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Memoir from Antproof Case

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An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace who was shot down twice, an investment banker who met with popes and presidents, and a man who was never not in love. He was the thief of the century, a murderer, and a protector of the innocent. And all his life he waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee. Mark Helprin combines adventure, satire, flights of transcendence, and high comedy in this "memoir" of a man whose life reads like the song of the twentieth century.


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An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace who was shot down twice, an investment banker who met with popes and presidents, and a man who was never not in love. He was the thief of the century, a murderer, and a protector of the innocent. And all his life he waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee. Mark Helprin combines adventure, satire, flights of transcendence, and high comedy in this "memoir" of a man whose life reads like the song of the twentieth century.

30 review for Memoir from Antproof Case

  1. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    Abandoned eighty pages from the end. I just couldn't take any more of the wilful absurdity of this book. Mt least favourite aspect of the other Helprin novels I've read is his sense of comedy. I just don't find it funny. This novel is entirely comic so more fool me for buying it! A worrying discovery was the narrator of this novel and the narrator of his new novel appear like the same man. As if we're getting a peep into Helprin himself. Both are waging war on the modern world, both are obsesse Abandoned eighty pages from the end. I just couldn't take any more of the wilful absurdity of this book. Mt least favourite aspect of the other Helprin novels I've read is his sense of comedy. I just don't find it funny. This novel is entirely comic so more fool me for buying it! A worrying discovery was the narrator of this novel and the narrator of his new novel appear like the same man. As if we're getting a peep into Helprin himself. Both are waging war on the modern world, both are obsessed with beautiful women who they spiritualise under a delusion that they are more sensitive to women than most men and both are control freaks. In my experience the most exhausting kind of man can often be one who, on the one hand, prides himself on how sensitive he is to women and on the other is a control freak. Sooner or later his "generous" ideas about women will reveal themselves to be just another facet of his closed and regimented mind. Contradict this kind of man at your peril. Our hero in this book wages war on coffee. I wasn't sure at times if Helprin was joking. Maybe he really does think coffee is the source of many of the problems of modern life. The satiric purpose of this phobia wasn't at all clear to me. I'm all for principles but I'm not sure I'm keen on individuals who make a relentless song and dance of them. So his hero was obnoxious to me. Again, I'm not sure this is how I was meant to feel about him. He reminded me of Osmond in Portrait of a Lady except James was fully conscious of how pernicious and noxious his character and his attitude towards women were. Helprin, you feel, doesn't share James' insights. He seems convinced his men are waving some kind of celebratory banner for the female sex - as long as they're under twenty-five, have long slim legs and are stunningly beautiful. Thinking about it, all the women in his books are fairy story females. I can't think of one who would offer an actress a challenging role in a film adaptation. Helprin can write well but this to me was like a third rate pastiche of a Thomas Pynchon novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I've read this book three times in the past ten years. It's my very favorite book, and it's taken me four months to plan my Goodreads ode. Do you remember the way you got to know someone you really love? He told you scattered stories from across his lifetime. You saw quirks and good nature. Over time, you put together themes and obscure connections. More and more stories gave deeper and deeper meaning, and you understood. As much as we can ever understand each other. Mark Helprin creates this ex I've read this book three times in the past ten years. It's my very favorite book, and it's taken me four months to plan my Goodreads ode. Do you remember the way you got to know someone you really love? He told you scattered stories from across his lifetime. You saw quirks and good nature. Over time, you put together themes and obscure connections. More and more stories gave deeper and deeper meaning, and you understood. As much as we can ever understand each other. Mark Helprin creates this experience, and it's hard to believe that something that takes so much time and subtlety in real life can be put to paper. Layers and layers of tragedy, comedy, art, and love, over and over. Helprin's Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War are waltzes of gorgeous crenelated language, and of images like those you've seen during the luckiest private moments of your life. In Memoir he breaks into a tango, and sneaks out the back door for a laugh. It's just as beautiful, and proof of his versatile artistry.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Martin. Martin.

