Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Helprin, Mark

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(1947-    ) US writer whose first book, A Dove of the East and Other Stories (coll 1975), contains work – almost all nonfantastic – from as early as 1969. One tale from this volume, "A Jew from Persia", manifests the shuttlecock shifts between realism and Magic Realism typical of MH's later work, his narrative urgency, and his clarity of texture.

MH is very much a writer whose imagination is at home in the 20th century, as his finest single work attests. Winter's Tale (1983) is an Urban Fantasy set in New York; but unlike Jerome Charyn's Panna Maria (1982) or Pinocchio's Nose (1983), for instance, it attempts to engage with the City as a Story to be celebrated rather than as a vast prison within which fables are trapped. It is an Instauration Fantasy, not a Supernatural Fiction, and as such closely resembles John Crowley's Little, Big (1981), especially when MH describes the city, embraced in unending winter snow, in the language of Theodicy. The first part of the tale introduces the book's main protagonist, parentless Peter Lake, who is both a Trickster and a Fisher King, and whose coracle disgorges him (like Moses) into the welcoming golden Labyrinth of late-19th-century New York, where he is like a fish in water. With his closest Companion, a magic flying horse, he traverses the flourishing, insanely energetic, glowing city; and profits from his adventures, even though constantly on the run from a gangland boss. In the second part, as the millennium approaches, Peter and his Companions become more and more intimately involved in attempting to tune the great world change, during which New York either will or will not spearhead a Healing of the world. The final parts of the book move into a fantasticated near future. Winter's Tale is, justifiably, often claimed as one of the seminal works of late-20th-century fantasy.

Swan Lake (1989 chap) is a tale with Twice-Told resonances set in a Ruritania, and features an enchanting Edifice. [JC]

other works: Refiner's Fire: The Life and Adventures of Marshall Pearl, a Foundling (1977); Ellis Island and Other Stories (coll 1981), some supernatural; A Soldier of the Great War (1991).

Mark Helprin


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.