The Pacific and Other Stories
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The Pacific and Other Stories

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  808 ratings  ·  89 reviews
At long last, almost ten years since his previous book, Mark Helprin returns with The Pacific and Other Stories, a collection of sixteen stories that display the remarkable scope, incomparable wit, and deft prose that have come to be his signature. A British paratrooper jumps into occupied territory; the 1958 New York Yankees gain an unexpected teammate in a puny, teenaged...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Jeremy Purves
I realize that there are other readers here who have commented on how Helprin overwrites or overdescribes things. But that is only a problem if you are in a hurry to get somewhere. It is not a problem if you are willing to stop, like Jacob Bayer, and ask why there is a need to hurry in the first place.

This is a little book that contains some stories that are just perfect, but there's no appreciating the art that Helprin is constantly honing and perfecting here if you don't realize how much he si...more
I had rather high hopes for this short story collection, The Pacific and Other Stories. Helprin’s manner is a kind of anachronistic old school seriousness leavened with mostly clean gags and jokes (though he’s not above profanity or vulgarity). Basically simple stories as simple morality tales, Good and Evil quite apparent and obvious. In this sense, Helprin, as a political conservative (he wrote speeches for the elder Bush), is also a cultural conservative of a certain decent kind.

Sometimes th...more
First off: I hate politicizing literature. But sometimes it's inescapable.

It took me weeks to slog through this, and here's why: Helprin is so full of shit we'd mistake him for a latrine if he were painted white and dropped on a campground. Maybe I'm just falling into the same wrongheaded liberal trap that he accuses many of his reviewers of wallowing in, but this book feels--if not explicitly political--like an implicit piece of cultural commentary. It's a old-time conservative's wet dream: hon...more
Oct 22, 2007 Ben rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I haven't finished this collection yet, but it's been a real revelation for me. I had only read Helprin's longer work before (I thought was good, but not amazing), and his traditionalist style isn't really my cup of tea. But these short stories are on another level entirely - great, moving stuff. I appreciate anyone who can write moving pieces in short form without playing the normal games. And the lines in some of these - the description of the mother in "Last Tea with the Armorers" comes to mi...more
This is a pretty mixed bag, I must say. I couldn't finish some of the stories, but others just broke my heart they were so powerful. The determining factor - I don't really like baseball, but I love the story about baseball in this collection.

Most of the stories, the best ones, deal with lost and finding hope in the lost. Those that are good are very powerful. Others, not so much.
Megan O'Neill
When this book came up in my recommended list along with books that were obviously inspired by my love of Tim O'Brien's work, and my other wartime literature interests, I conjured up an idea about what it was going to be like. When I saw it in the library the very afternoon that I marked it a 'to-read,' I was thrilled.

When I actually started reading, it was a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, there are a few stories in the collection that are good - the one about the 9/11 widow and the contrac...more
[Abandoned as of 3/30/09:]

I've read six of the sixteen stories here, and can go no further: Good God, but the man overwrites. His work has always suffered from a sentimental, self-consciously "literary" quality—he does love to wax on about the light, and about notions of honor, and he never settles for ten words where two hundred might be shoe-horned into a story. And, aside from the first 200 or so pages of Winter's Tale, he's always proven to be pretty much witless (in the sense of not being a...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Helprin, author of Ellis Island and A Winter's Tale, brings to this collection his usual deep look into life, love, and war in prose as "glassy and smooth as amber" (Los Angeles Times). Yet, written over two decades, these stories befuddled a few critics. Some praised Helprin's wise themes, character studies, dazzling prose, and detailed descriptions of how things, like baseball, work. Most agreed, however, that Helprin paints overly broad generalizations when it comes to people: honorable, brav

