Authors: Mark Helprin
Praise for Mark Helprin and
The Pacific and Other Stories
“Long before J.K. Rowling or Susanna Clarke wrote their big books of magic, readers were being awed by Mark Helprin’s unique brand of enchantment and exotic atmospheres. He established his reputation in the early 1980s and 1990s with
A Soldier of the Great War
, huge novels of vibrant décor and imagination.
The Pacific and Other Stories
is a worthy descendant of these, for there is plenty of magic here, though it isn’t produced from the tip of a wand. Helprin’s magic is earthly, human.”
Los Angeles Times
“It’s been a great run so far this autumn for lovers of the short story … but none of it would matter much if Helprin’s prose weren’t so exquisite … ‘a brave and wonderful thing.’”
All Things Considered
“As ambitious and imaginative as any of Helprin’s past works (
Memoir from Antproof Case; Winter’s Tale;
etc.), the sixteen stories collected in the author’s first book in nearly a decade are gloriously rich and varied … each demonstrating immense faith in the power of love. These are sturdy, rewarding stories from a master of the form.”
“God is in Helprin’s details. … He is a master at precise and lucid explanations; in his hands a manual for a toaster oven might read like a prose poem. [His] descriptions … are small masterpieces, testaments to the perfectibility of explaining the minutiae of life, if not life itself.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Writers like Mark Helprin are a vanishing breed on the American literary scene. … He writes without irony, without the wink of postmodernist qualification about age-old themes of beauty, truth and honor. These are the great qualities he has championed in such majestic novels as
A Soldier of the Great War.
… These stories sail across the page on a tide of precise observation and deft lyricism.”
“At times heart-wrenching and at times humorous, Helprin’s stories are about living lives of integrity and the rewards of doing so. … Helprin is a master of the genre, and he writes of people, places, and ideals with a superb simplicity that is at the same time realistically complex.”
The Miami Herald
“Contemporary fiction is awash in self-serving characters happy to parade their weaknesses as badges of honor. So it’s especially satisfying to read this collection from Helprin (
A Soldier of the Great War
). … [His] characters act with almost old-fashioned moral rectitude, and Helprin is gifted enough to make them seem real … Highly recommended.”
(Fall Editor’s Pick)
“Helprin is a gorgeous writer, at once lush and disciplined. … His eye for small moments is the stuff poems are made of. … This collection glows with an ethereal beauty that I found bewitching.”
“Helprin’s short stories should not be consumed in one sitting. … That these characters’ losses hit us in our gut is a testament to Helprin’s special genius—his ability to evoke a time and place so authentically, it is hard to imagine that he didn’t live through the Second World War or visit a newly liberated Paris.”
(Big Important Book)
“Few contemporary writers display Helprin’s knack for creating mesmerizing and memorable characters. His stories about people’s ability to adapt reflect a certain wisdom and grace, and I was totally immersed in each character and the drama of their lives. This is a fantastic collection of short stories.”
—Book Sense (2004 Highlights)
, Helprin reaffirms his place as our most elegant moralist. … [His] range is staggering, but no more so than the convincing, unsentimental case he makes for the importance of honor. Even in this day and age.”
“Sixteen tales of war, love, the achingly beautiful and the fallen present. It’s been about a decade since his last novel … so Helprin tosses out a story collection, as if that will be enough. And it almost is. … Even in these short bursts, he often accomplishes what others take hundreds of pages to achieve.”
“Mark Helprin … returns with a collection every bit as strong as his first.
The Pacific and Other Stories
opens with pieces in an almost classical mode and then cycles from fabulist yarn spinning to roman á clef style intimacies. … As in [Hemingway’s] best works, the characters here do not so much quest after grace as encounter opportunities to achieve it.”
The Seattle Times
“Incomparable prose … the work of a master … rhythmic and magisterial and ornate … a remarkable, stunning, overwhelming collection.”
THE PACIFIC AND OTHER STORIES
Born in 1947 and educated at Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford, Mark Helprin served in the Israeli army, Israeli Air Force, and British Merchant Navy. He is the author of, among other titles,
A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Refiner’s Fire, Ellis Island and Other Stories, Winter’s Tale, A Soldier of the Great War
Memoir from Antproof Case.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2004
Published in Penguin Books 2005
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Copyright © Mark Helprin, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2004
All rights reserved
“Passchendaele” and “Mar Nueva” first appeared in
The New Yorker;
“The Pacific” in
“Last Tea with the Armorers” in
“Jacob Bayer and the Telephone” and “Vandevere’s House” in
The Wall Street Journal;
and “Perfection” in
These selections are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE HARDCOVER EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
The Pacific and other stories / Mark Helprin.
Contents: Il colore ritrovato—Reconstruction—Monday—A brilliant idea and his own—Vandevere’s house—Prelude—Perfection—Sidney Balbion—Mar nueva—Rain—Passchendaele—Jacob Bayer and the telephone—Sail shining in white—Charlotte of the Utrechtseweg—Last tea with the armorers—The Pacific.
Printed in the United States of America
Designed by Stephanie Huntwork
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Intelligence, Compassion, Integrity, Courage
T GO TO
of my own accord. I was sent there, forced to go, by that … that woman, she who has worshippers throughout the world, she who, despite a corrupt and failing body, limitless greed, and the personality of a broom, has—still, after all these years—the voice of an angel. It isn’t surprising that she has power over me. Why shouldn’t she? Even after a big meal, and I mean a big meal, she can walk onto a floodlit stage, stare into darkness and blinding glare, and then, with inimitable self-possession, make thousands weep. That all her gifts have been so concentrated is a miracle, and though she has no talent or virtue but this, it’s more than enough.
I’ve represented her since 1962, when neither of us was known and we both were unrecognizably young. She was almost beautiful then, and almost innocent. Everyone assumes that I had an office, and, one day, she, a professional singer, walked into it. I have an office now, but I didn’t then. I was a bookkeeper in a dark little factory that made gears for motor scooters. Everything there had oil on it, even my ledgers, which were so splotched that sometimes you couldn’t read the numbers. And when it rained, the floor was covered with ankle-deep water.
Naturally, I didn’t want to stay in such a place for the rest of my life, and I believed that unless I did something impulsive and courageous, and unless
I had a great deal of luck, I would. So I waited for my luck, and it came one day as I was walking home, not five minutes from the factory, in front of an industrial laundry. The doors were open, and, inside, one of the laundresses was lifting heavy wet sheets onto a cable that took them into a dryer. As she clipped them to the line, she sang. Working with arms raised is so difficult that most people would not have been able even to talk. But she was singing, and the singing, as she has proved many times since, was worthy of La Scala.