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Preview — Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
Freddy and Fredericka
Mark Helprin’s legions of devoted readers cherish his timeless novels and short stories, which are uplifting in their conviction of the goodness and resilience of the human s...more
It took a while for me to see the plot developing as the setup took a good couple hundred pages, but once you get through the setup -- which is hilarious if you just roll with it -- you get to the good stuff. My favorite thing about Helprin's books is the way he does all this crazy wordsmithing and then out of nowhere condenses it all into a paragraph of precise truth. Those moments leave me in tears. I loved it.
(My thing is precision in language. As a linguist...more
This book is laugh out loud funny. I found myself guffawing on various modes of public transportation while reading this. It's really impressive that he can write physical slapstick humor and have it be funny. Halprin has a...more
My copy of the book claims in two places that "This is one of the quickest 500-page books you'll ever read!" It's a compliment, I guess, and it's more or less right - but Helprin still writes beautifully, and I wasn't skipping through it to g...more
A spoof on the British royal family, Freddy and Fredericka tell the story of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the title characters. They are next in line for the throne, and hopelessly ill-equipped for the weighty responsibilities, traditions, customs, and gravity that come with this position. At least vapid, materialistic, uneducated Fredericka is unready; Freddy has a deep awareness of his destiny, but his over-educated dialog, arcane sense of humor, in...more
Have you ever seen Blackadder? I don't just mean the first season; I mean the seasons that make you realize Mr. Bean can be really sexy with some facial hair. For me, there are two very board and very general types of comedy (okay, there are really lots of comedy genres, but I'm talking very board stokes here). There is mean with the chance it might be funny (Letterman), and there is biting but funny and nice/touching (Blackadder, any British comedy, really). For instance, there...more
Yes I know it comes festooned with praise but someone has to say that the emperor has no clothes. How utterly sad to see a talented writer waste his considerable gifts on this.
The humor is below 3rd grade...more
The premise is this: the Prince and Princess of Wales are found by Parliament to be unfit to ascend to the throne. They are given one last chance to prove their merit. A se...more
To explain, and by way of summary, the...more
In this novel, Helprin tells the tale of the Prince and Princess of Wales, sent to the United States to reclaim it as a territory of Britain in order to prove their worth for the throne. There's a lot more to it than that, but summed up in one sentence, there's the plot.
Along the way, of course, they learn a lot: about themselves, about...more
However, a friend gave me this for my birthday and I gave it a try. First, I love books about noble struggles, books that combine modern conundrums with ancient solutions, books about finding true love. The opening scene in which Freddy has t...more
But at the heart of Freddy and Fredericka is a deep love of the British monarchy despite (or because of) its absurdities and a deep love of the United States despite (or because of) its fantastical scope. I laughed out loud many times, causing my family anxiety about my mental health when I tried to explain the scenarios that caused my mi...more
In an alternate present, the Prince of Wales (Freddy, son of Phillipa, not Charles, son of Elizabeth) is sent by the mysterious Mr. Neil to travel incognito with his glamorous wife to conquer the United States of America. The book skewers...more
I absolutely adore some of Helprin's work. Winter's Tale is one of my very favorite books ever, and some of the stories in The Pacific are magnificent. The trouble with F&F is the length.
What I love are Helprin's vivid descriptions, his exquisite language, his cutting commentary on modern culture, and his gorgeous range of vocabulary.
What makes me crazy is the plodding, tiresom...more
Readers will recognize Prince Charles and Princess Diana in this farcical fairy tale about the contemporary ills of right-wing America and the British monarchy__and fans of Princess Diana will not be amused. Frederick and Fredericka is an imaginative story about politics and society that feels loose, undisciplined, and self-indulgent. (But hey, stop the presses__Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times liked a book!) Although the story moves along quickly, it nonetheless takes too long to reach it...more
There are times, many, many times, when Freddy and Fredericka seems near collapse from the weight of its own silliness and slapstick humor. On occasion I had to turn to dense nonfiction as a palate cleanser. I can't say the plot, which involves a Merlin-like character sending Freddy and Fredericka, two British royals vaguely modeled on Charles and Diana, to America in order to reclaim it for the Empire, so that Freddy might earn his place in the royal succession, held my interest. Yet at the end...more
The story itself is fascinating, and never having read anything that really deals with the perspective of modern ro...more
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Of course not. It’s my duty to go on, to maintain the line. I can’t possibly fail in that. It’s as if you and I were throwing a ball back and forth to establish a record, and had been doing so for a millennium. You cannot drop a ball that has remained airborne through good effort for most of a thousand years. You cannot stop an unlikely heart that has been beating for so long. I would rather die than betray continuity, for its own sake if for nothing else. And Britain needs a king, just as it needs motormen and cooks and a prime minister. Just as it needs soldiers who will die for it if they must. It’s my job, or it will be, but you should know that I’ve never wanted it. I was only born to it, as if with a deformity, to which I hope I can respond with grace."
Fredericka had been running her finger over the carpet, tracing a pattern in the way children do when they have learnt something overwhelming and are moved, but cannot say so. Freddy expected her to look up, with tears, and that in this moment she might have begun the long and arduous process of becoming a queen. She was so beautiful. To embrace her now, with high emotion flowing from her physical majesty, was all he wanted in the world. Her finger stopped moving, and she turned her eyes to him.
Yes?" he answered.
What’s raw egg? I read a recipe in She that called for a cup of raw egg. What is that?"
After a long silence, Freddy asked, "Which part of the formulation escapes you? Egg? Raw? The link between the two?"
The two what?"
Would you like to go dancing?"
Oh, yes Freddy!"
Come then. We will.”