Reading Mark Helprin keeps me off balanced. I never know what direction he will take. His stories are intriguing, engrossing and provocative. I’m beginning my final lap of the 860 page marathon called Soldier of the Great War. So many quotes are 80% good chewing, with some stray bone which I just can’t swallow. [I find this a common experience when reading Jewish authors.] One clause of a sentence Helprin is on solid ground; before it’s finished, though, he’s out on the skinny branches. I keep on reading because I want to and because Helprin makes me see beauty, God, relationships, art — in other words, life — from a different perspective.
“I want nothing more than what I have, for what I have is enough. I’m grateful for it. I foresee no reward, no eternal life. I expect only to leave further pieces of my heart in one place or another, but I love God nonetheless, with every atom of my being, and will love Him until I fall into black oblivion.”
“You’re grateful for what you have?” they asked, their lips curling into bitter smiles. The leader said, “You’re a piece of sh** in a dungeon. You live on potatoes and salt, and you’re a servant to the dying scum of a dying world. For this you’re grateful?”
Alessandro thought for a moment, and then he said, “Yes.”
“I know what I was, what I had, what I lack.”