    Okay. I will pay to watch certain actors eat soup, and I'll read anything a few writers' grocery lists. Helprin is one of them. This book is one of my lifetime top five. This quote is the reason why: "Though the world is constructed to serve glory, success and strength,one loves one’s parents and one’s children despite their failing and weaknesses—sometimes even more on account of them. In this school you learn the measure, not of power, but of love; not of victory, but of grace; not of triumph, b Okay. I will pay to watch certain actors eat soup, and I'll read anything a few writers' grocery lists. Helprin is one of them. This book is one of my lifetime top five. This quote is the reason why: "Though the world is constructed to serve glory, success and strength,one loves one’s parents and one’s children despite their failing and weaknesses—sometimes even more on account of them. In this school you learn the measure, not of power, but of love; not of victory, but of grace; not of triumph, but of forgiveness. You learn as well, that love can overcome death and that what is required of you in this is memory and devotion. To keep your love alive you must be willing to be obstinate, and irrational, and true, to fashion your entire life as a construct, a metaphor, a fiction, a device for the exercise of faith. Without this, you will live like a beast and have nothing but an aching heart. With it, your heart, though broken,will be full, and you will stay in the fight unto the very last." I give this quote to my children, nieces and nephews, close friends offspring at their 18th birthday. It's not St. Paul's epistles or Shakespeare. It may be better than either.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    Read this author. Helprin knows how to speak for those of us who love language. He loves language as much as you do, and is an expert craftsman with it. His descriptions—flying a war plane, love and loss—are so real that you are certain he has experienced them personally. There's just enough humor and bizarreness—the protagonist’s deep abhorrence of coffee; his boss and weird occupation in the cellars of the bank—to make the story genuine (because life is often bizarre) and truly enjoyable. The Read this author. Helprin knows how to speak for those of us who love language. He loves language as much as you do, and is an expert craftsman with it. His descriptions—flying a war plane, love and loss—are so real that you are certain he has experienced them personally. There's just enough humor and bizarreness—the protagonist’s deep abhorrence of coffee; his boss and weird occupation in the cellars of the bank—to make the story genuine (because life is often bizarre) and truly enjoyable. The sequence of this particular book is as fascinating as the story itself. The protagonist describes writing memoirs as fishing, putting in your hook and seeing what you reel in, and as you read, this makes perfect sense. Rather than chronologically follow the life of the unnamed protagonist, the story presents various events that are on the protagonist's mind at the time. Then, as you read, you realize that Helprin has carefully and purposefully crafted this tale: he starts with the man at his present old age and progresses to the man's childhood. The events you’re given at the beginning of the story give a deeper meaning to the protagonist's youth. You feel you know him, that you understand why he acts and thinks the way he does, even if you don’t fully agree with him (which he doesn’t seem to mind if you don’t, except for the coffee). You then return to the early chapters of the novel to remember everything and complete your picture of this man. You have that amazing, almost uncanny ability to be able to see the protagonist as a child at the end, and yet think back nostalgically to the man he became as presented at the beginning of the novel. Take the time to enjoy a well-done, involving story and read Mark Helprin.

