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"How do I know," asked Isaac Penn, "that you are not moved merely by vanity or curiosity. How do I know that you aren't here for the sake of the money in this family?"

Peter Lake was in full possession of himself. "I was an orphan," he said. "Orphans don't have vanity. I'm not sure why, but one needs parents to be vain. No matter what my faults, I tend to approach things with a certain gratitude, and those who are vain have little ability to feel grateful. As for curiosity, well, I've seen a lot, too much in fact. Curiosity has no bearing on the matter. I don't know why you brought it up."

"And money? Do you know why I brought that up?"

"Yes, I thought of the money. It excited me." He smiled. "It really did. I had escalating dreams--of being your right-hand man; of doing all the things that men of power and wealth have occasion to do; of wearing a different suit every day, and clean linen. I became a senator, President. Beverly lived. Our children were great in their turn. The articles on us in the encyclopedia were so long that they took up most of the volume 'L.' All around the country there were monuments to me, of marble as white as snow. In the end, I confess, I was flying about the universe. Beverly and I touched the moon, and flew off to the stars. But, mind you, after a few hours of this, there was no place else to go. After just a few hours of walking with kings, I was very glad to be Peter Lake, of whom no one has ever heard, completely anonymous, free.

"Mr. Penn, the only people who want that kind of stuff are those who are too stupid to imagine it and then be done with it. Now, this may sound strange to you, sir, and it's new to me (within the last few days, as I see it), but I want responsibility. That, to me, is the highest glory. And I love Beverly."

--Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin


Jan. 16th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
It is a strange book. Contains some wonderfully memorable scenes of ice-skating on very cold winter evenings. Helprin's political views, on the other hand...

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