Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    And I'd just say, ladies and gentlemen, one of the qualities of American politics that distinguishes us
    from other nations is that we judge our politicians as much by the manner in which they leave
    office as by the vigor with which they pursue it. You do not lay claim to the office you hold, it lays
    claim to you. Your obligation is to bring to it the gifts you can of labor and honesty and then to
    depart with grace. And my time to leave this office has come, and I will seek the presidency with
    nothing to fall back on but the judgment of the people, and nowhere to go but the White House or

    Six times - six times I've run for Republican leader of the United States Senate and six times my
    colleagues, giving me their trust, have elected me, and I'm proud of that.

    So my campaign for the president is not merely about obtaining office. It's about fundamental
    things, consequential things, things that are real. My campaign is about telling the truth, it's about
    doing what is right, it's about electing a president who's not attracted to the glories of the office, but
    rather to its difficulties. It's about electing a president, who once he takes office, will keep his
    perspective and remain by his deepest nature and inclination one of the people.

    Therefore, as the campaign for the president begins in earnest, it is my obligation to the Senate and
    to the people of America to leave behind all the trappings of power, all comfort and all security.

    So today (Wednesday, May 15, 1996) I announce that I will forego the privileges not only of the
    office of the majority leader but of the United States Senate itself, from which I resign effective on
    or before June 11th. And I will then stand before you without office or authority, a private citizen,
    a Kansan, an American, just a man.  But I will be the same man I was when I walked into the room,
    the same man I was yesterday and the day before, and a long time ago when I arose from my
    hospital bed and was permitted by the grace of God to walk again in the world. And I trust in the
    hard way, for little has come to me except in the hard way, which is good because we have a hard
    task ahead of us.
        -Bob Dole's resignation speech from the U. S. Senate (written, at least in part, by Mark Helprin)

Since at least the publication of Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin has been hailed as a writer's writer.  This generally means someone who gets stellar reviews from the critics for the quality of his prose and his use of language, but who pays little attention to either formal plot or the desire of the average reader to comprehend what the author's up to.  I've read, or tried reading, all of his novels, many of his short stories, and even his children's books, and I readily admit that while he does write beautifully at times, I find it daunting to try to wend my through the 500 or so pages he typically serves up.  I'm not someone who is willing to forgo narrative structure just because the words are pretty.

However, especially in recent years, Helprin has emerged as one of the most graceful and consistently insightful conservative columnists in America, writing mainly in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.  In addition, in both the speech above and in the portion of the 1996 GOP Convention speech that he wrote, Helprin performed the nearly miraculous feat of making Bob Dole sound eloquent.  So I keep reading his books, just waiting for the one that will combine his political ideas, his imagination, and his beautiful language into a truly great book.  In my opinion he still has yet to achieve this greatness, but in Memoir from Antproof Case he seems to be getting closer.

For one thing, the book has a fascinating and frequently hilarious protagonist, an old man hiding out from assassins in Brazil--a life as an orphan, fighter pilot, billionaire, murderer, and much more behind him--consigning his colorful life story to the antproof case that will protect them so that his wife's son by another man can eventually read them.  The memoirs would be amusing enough on their own, but even more enthralling are his obsessions and phobias, chief among them his hatred of coffee. the "evil bean that enslaves half the world."

Though still an over bounteous smorgasbord of a book, it benefits from a much more defined sense of narrative direction than some of Helprin's others and that goes a long way towards carrying the reader through the lulls and misdirections.  This isn't yet the great novel he's going to write one day, but it's well worth reading.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