  5. 5 out of 5

    GoldGato

    ...the world is somewhat like a piece of paper: it can be folded only a fixed number of times, and then it refuses further adjustment. A gentleman with a strict aversion to coffee writes a memoir and keeps it in an antproof case (which happens to be the last surviving case in the world). His life has been an amazing adventure, from orphan to WWII air ace to husband of a billionairess to gold bullion robber to South American pensioner. The hinge of the story appears to be his intense hatred of the ...the world is somewhat like a piece of paper: it can be folded only a fixed number of times, and then it refuses further adjustment. A gentleman with a strict aversion to coffee writes a memoir and keeps it in an antproof case (which happens to be the last surviving case in the world). His life has been an amazing adventure, from orphan to WWII air ace to husband of a billionairess to gold bullion robber to South American pensioner. The hinge of the story appears to be his intense hatred of the coffee bean and all that it has enslaved. He believes caffeine to be a sin of the highest order and the drinking of coffee to be the battering ram of the soul. Handmaiden of evil! Now this character is not easy to like. He comes across as a know-it-all and talks too much, easy in his arrogance. But the last 100 pages brings forth a hidden depth to the man and makes everything worthwhile. He falls into the world of the elite and yet has little respect for those one percenters. ...there are two kinds of creatures in the jungle: the tiger and the iguana. The tiger sets the fees, the iguana pays them. As an iguana, I started rooting for him to despoil those who run the show. In a way, author Mark Helprin uses the 80-year memoir writer to take us through the entire 20th century as we see an America (and world) evolving from the values-based rural life to the no-holds-barred urban world. Think how Starbucks has come to dominate people's lives and you get a taste of what Helprin foresaw when he wrote this in 1995. Half the time that we imagine things are changing for the better they are actually changing for the worse. I am not a big fiction reader but Mark Helprin has long been one of my treasured authors because of Winter's Tale. That book made me view NYC differently and this book almost does the same. Here, it's the 1900s Hudson Valley followed by the rambunctious Manhattan-ville. And he always does wonderful things with words. Dogs chasing a rabbit, for instance, get excited and start slobbering. Dog saliva flew in the air. The droplets sparkled in the intense light and then were vacuumed up by the night. It was like the Trevi fountain in a high wind. The only reason I don't give this five stars is because I didn't really love the main character. But the words, oh the words. Book Season = Summer (iguana power)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Lyon

    This is another book that's been sitting unread for years on my shelf. It's a hardcover, more than 500 pages thick, its book jacket illustrated to look like the case of the title bound in twine. Every time my hand hesitated over it while selecting something to read, the large, refined serif letters drawled Literature with a self-important L, and I sighed and moved on. But I tackled it this time, and found it neither as heavy handed nor as culturally snotty as I feared. I'd forgotten that Mark Hel This is another book that's been sitting unread for years on my shelf. It's a hardcover, more than 500 pages thick, its book jacket illustrated to look like the case of the title bound in twine. Every time my hand hesitated over it while selecting something to read, the large, refined serif letters drawled Literature with a self-important L, and I sighed and moved on. But I tackled it this time, and found it neither as heavy handed nor as culturally snotty as I feared. I'd forgotten that Mark Helprin (not to be confused with Mark Halperin, the sexually harassing television journalist) has written two other titles I thoroughly enjoyed, Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. Memoir... is a kind of asynchronous mystery: who is the memoirist, and how did he come to the situation in which he finds himself at its start? The answers fall out languorously across a narrative that encompasses much of the 20th century, skipping back and forth in time as the writer relates the events of his life in the order most personally meaningful. Our narrator is a gentleman of means and diverse abilities, who has never accepted the conventions of society when such conventions contradict his own sense of truth and beauty. Most notably, he has a pathological hatred of coffee, a fact that is rarely central to the events he relates but nonetheless stitches the disconnected sheaves of the story into a kind of cohesion. Helprin's language is evocative, rich and maybe a little bit self-indulgent: "I had never seen so many wildflowers jealously and proudly guarding their high posts in colors both bright and apoplectic." But for most of the book it works, both as poetic prose, and as a defining characteristic of the narrator. My only complaint, in fact, is when Helprin indulged in a bit of absurdism about 2/3 of the way through. Out of place and out of character, it fractured the lyrical spell I'd been under until then. Even so, it redeems itself in the end and does as real memoirs often try but fail to do: it draws a satisfying arc to a close, with the mystery resolved and the memories of the scenes along the way free to be savored.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Marsch

