Monday, March 19, 2018

A Tale for Winter Should Be Warmer

Winter's Tale
by Mark Helprin

Read on December 25, 2015.

I think this book will end up taking the prize for Most Disappointing Read of 2015. Possibly split with Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Close call.

My expectations for Winter's Tale were high, and it delivered in several ways. Colors are a theme of the book, and that jives nicely with Helprin's writing style. The man can describe the hell out of a landscape, a weather system, a painting. He gets even better when describing fantastical things, like the tremendous animals that live, unmoving, while constantly moving across the space of the entire universe. It sounds hokey when I write it, but not when he does. The existence of the Lake of the Coheeries and its inhabitants and their relationship with New York City are fascinating.

But for the disappointment - that came from the book's underpinnings. The value system or morality that runs through the text is vastly different from my own personal one. For example, a character at one point essentially tells another that it's a privilege for the poor to be ground up and spit out by the workings of the universe, because it's a wonderful honor to be so close to the machinery.  Like, ewwww.  Many times, it's implied that all injustices, instances of terrible bad luck, and criminal acts are all OK, because, well, they just are. Somehow cosmically, the balance sheet will zero itself out one day and people will be rewarded with a glimpse of a perfectly just world. And, that's it. Just a glimpse, indicated by a flooding gold light. So, yeah. Some foggy, vague idea of a fleeting moment of justice somehow makes everything else that came before better. (SPOILER ALERT: Plus, I think Abby returning to life invalidates the whole damned thing. Was her death part of the balance, or was it not?  Make up your mind about this stuff.)

Kindness is not valued in this book. Love only makes an appearance, as far as I can tell, twice, maybe thrice. It's frustrating, because, to my mind, without those two things, what on earth is there? Justice is a good answer, but it cannot stand alone.

Or in other words, I don't think I'll ever completely trust someone in a position of comfort and security telling me, "It's not so bad that some people get horrible lots in life. It's all part of a cosmic plan, just trust me on this." And yes, that has the implications you are probably thinking that it has.

Final Call:

The pure descriptive power rates the stars but can't hide a lack of heart. 

If you like this, try:
I don't even know.

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