Mark Helprin 1947–
American novelist and short story writer.
Helprin blends elements of fantasy with realistic social settings to create imaginative, fable-like works with moral implications. His protagonists typically undertake sundry comic adventures through which they gain a humane perspective of life. With A Dove of the East (1975), a collection of his early short stories, Helprin established a reputation for inventing extravagant plots and characters. His first novel, Refiner's Fire: The Life and Adventures of Marshall Pearl, A Foundling (1977), relates a young man's escapades around the world through a series of heroic exploits that some critics likened to works of the picaresque-romance tradition.
For many critics, Ellis Island and Other Stories (1981) marked Helprin's arrival as an accomplished author. In these stories, Helprin emphasizes common moral concerns more strongly than in his earlier work. His recent best-selling novel, Winter's Tale (1983), mixes fable and myth with romance, history, and a network of literary allusions. The story centers on the struggle of a mythologized Manhattan to become free from poverty and crime. Peter Lake, the novel's hero, moves in picaresque fashion from one adventure to another while pursued by evil forces. As in his earlier works, Helprin eschews realism in favor of a fantastic pursuit of his utopian vision.
(See also CLC, Vols. 7, 10, 22 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)