    I usually love Helprin, but I just couldn't get into this one after about 80 pages. I think it's hard to identify with a narrator who lives an especially large and self-focused life. This narrator reminds me of the one in *Love in the Time of Cholera* -- he finds himself so unique, so special, that ordinary rules of life do not apply. He's brilliant, accomplished, sensitive, and quirky, and we should love him for all that though he has no love for "us" -- the rest of the world out here. He wants I usually love Helprin, but I just couldn't get into this one after about 80 pages. I think it's hard to identify with a narrator who lives an especially large and self-focused life. This narrator reminds me of the one in *Love in the Time of Cholera* -- he finds himself so unique, so special, that ordinary rules of life do not apply. He's brilliant, accomplished, sensitive, and quirky, and we should love him for all that though he has no love for "us" -- the rest of the world out here. He wants us to feel privileged to be able to read about his exploits. Ultimately, a character so far out of the norm of humanity is difficult to get interested in.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    A very funny, but bittersweet tale, encyclopedic in scope, that veers from magical realism to farce.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marion Hill

    Mark Helprin has written two of my favorite novels: Winter's Tale (In my top 5 novels) & A Soldier of the Great War (In my top 20 novels). I had been looking forward to reading another Helprin novel for a long time. I remembered when Memoir From Antproof Case came out in the Spring 1995. It was his first novel after the success of the aformentioned A Soldier of the Great War. There was quite a few readers at the bookstore I worked at in Santa Fe eager to read it. Well, twenty-five years have pas Mark Helprin has written two of my favorite novels: Winter's Tale (In my top 5 novels) & A Soldier of the Great War (In my top 20 novels). I had been looking forward to reading another Helprin novel for a long time. I remembered when Memoir From Antproof Case came out in the Spring 1995. It was his first novel after the success of the aformentioned A Soldier of the Great War. There was quite a few readers at the bookstore I worked at in Santa Fe eager to read it. Well, twenty-five years have passed and I finally got around to reading the novel. Memoir From Antproof Case was the story of an elderly American named Oscar Progresso who shared his life story from a mountain garden in Brazil. Oscar wrote a memoir chronicling his adventures, loves, and hatred of coffee in a funny and illuminating manner. He was an investment banker at the turn of the 20th century and moved in circles where he met the Pope and President of the United States. Oscar was also a pilot, thief, killer, and a man who loved passionately. Helprin created a larger than life protagonist to reveal a man who had everything but wanted to love and be loved more than anything. “To keep your alive you must be willing to be obstinate, and irrational, and true, to fashion your entire life as a construct, a metaphor, a fiction, a device for the exercise of faith. Without this, you will live like a beast and have nothing but an aching heart. With it, your heart, though broken, will be full, and you will stay in the fight unto the very last.” This paragraph came from the last page of the novel as Oscar closed his memoir (in a one of kind antproof case) and provided wisdom that will speak beyond the pages of the book. Memoir From Antproof Case did not rise to level of my Helprin’s favorite novels. However, I enjoyed reading it and will remember many paragraphs from a protagonist that gave me a lot of food for thought. Helprin seems to understand that great fiction is not only about character but setting and the power of the imagination. Fiction is not just about the environment of the everyday or the lives of dysfunctional people. It is about taking a reader somewhere beyond what they expect and show what makes us human. Our contradictions. Our beliefs. Our wildest dreams and fantasies. That is what makes reading so wonderful and powerful simultaneously.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Walter

