willing companion, believing in the divine order of things, even (and especially!) in the face of much evidence to the contrary. He revels in exquisite details yet never loses sight of what all this detail signifies, and points to. His work is metaphor-rich and a delight to those of us who are starving for that very thing. What? Enough praise? Wait until I actually read the book, you say? Okay, okay. ;O)
I know, Antony - it feels so decadent to order books as yet unbpublished, but oh it is a pleasure. Keeps me looking forward with joy, no matter what. Summer greetings in return!Post a Comment