Novelist Helprin spins a good yarn in life and art

Wed Oct 3, 2012 3:07pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Edward McAllister

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Listening to novelist and political commentator Mark Helprin recount his life is a bit like listening to Forrest Gump - an eloquent, New York-born Forrest Gump.

Helprin is hardly slow-witted, but like the titular hero of the Oscar-winning 1994 movie, he seems to have been everywhere and met everyone. The sweep of his own life story is similar to one of his many novels - broad, impressive, improbable.

Helprin's new book, "In Sunlight and In Shadow," released on Tuesday, is a high society romance, World War Two drama and mob thriller. It matches his previous novels in scope and length and carries on the author's fascination with old New York.

In person, as on the page, Helprin likes a good tale. He jovially boasts about his encounters with past presidents, war leaders and famous businessmen with the kind of confidence that, over a literary career spanning more than 40 years, he has typically donated to his fictional characters.

He dined with Richard Nixon, rode in a golf cart with George Bush Sr. and even met Winston Churchill.

"I've never ridden in a golf cart that hasn't been driven by a president of the United States," Helprin said during an interview this week, only half joking. That was in fact the only time he's ever ridden in a golf cart.

He recalled a night in the early 1960s when Nixon came over to his friend's parents' house for dinner, soon after Nixon's first failed race for the White House.

"I really liked him," Helprin said. "He seemed to be so approachable and humble."   Continued...

 
Novelist Mark Helprin is pictured in this undated handout photo. Listening to novelist and political commentator Mark Helprin recount his life is a bit like listening to Forrest Gump. An eloquent, New York-born Forrest Gump. Like the titular hero of the Oscar-winning 1994 movie, Helprin seems to have been everywhere and met everyone. The sweep of his own story is similar to one of his many novels - broad, impressive, improbable. REUTERS/Lisa Kennedy/Handout