Monday, March 15, 2010

Winter's Tale - The End of Book Two

What are your thoughts on "A New Life" and "Hell Gate?" They struck me as transitional chapters in some ways - more beautiful women are introduced, more people fall in love at first sight (or, in one notable case, before first sight) I'm very much enjoying this novel so far, but, after reading these two chapters, I am beginning to believe that it needs a 'straight man' - somebody who the audience can identify with and serve as a frame of reference for the more whimsical and magical characters. When everybody leads a charmed life (and I apply that word to the destitute characters as well, if that's not too contradictory), nobody's life seems all that charmed; by the rules of Winter's Tale's universe, they are all normal. Having a few more normal characters would make the Peter Lakes, Christiana Friebourgs and Virginia Gamelys a little more special.

I loved the scene with Hardesty and Marko Chestnut. I can barely get cabs to stop for my, but ocean liners break for Hardesty Marratta. He must be a special guy.

Some questions:

Characters have now entered the city through three "gates" - some more literally than others. What do you make of the three gates so far, and what do you expect out of the fourth?

Most of the neighborhoods in Helprin's New York City exist in real life, but their size and relationship to one another are skewed - sort of like New Jersey landmarks in the songs of Bruce Springsteen. What do you make of Helprin's New York City, and what is your favorite part of it?

Moving forward, what do you think Virgina Gamely's role in the novel will be?

1 comment:

Night Writer said...

Book Two is the calm before the storm, and a time to really come to care about the characters. Additionally, to my mind, all four gates have now been entered since, based on the description in the book, Asbury arrived from the south via the Atlantic Ocean which would have brought him into the lower bay, past the Sea Gate and into the upper bay to approach Manhattan. The four gates may be a bit of lagniappe (to borrow a word from another great city) - a little something extra. The references aren't crucial to the story but a nice layer in this parfait that Helprin is building.

Asbury and Christiana's roles are relatively small in the story, but their courtship is one of my favorite parts of the book and a section I go back to read by itself from time to time. Christiana does, I believe, play a significant part in the story (or at least represents something important) that we can touch on later.

You ask if there is an Everyman. I think there is, though it is hard to make out since every character is a symbol of something (and connecting these symbols is part of the fun). Peter Lake is the Everyman (with a sacred mission that will validate this) and his return (not much of a spoiler here since it's just a few pages ahead), like a cog turning a big wheel, is the catalyst as the book turns toward it's culmination. Mythic and mystical he may be, but perhaps part of what Helprin is saying is that such lives in all of us to some extent. Regardless, Peter Lake is the "engine" (you'll see what I mean) of the story and his trials and restoration are...well, no more spoilers. This fantasy story is about to take a turn into a darker part of the wood for the characters, but trust the path.

Sorry to always be so verbose here, but this book really fires my imagination and has for some 25 years. I am thrilled to see it featured here and I'm really hoping to see what other people think of this story.