The Author, 2017. Æ T 70

Mark Helprin

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.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), seven novels (Refiner’s Fire, Winter’s Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case, Freddy and Fredericka, In Sunlight and in Shadow, and Paris in the Present Tense), and three children’s books (Swan Lake, A City in Winter, and The Veil of Snows, all illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg), speak eloquently. Learn more


From the Author

After brief service in the British Merchant Navy, at age twenty, I tried to write a novel that I had thought up during long watches at the helm of a 600-foot collier pushing across the Atlantic. One of my shipmates had told the story of HMS Royal George, lost on 28 August, 1782, with 800 dead, including most notably 100-200 “ladies” not exactly members of the crew.

This seemed to me to echo the longings of the men on the M.V. Stonepool, as our imaginations populated the ship with women loved, desired, and missed, for their spirits as much as anything else ruled our dreams.

By living it, I had stumbled upon the “Ulysses Theme”: in short, the conflict between the attractions, on the one hand, of exploration, enterprise, war, and action, and, on the other, of home, hearth, family, domestic peace, and social order. This and much more is beautifully explored in one of the great works of British scholarship, W.B. Stanford’s The Ulysses Theme (Oxford, re-issued1968), a book of which, at the helm in 1967, I was completely unaware. That I had nonetheless sensed the broad outlines of the Ulysses Theme was not a testament to my admittedly minor intelligence but rather to the truth and universality of a literary paradigm followed since – or even before – Homer.

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Selected Interviews and Essays

Chicago, Æ T 65
Chicago, Æ T 65

Chicago Humanities Festival Interview

[Live From Printer’s Row, Nov. 4, 2012] From the 2012 Chicago Humanities Festival, Mark Helprin sits down for a wide-ranging one hour interview with the Chicago Tribune’s James Janega. Watch the video of this interview on YouTube

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By Starlight Undiminished

By Starlight Undiminished: How the American Landscape Shaped the Founding. On behalf of the Second Continental Congress in declaring America’s independence, Jefferson in the first paragraph of the Declaration drew upon authority greater than the Crown, the British Empire, and the long traditions of English law and government. “With a firm Reliance on the protection…

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Mark Helprin, His Life and Work

Socrates in the City, 2019    

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Falling Into Eternity

In the tumultuous sixties, as an undergraduate at Harvard (for which I have prayed for forgiveness most of my life), I was disappointed again and again by the common Victorian and early twentieth-century convention of beginning a chapter with lush description and then abandoning it in favor of social interaction, philosophical reflection, and plot development.…

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Speaking Freely

The wars about English are fought predominantly on the battlefields of grammar, syntax, and general usage. Unlike French, as puritan in regard to adoption as are the Japanese in regard to immigration, English has always promiscuously embraced anything that washes up on its shores. Partly because of its Norse, Teutonic, and Latinate roots; the world-spanning…

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Bibliography, as of July 2023 Click to view  

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