28 September 2006


The style of Mark Helprin's imagination is simultaneously so distinct and so concomitant to my own that it has always attracted me to his writing since the first time, many years ago, that I read A Soldier of the Great War. I've read so much of his work now (most of it more than once) that his narrational voice is like an old friend to me now. I'm finally endeavouring to read Winter's Tale in its entirety, and as I was reading it last night I was reminded for some reason of one of the short stories in The Pacific, one of his collections.

When I woke up this morning, I happened to see The Pacific on my bookshelf, so I picked it up to flick through the pages, without really intending to read anything. I couldn't help but to read the beginning of my favourite of all his short stories, Monday. I'm not going to give any particular preamble or description of the story, because it is a short story in the best sense of the phrase: perfectly contained, trimmed free of all surplusage. A novel can live with some excess fat - indeed it requires it to keep the story alive for 500 pages - but a good short story is boiled down to the essentials, leaving only the necessary muscle and bone to tell the tale. So all I'll say is that in this case Helprin manages to capture the feelings of an entire nation, but more importantly my own feelings about that particular time in the past. Many artists lunge at this goal, but few succeed.

At any rate, you should read Monday, and The Pacific in general.

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