General Literature
Mark Helprin Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Mark Helprin
    -ESSAY: Against Isolationism (Mark Helprin, Spring 2024, Claremont Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: War in the Absence of Strategic Clarity: More than merely winning the war in Iraq, we needed to stun the Arab World. (Mark Helprin, August 26, 2003, The Claremont Institute)
    -ESSAY: He Wants to Go Back: Mark Helprin’s “What We Did Wrong” assessment. (Mackubin Thomas Owens, May 2, 2003, National Review)
    -SPEECH: Remarks by Senator Bob Dole: Dole Accepts Nomination (San Diego, California, August 15, 1996)
-PROFILE: Mark Helprin and the Survival of the American Nation: Do we still have the strength and wisdom we need to confront a hostile world? (richard m. reinsch ii, 5/08/23, Law & Liberty)
    -PROFILE: Literary Warrior: Mark Helprin's fictional marvels and political heterodoxies (Craig Lambert, May/June 2005, Harvard Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Freddy and Frederika: Trouble at the Palace?: Head to the Colonies: Mark Helprin sweetly satirizes the British royal family. (Joseph Bottum, Opinion Journal)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Hudson Institute
    -Claremont Institute (Senior Fellow)
    -ARCHIVES : Written on Water : Mark Helprin (Wall Street Journal)
    -ARCHIVES : Mark Helprin (Intellectual Capital)
    -Forbes ASAP
    -ESSAY : What to Do in Afghanistan, and Why The pre-eminent imperative: Eliminate
weapons of mass destruction. (Mark Helprin, October 3, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : We Beat Hitler : We Can Vanquish This Foe Too. (Mark Helprin, September 12, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Renaissance of the Homeless (Mark Helprin, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Against the dehumanization of art (Mark Helprin, New Criterion, Sept., 91)
    -ESSAY : The threat that blows from China.(Mark Helprin, March 20, 2000, National Review)
    -ESSAY : The War of the Lights.( Mark Helprin, National Review, February 22 1999)
    -ESSAY : A Fog that Descends from Above.(Mark Helprin, National Review, May 03 1999)
    -ESSAY :  Jacob Bayer And The Telephone (Mark Helprin, Forbes ASAP, 10/02/00)
    -ESSAY : Contrivance (Mark Helprin, Forbes ASAP, 10.04.99)
    -ESSAY : God's Eye View (Mark Helprin, Forbes ASAP, November 30, 1998)
    -ESSAY : Revolution or Dissolution? (Mark Helprin, Forbes ASAP, February 24,1998)
    -ESSAY : The Uses of Honor (Mark Helprin, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2000)
    -ESSAY :  CAPE AND SWORD (Mark Helprin, Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1999)
    -ESSAY : The Soldiers of Calais (Mark Helprin,  Wall Street Journal, February 16, 1999)
    -ESSAY : The Lesson of the Century. (American Heritage, February/March 1999)
    -ESSAY : Deficits & Dragons (Mark Helprin, November 06, 1997  , Intellectual Capital)
    -SPEECH : I Dodged the Draft, and I Was Wrong (Mark Helprin,  West Point, October 11, 1992)
    -SPEECH : Statesmanship and its Betrayals (Mark Helprin, Hillsdale College,  IMPRIMIS 1998)
    -SPEECH : 4th Annual Lincoln Day Dinner (Mark Helprin, Claremont Institute)
    -INTERVIEW : Rewriting Bob Dole (Mark Schapiro, Salon)
    -INTERVIEW : A TALK WITH MARK HELPRIN: 'I MAY BE AN ANOMALY' (Christopher Buckley, NY Times, March 25, 1984)
    -SPEECH : Text of Sen. Dole's resignation speech
    -SPEECH : Text of Robert Dole's Speech To The Republican National Convention  (August 15, 1996)
    -SPEECH : Bob Dole's Acceptance Speech (1996 Republican Convention)
    -A Mark Helprin Bibliography
    -Mark Helprin Home on the WWW
    -Listserv for those interested in the works of author Mark Helprin.
    -PROFILE : Big Books, Tall Tales (Paul Alexander; NY Times Magazine, April 28, 1991)
    -PROFILE : Mark Helprin : One of America's most interesting novelists is also a conservative--and a crafter of powerful political rhetoric and commentary (John Meroney, July 2001, American Enterprise)
    -PROFILE : CAMPAIGN '96 : THE GHOST AND HIS RHINOCEROS (John Skow, TIME Magazine, May 27, 1996)
    -ESSAY : CAMPAIGN'96 : THE HARD WAY  : Dole Springs A Surprise--He Wants To Be President So Much He's Leaving His Beloved Senate To Do So (RICHARD STENGEL, May 27, 1996, TIME)
    -ESSAY : TALE SPIN: A FABULIST'S CAMPAIGN  (Hanna Rosin, New Republic, June 10, 1996 )
    -ESSAY with WAV Files : GOP Nominee Says Trust The Fundamental Issue (AllPolitics, SAN DIEGO Republican Convention,, Aug. 15, 1996)
    -ESSAY : Most Optimistic Impolitic (John Heilemann, San Diego, 15 August, 1996, Hotwired : Netizen)
    -ESSAY :  Crying Wolf (Judith Shulevitz, Dec. 14, 1998, Slate)
    -ESSAY : Birds of a Feather: The Ancient Mariner Archetype in Mark Helprin's "A Dove of the East" and A Soldier of the Great War (John Affleck)
    -ESSAY : Counterpoint: Tone and Point of View in Mark Helprin's "North Light" (Bill Stifler, 1988)
    -ESSAY : Mark Helprin (Storytellers)
    -ESSAY : Defrocking the Artist (Michael Lind, NY Times Book Review)
    -DISCUSSION : Helprin, Mark Forum Frigate
    -LINKS : Google Web Directory :  Arts > Literature > Authors > H > Helprin, Mark
    -LINKS : Authors : H : Mark Helprin (Steampunk)
    -ARCHIVES : "mark helprin" (NY Review of Books)
     -REVIEW : of Memoir from Antproof Case : HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER : Mark Helprin's funny, excessive new novel chronicles a life of capers, calamities and - why not? - a war against coffee (JOHN SKOW, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Memoir from Antproof Case (Jaime Smith , The Reader)
    -REVIEW : of Memoir from Antproof Case (Dave Edelman)
    -REVIEW : of A CITY IN WINTER By Mark Helprin. Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg (1996) (Michele Slung, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEWS : of The Veil of Snows By Mark Helprin. Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg (SF Site)
    -Reviews : The Novels of Mark Helprin (Colin Glassey)
    -BOOK LIST : THE 100 BEST NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE CENTURY (National Review, Mark Helprin : Panelist)

    -ESSAY : Writing Right (Terry Teachout, National Review)
    -ESSAY : AMERICAN-JEWISH WRTIERS: ON EDGE ONCE MORE (Ted Solotaroff, December 18, 1988, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The World of Caffeine: the Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug by Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K Bealer (John Lanchester, booksonline)