Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Winter's Tale - Beginning of Book 3 through An Early Summer Dinner at Petipas

This week was when the various diverse strands of the first two books begin to come together. I'm sure that Helprin has a few more twists in store, but the overwhelming sense is that, now, 400+ pages into the novel, Helprin has finally manuvered the characters into place (across the country and, in a few instances, through decades in time) so that he can write his climactic couple of acts.

Since the beginning of the book, the fog of New York harbor has been attributed magical, time-travel qualities. Peter Lake and, eventually, the entire ship from Book 2 emerge from the fog, in the New York City of 1995 and, at that point, we begin to see how the five or six different threads of the novel's first 400 pages are beginning to weave themselves together. The entire sequence at St. Vincent's Hospital - a hospital whose sick wards I know intimately - charmed me immensely, and the stuff at The Sun/The Ghost was entertaining, even if it didn't seem to advance the plot or the characters quite as much as the rest of the chapters. But its not like Helprin to burn 30 pages without planting a few seeds that will sprout later on in the novel, which begs the question: what from those chapters is going to become important later on? Does anybody have a guess?

1 comment:

Night Writer said...

I think Helprin is establishing that in the modern era some people know What Is Important and some do not. The first group generally has a standard to refer to, while the second group has none which means that anything can be important (hence, full page headlines for a new recipe) while facts are treated cavalierly. The few who remember are but a remnant, yet they happily accept the handicaps put upon them as they contend against the larger masses.

It also appears to me that there may be a middle group of people who have a sense of what is important, but aren't quite sure why or where it came from, as in the case of the Sun's mechanics (who you're just about to meet). The ancient machines around them are like monuments in a library but they don't know quite how to operate them or what it is they were meant to do. It takes a man from the past to show them how the machines can benefit them (despite the well-meaning tinkering they'd inflicted on the machines over the years). And then there are those, like Peter Lake, who sense there's something important and mysterious just barely beyond their ken that they can't quite get ahold of.

As Wade noted, this part of the book didn't have a lot to do with the characters. It does, however, set the backdrop for the scenes these characters will play out. (I was about to write "zeitgeist" there and it occured to me that the literal translation of the German word is "time-ghost"; considering that The Sun and The Ghost are thinly veiled references to The New York Times and the New York Post, "The Times and The Ghost" would have been an especially subtle title to the chapter.)

Does this resonate with anyone, or am I just babbling?