    The first thing that you have to know about Mark Helprin is that he combines the genre of historical fiction with the genre of fantasy. His novels are based on solid historical settings, but they are not exactly realistic, and Helprin intended them this way. His novel "A Winter's Tale", which was recently made into a movie, is very much this way. It is not realistic at all. "Memoir from an Antproof Case" is a bit more realistic, but it's still a fantasy. It should be read that way. Reading Helpr The first thing that you have to know about Mark Helprin is that he combines the genre of historical fiction with the genre of fantasy. His novels are based on solid historical settings, but they are not exactly realistic, and Helprin intended them this way. His novel "A Winter's Tale", which was recently made into a movie, is very much this way. It is not realistic at all. "Memoir from an Antproof Case" is a bit more realistic, but it's still a fantasy. It should be read that way. Reading Helprin's novels purely as historical fiction will lead to disappointment. "Memoir" is the story of an elderly American who was born at the beginning of the 20th Century and relates the story of his life through the 1980s. The main character is very quirky. He hates coffee with a passion. He works interesting jobs, becomes an aviator during World War II when he is already in his 40s, and eventually flees the country with a planeload of gold from Wall Street. What's up with this guy? As Helprin tells his tale, the reader begins to understand why this character is so quirky. Why does he hate his employer so much? Why does he hate coffee? By the end of the novel all of this becomes clear, and I really felt like I could sympathize with a guy whom I had previously thought of as a nutcase. The twists and turns in this novel and the historical anomalies kept my attention. I would almost classify "Memoir" as a psychological novel because of the way that Helprin unfolds his characters. I also appreciated Helprin's historical allusions regarding the various eras of the 20th century, allusions that may go over the heads of less historically aware readers. Overall I really enjoyed "Memoir". I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a quirky historical or fantasy novel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book was gifted to me by a friend's father, and though it's taken me more than a year to finally get around to reading it, I deeply appreciate the gesture. The protagonist is so funny, honest, and imminently quotable that I almost had to break out post-it bookmarks so I could keep track of all the great lines. This book was hovering between a good and great throughout the book, but I think the final sections are very strong and bring the rest of it together in a profound way. Helprin finally This book was gifted to me by a friend's father, and though it's taken me more than a year to finally get around to reading it, I deeply appreciate the gesture. The protagonist is so funny, honest, and imminently quotable that I almost had to break out post-it bookmarks so I could keep track of all the great lines. This book was hovering between a good and great throughout the book, but I think the final sections are very strong and bring the rest of it together in a profound way. Helprin finally explaining what exactly an antproof case is and imparting the knowledge of the Finest School were deeply moving sections. The narrator's dedication to the past, the world he knew, is a theme I've always identified with and admired in characters and people for that matter. He's happy but tragically so. Exile is another one of my favorite themes. His past literally has become a foreign country. Like Mowbray in Richard II, his native tongue of 50 years is suddenly useless, yet he can close his eyes and be back in 1914 on the banks of the Hudson, in a plane over the Mediterranean or Berlin, or on his way to Brooklyn fighting a sniper alongside a Swede. The memoir is a gift to Funio, as his "father" says near the end, not so much a tome of life lessons, but an example of one life. And it's an amazing life, one anyone would be certain to pick up some pointers from along the way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sylvester

    A sprawling catch-all tale. (Helprin's brain must be teeming with odds and ends - I was continually amazed by his skill and imagination.) This was a kitchen sink picaresque if I've ever seen one. I was irritated a few times by the trampoline timeline - where are we now? was the question that came up for a lot of the first half of the book. It evened out a bit from then on (or I got used to it - I'm not sure which), but the flexible plotline is obviously necessary to the tale, and is not affectat A sprawling catch-all tale. (Helprin's brain must be teeming with odds and ends - I was continually amazed by his skill and imagination.) This was a kitchen sink picaresque if I've ever seen one. I was irritated a few times by the trampoline timeline - where are we now? was the question that came up for a lot of the first half of the book. It evened out a bit from then on (or I got used to it - I'm not sure which), but the flexible plotline is obviously necessary to the tale, and is not affectation. Here is an old man recalling his life, and we all know how we jump around in time when we reminisce. This book has it all - a little of the tall tale, unreliable narrator, adventure, heartache, mystery - I could go on. I am definitely in for more Mark Helprin. "Have you ever wondered what kind of life someone would lead if, after wanting more than anything to die, he were to live for seventy or more years?" Mark Helprin