Aargh, Helprin. I think his best medium is the epic novel (see Winter's Tale) rather than the short story. The story doesn't give him enough room to sprawl out and bring a thousand grand threads together in an enormous pattern - his stories read like set pieces, long descriptive passages clipped out of longer works, or predictable fables of sacrifice or love or patriotism. They're like antique theater sets - you can tell from the first where each of them is going, and then the rest is just watch...more
Stephen C.
Feb 13, 2008 Stephen C. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys a GREAT set of short stories. This guy is the best.
I could never say enough about the quality of these short stories. Helprin is the very best at this genre and these are the single best collectin of short stories I have ever read. His depection in Monday is incredible and in each story he captures the essence of the human condition. He takes us to the emotional seat of each person in each story and it is an amazing depiction and presentation by a writer of how we live and of who we are. I'd have to say this is the single best work you can read...more
Jan 31, 2011 Lindsay rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ayn Rand-ers, romantics
Recommended to Lindsay by: My brooklyn born Dad.
I tend to avoid literary Wes Andersons, writers who list their characters' idiosynchracies but do not address their souls. So I find Helprin's depth refreshing. He writes as if the anti-hero never happened. Irony was never invented. Of course to enjoy the stories you have to embrace a certain moral attitude, if only temporarily. Like watching a Steven Spielberg movies.
Wow, this guy can WRITE!!! I've only read a few pages, and I'm hooked. And for some reason his photo amuses me no end. I would've guessed "stockbroker", rather than Amazingly Gifted Author"
Wow. These short stories were beautifully written. One of those books that you need to read slowly to savor. Some stories struck me more than others, but a beautiful compilation.
Lynne Favreau
This collection is the most refined, graceful, and cultured group of short stories I’ve read. All are masterfully done, emotional without being overwrought; not an easy task when writing about the tragedy of September 11th, as he does in one story.

The tales take place in various countries, cultures and ages. He voices the places and people so well, there seems to be an ornateness to them like fine art, it is subtle in its simplicity. You know that to make them appear so effortless there is hard...more
This collection of short stories, from veteran author and political commentator Mark Helprin, is notable for the overwhelming optimism and positivity expressed in each of the stories. Happy endings are not usually such an inevitability, especially in collections of short stories, and these tales are thus not only refreshing but perfect for rainy-day reading. The prose has a tendency to be a bit heavy handed, but is beautifully wrought.

That said, I would have liked to have seen a bit more variet...more
Feb 06, 2011 Jonathan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone possessed of erudition, a love of language, and deep-seated conviction
Shelves: general-fiction
“Why?” Gustavo asked. And, when Fitch was not forthcoming, Gustavo commanded, “You’ve got to tell me why.”
“If you could see her…,” said Fitch.
“I saw her when we did the kitchen. She’s pretty. She’s beautiful. But she’s not that beautiful.”
“Yes, she is,” said Fitch. “She bears up, but I’ve never seen a more wounded, deeply aggrieved woman. It’s not because she’s physically beautiful. What the hell do I care? It’s because she needs something like this, from me, from us, from everyone. Not that...more
This book took me a very long time to read, but it was worth it. I enjoyed every word and every story. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates writing in the old-fashioned sense: think Conrad, Crane, Hemingway, but with a bit more modern lyricism. I think the reader also has to appreciate nature writing. No one I have come across can portray water and light like Helprin can. And both men and women can appreciate his plots, which range from war stories to human interest stories.

Helprin's prose is clean and lucid, if occasionally too lavish for its ends, and I appreciate the dry, wry sense of humor in these stories. But all too often, the stories in The Pacific feel intellectually and even morally lazy. They are deliberately un-complex, presenting points without counterpoints.

In other words, many of these stories—"Monday" is a prime example—read simply as illustrations, examples-in-action, of Helprin's predetermined intellectual and moral stances: Here is how hard work...more
This very well written collection of short stories was a pleasant change of pace from my normal reading genres. Helprin not only has excellent writing skills, but he has insight to human nature that I kept thinking that I wish that I had said that. There were a number of times that I wanted to save quotes directly from the book because it expressed feelings that I had and had never verbalized. This book consists of sixteen short stories and includes many cultures and a long period of time. Some...more
I enjoyed this book and was it nothing short of astute evocative writing.

How can you miss and in fact you can't miss with thoughtslike......

"I'm suggesting, although I know you would never be able to believe this, that what you have now, as you struggle, is something you may regret to lose."

