Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—Jonathan Safran Foer
East of Eden—John Steinbeck
These are a few of my favorite fiction books, at this point in life.
And now I have another to add:
Winter’s Tale—Mark Helprin
If you love cities, beauty, people, thought, dreams…you’ll love this book. If you want to see loveliness in the ordinary, grace in the simple, and stillness in the rush, read this book. If you’ve ever thought (or always think) there’s more to life than the film screen in front of you, you want to read this book. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s whimsical. But it’s long because it tells the story of life and whimsical because it wants what most people don’t know they lack.
The author’s website says of him, “Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, ‘He lights his own way.'” I think this novel is a brilliantly told tale, so deeply buried in reality that you could never bear to call it a fairytale. Another reviewer said something similar, calling it “magical realism” (such a great term, right??). Winter’s Tale tells me about God without saying His name and gives me understanding of the human mind when I would otherwise have no access into it. Read this book. (Plus it’s going to be a movie this year, so you might as well get ahead).
Here are fragments of its beauty:
“I have been to another world and come back. Listen to me.”
“And you will know exactly who you are, forever, by knowing what it is that you love.”
“I am one of those about whom nothing was ever known—but the city is mine.”
“The government admits that it is a government. The press pretends that it is not.”
“No one ever said that you would live to see the repercussions of everything you do, or that you have guarantees, or that you are not obliged to wander in the dark.”
“Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be.”
“If nothing is random, and everything is predetermined, how can there be free will? The answer to that is simple… It all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given—so we track it, in linear fashion, piece by piece.”
“Small scenes can be so beautiful that they change a man forever.”
“There was no finer church, no finer choir, than the stars speaking in silence.”
“He knew that, in the eyes of God, all things are interlinked; he knew that justice does indeed spring in great surprise from the acts and consequences of ages long forgotten; and he knew that love is not broken by time.”
If those snippets aren’t enough to get you to pick up Winter’s Tale (or if you just want to inhale more of Helprin’s brilliance), check out this article he wrote about forming characters. The man is a genius.