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    At first I was extremely annoyed by the narrator. he was trying too hard to be outrageous and a "character". Where was the narrative voice of the lovely and stately "Soldier of a Great War" that I read in 1998? But it was the last book I had with me on my trip to Kerala and i couldn't find anything other than God of Small THings in the Kerala bookstore that wasn't a risk. So I stuck with it and it grew on me. It was a good book to read on vacation - so many different things happened in it that y At first I was extremely annoyed by the narrator. he was trying too hard to be outrageous and a "character". Where was the narrative voice of the lovely and stately "Soldier of a Great War" that I read in 1998? But it was the last book I had with me on my trip to Kerala and i couldn't find anything other than God of Small THings in the Kerala bookstore that wasn't a risk. So I stuck with it and it grew on me. It was a good book to read on vacation - so many different things happened in it that you could read a block, put it down and move on, then come back and read another block. By the end I really enjoyed it and the narrator. But I'm giving it three stars because it annoyed the crap out of me at the beginning and I like to drink coffee.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    It took me a while to read this one, as I kept focusing on history and period stuff, but it is a really good novel. If it was written by someone else I may have given it five stars, but it suffers by comparison to Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. To paraphrase Jeff Vandermeer's comments on Gene Wolfe having written Fifth Head of Cerberus and The Book of the New Sun (to which I would add Soldier of the Mist), relatively early in his career, it must be galling to have later works that It took me a while to read this one, as I kept focusing on history and period stuff, but it is a really good novel. If it was written by someone else I may have given it five stars, but it suffers by comparison to Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. To paraphrase Jeff Vandermeer's comments on Gene Wolfe having written Fifth Head of Cerberus and The Book of the New Sun (to which I would add Soldier of the Mist), relatively early in his career, it must be galling to have later works that are very good constantly compared with such early masterworks. Even though those books are better, that speaks well of them, not ill of this one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This is a seriously overlooked book in American Literature - and will hopefully earn its place someday on the "must read" list for high school seniors or something. Okay, its a TOME, but so rewarding. Funny and magical and a gorgeous read. HOWEVER, after falling for this book, I went out an immediately tried to read everything else that Helprin has written and was pretty disappointed. I think this is his one brilliance. This is a seriously overlooked book in American Literature - and will hopefully earn its place someday on the "must read" list for high school seniors or something. Okay, its a TOME, but so rewarding. Funny and magical and a gorgeous read. HOWEVER, after falling for this book, I went out an immediately tried to read everything else that Helprin has written and was pretty disappointed. I think this is his one brilliance.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Every Mark Helprin novel may not be perfect, but so far I can't prove otherwise. I read this as part of my recovery-weekend from my first full semester of grad school, mostly in Center City Philadelphia drinking coffee (ironic, I know) in the rain, in a super-hipster coffee shop where everyone wears the same shoes and no one laughs, except me, crazily in the corner at this book. I'll be thinking about it for a long, long time. Every Mark Helprin novel may not be perfect, but so far I can't prove otherwise. I read this as part of my recovery-weekend from my first full semester of grad school, mostly in Center City Philadelphia drinking coffee (ironic, I know) in the rain, in a super-hipster coffee shop where everyone wears the same shoes and no one laughs, except me, crazily in the corner at this book. I'll be thinking about it for a long, long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rita Graham

    I finished reading this "memoir" a few months ago and moved in the meantime so my comments will be as scattered as the book. The narrator told his story in fragments filled with what might have been fantasies allowing the author to flex his linguistic talents. I never felt a connection with the narrator, but I did grow more and more interested in his life without actually believing much of it which is a tribute to the author's skill. It was funny, wild, and filled with morsels of wisdom. I finished reading this "memoir" a few months ago and moved in the meantime so my comments will be as scattered as the book. The narrator told his story in fragments filled with what might have been fantasies allowing the author to flex his linguistic talents. I never felt a connection with the narrator, but I did grow more and more interested in his life without actually believing much of it which is a tribute to the author's skill. It was funny, wild, and filled with morsels of wisdom.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Cochran

    I really liked Helprin's Winter Tale. Antproof Case is just as wonderful, if not more so. No more coffee! I really liked Helprin's Winter Tale. Antproof Case is just as wonderful, if not more so. No more coffee!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Boeck

    Helprin is a joy to read, and this is a story that dorsnt let go.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Misha