I want only to spy the youthful graces they cannot see in themselves, and encourage them to do well and spend more time with their children than I spent with mine. They won't. I didn't. They can't.I couldn't....more
David Cohan
Helprin writes beautifully, with well-crafted precision that is seamless in his conversational prose. He's one of those truly gifted authors that can say much more in what he chooses not to say. His narrative and dialogue are rich, full and spare all at once. He respects the power of his own writing and his readers and leaves unexpected emotions hanging tacitly in his text, in his comfortable and taut phrasing, in his readers' minds. He does this even as he crafts finely detailed scenes and can...more
It took me a bit. Mark Helprin is a glorious wordsmith. A man who writes: "June was hot, perfect and strange. It started magnificently and was slowly transformed into the initial bakery days of summer, tolerable for their novelty, when the beaches are as hot and white as molten glass but the ocean is blue and numbingly cold." It still took me a bit. But oh--the filling inside the story sandwich is exceptional. If anything, you MUST read the story "Perfection." I don't watch baseball much, and I'...more
This anthology is a fine showcase for Helprin's narrative gifts. He writes beautifully, but sometimes his stories are, in my view, a bit heavy-handed in their moralistic messages. However, one of the stories, "Perfection," is my all- time favorite short story. It is a magical account of a poor, orphaned Hasidic Jewish kid from Brooklyn, who manages to change the future of baseball. It sounds improbable, but is, in my opinion, a beautifully wrought and thoroughly engaging and moving story. You do...more
1. Monday
2. Perfection
3. Vandevere's House
4. Prelude
5. Il Colore Ritrovato
6. Last Tea with the Armorers
7. Jacob Bayer and the Telephone
8. Passchendaele
9. Mar Nueva
10. Sail Shining in White
Just not up to par with the other Helprin stories that I have loved, namely A Winter's Tale and Freddy and Frederika.

Either his style has changed, or it is the same but doesn't grab me anymore. So disappointing.
". . . he had faith not in arguments, but in creation." -"Joseph Bayer and the Telephone"

Much has been said about the beauty of Mark Helprin's stories and prose, so I won't say much more. Just that each story is a revelation of the beauty and meaning already contained in creation, for those who are willing to look for it, even just a little. This is one of those books that may actually change my life; Helprin urges us to be thankful for the richness we have already received, and to create beauty...more
Some of the stories are brilliant, one is a Butterick pattern for a later full-length novel. I liked all of them, even the one that came close (for Helprin) to being twee. "Perfection", the story of the young Hasidic boy who works with the 1958 Yankees, is worth the book alone. I parceled out the stories to one a day, because they are concentrated Helprin, and I think if you read them all at once, the similarities of theme will overwhelm the incredible disparity of topic. Along with Chabon and T...more
Helprin writes with a prose that is as full and scrumptious as a ripe fruit and as profoundly sweet or sour as he chooses it to be. Ranging a myriad of topics, Helprin paints with the colors of human emotion and experience, rendering exquisite little vignettes that dance as your eyes flit over them. High praise? Perhaps, but the beauty of Helprin's diction and imagery, the poignancy of his characters and stories, and the depth of his moral and philosophical pronouncements make this a wonderfully...more
I absolutely loved this collection of short stories. I deliberately read slowly to delay the inevitable conclusion of each story. In fact, they are each so beautifully written that you cannot or at least should not read quickly. The prose is not dense; it is simply gorgeously crafted whether Helprin is describing people, situations, or scenery.

Additionally, these stories pack an emotional wallop. A couple are so powerful they brought tears to my eyes.

HIGHLY recommend.
Well, this was my first foray into the world of short stories in a long time and I must say it was pretty disappointing. I actually only read the first story (of 16), and it didn't really capture my interest. I decided to read a couple of reviews, just to see if it was worth plugging on, and while a few loved every page, most reviewers did not enjoy the collection much at all. And a couple claimed that the first story was the best one. That put the nail in the coffin.
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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), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case...more
More about Mark Helprin...
Winter's Tale A Soldier of the Great War Freddy and Fredericka Memoir from Antproof Case In Sunlight and in Shadow

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“How the holy and the profane mix in the light of day and at the end of life is sometimes the most beautiful thing in this world and a compassionate entry into the next. After failure and defeat, a concentration upon certain beauties, though forever lost and unretrievable, can lift the wounded past roundedness and the dying past dying, protecting them with an image, still and bright, that will ride with them on their long ride, never to fade and never to retreat.” 1 likes
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