Friday, November 19, 2004

A couple Mark Helprin appearances

I mentioned earlier that I am a fan of Mark Helprin's fiction, and that I'm currently reading his latest book, The Pacific and Other Stories. So I was pleased to run across this recent interview with Helprin on NPR's Weekend Edition. ( The extended version of the interview is much better than the edited down version.) There's also an excerpt from one of the stories at that same link if you want a taste of Helprin's writing style.

It's a good interview, and not at all political as you'd expect. There's one very Helprinesque exchange in which interviewer Scott Simon asks Helprin if there's a theme to the collection of stories. Helprin responds that there are many themes:

"It's about art, it's about making amends, it's about memory, childhood, marriage, sacrifice, honor, perseverance, courage, war, putting materialism in its place, infatuation, resolution, the holocaust, baseball, god, redemption, loyalty show business, dictatorship, love for one's family, New York in 1869, the loss of one's child, Herman Melville, adultery, World War I, the mountains, idolatry, technology, ocean racing, dying, the nature of love, the Middle East, the Second World War, California, redemption denied, and that's a partial list."

(I think I got it all. If you're familiar with Helprin, you'll instantly recognize "the list," which is a common element in his writing.)

It's great hearing Helprin after all these years of only reading him.

I was also pleased to come across Adam Walter's account of an appearance by Mark Helprin at a Seattle book signing. It's a long blog entry, and shows Helprin's sense of the absurd. And unlike the NPR interview, he did get a bit political at this appearance. He shared this interesting bit about polls.

As someone who worked deep inside the 1996 Bob Dole campaign, Helprin learned a trick to share with us . . . Think of the sample that pollsters are using--say a sample of 15,000 voters taken for a Gallup pole. Well, you have to realize that the presidential nominees are privy to much better polls, polls of a 45,000 or 60,000 person sample carried out in counties all over the country. When you collect and concentrate all of this information, you have to figure that the results are 500 times more dense, detailed and accurate (maybe even 1000 or 2000 times). Now the exact results of these polls are available only to the presidential nominees themselves and maybe 10 people around them. Helprin said that during the Dole campaign they would get print-outs of such polls with single spaced lines, and the pages all together were a stack 3 or 4 inches thick. Helprin claims he could tell the results of the 2004 election back in August by this simple trick: watch the faces of the less experienced people who are in the upper echelons of the campaigns, the younger people who don’t have multiple campaigns under them, but also watch the candidates’ wives, who are also generally less adept at masking their feelings. The fact is that neither candidate wants you to know how the election is really going because each of them depends on us to turn up on the Big Day and vote, but there are people around the candidates who will not always be able to mask the elated or depressed mood they are operating under day-in and day-out.

Helprin also provided a bit of detail regarding the long-rumored film version of his novel A Soldier of the Great War.

Helprin doesn’t expect to see “Soldier” filmed anytime soon. A deal had been struck for Edward Norton to star in it, but then the producer offended Salma Hayek, Norton’s girlfriend at the time, and the deal fell through. The rights revert to Helprin again in two years.

Helprin also shared that he has a new novel coming out next year, which must be what this is, and another novel planned set in New York in the 1930s and 40s.

The account of the book signing is very long, but Helprin fans should really enjoy it. I realize the intersection of "people who read my blog" and "people who are fans of Mark Helprin" is probably less than one, mathematically speaking. Whoever you are, this post is for you. (Or mathematically speaking, a portion of you. Your right shoulder, perhaps.)


At 3:32 PM, Blogger gritzan said...

I must be that one person. I saw a listing for the book on amazon and have been searching for 20 minutes for any meaningful information beyond publisher, price and publication date. This was the first bit. I can't even begin to express how I am looking forward to this. I had feared there might not be another novel.


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