    • Oscar Progresso/narrator with no name (1) • Reason he is in Brazil, fear of being found (4); teaching English to Brazilian navy officers (6) • Hatred of coffee—a sin, “devil’s nectar,” enslaving half the world—coffee drinking sends him into a rage (8) • Portuguese a “baby language,” unlike English “where language is not a perfumed cushion but a tightly strung bow that sends sharp arrows to the heart of everything” (9) • Marlise (15), married her at 53, she 23; Funio (16)—finding out Marlise is pre • Oscar Progresso/narrator with no name (1) • Reason he is in Brazil, fear of being found (4); teaching English to Brazilian navy officers (6) • Hatred of coffee—a sin, “devil’s nectar,” enslaving half the world—coffee drinking sends him into a rage (8) • Portuguese a “baby language,” unlike English “where language is not a perfumed cushion but a tightly strung bow that sends sharp arrows to the heart of everything” (9) • Marlise (15), married her at 53, she 23; Funio (16)—finding out Marlise is pregnant with Funio, not his own (21) • “If you doubt the veracity of my story, remember that in the compression of eighty years into so short a span as this memoir the time between events is lost, and it is only the grace of time slowly unfurling that gives to the shocks of one’s life the illusion of expectedness.” (38) • Fourteen, attacks school teacher (42-5) • Straight-jacket, paraded around Europe, insane asylum in Switzerland (48) • Miss Mayevska (56), Polish Jewess in asylum, pianist, abhors crickets • “Never have I loved anyone more, and never will I.” (59) “But I never slept with Miss Mayevska, though I must have kissed her for a thousand hours, and it is with Miss Mayevska, though I have not seen her since 1923, that I will always be most the intimate.” (60) • First meeting (61) • Crime—“a phenomenon of opportunity,” not to avenge but to accomplish, thrill & risk, something for nothing, “for the freedom of exiting the social structure, and most of all, I think, for the unparalleled and incomparable elation of escape.” (63) • “…crime is unpardonable and inexcusable if it wounds. The only decent crime is that which strikes against evil. Otherwise it is detestable.” (63)—Has our narrator done the detestable? How would he judge himself given this statement? • Miss Mayevska dies with her family in the Nazi concentration camps (62)—fixes her like amber in his mind • They escape to North Pole (65-75)--parting • Sounds of the city (85) • 1918—first man he killed, “thoughts martial and I was continually alarmed” (91), why he killed a man, deep aversion to coffee, and “my other difficulty in adjustment has been that from the earliest age I have been congenitally unable to know my place” (92) • Pope: “God puts more of Himself in the love of parent and child than in anything else, including all the wonders of nature. It is the prime analogy, the foremost revelation, the shield of His presence upon Earth.” (96) • Coffee-drinking Walloon (98), hot coffee on the train in the summer (strange in itself), tried to be polite but becomes sick and accidentally dumps coffee in his lap, kills man in self-defense (103-4) • “The great loves of my youth—for my parents; my home; Miss Mayevska; for God Himself, undoubted, untarnished, immediate—remain.” (106) • Stilman & Chase, no tie, naps, etc. (110-111) • Constance (113) • Shot down twice, over Berlin and Mediterranean (127) • Sex: “It was the climax of many months’ testing, resolution, and moral struggle. It was the signal of true love and lifelong commitment. It was a mutual capitulation to the most elemental commandment, but only after a prolonged battle had proved us to ourselves, and perhaps, elsewhere.” (129) • “Her wealth diminutized me. I was a kept man. A gigolo. A rodent.” (137) • “I used to marvel at the recollections of old people. How is it, I wondered, that they so often combine the qualities of elegy, fluidity, and economy?…They speak in elegies because they remember the dead, they are fluid because they have forgotten the static that slows the narrative, and they must be economical simply for lack of energy.” (148) • Coffee—will always hate it, compares the enjoyment of it to heroin addiction, Hitler invading France, perverts enjoying their perversions (153) • Learns to be a pilot (158) • Marlise (202), but still pines for Constance and Miss Mayevska, who he grieves for beyond measure as his “union with Constance was broken by mortal will, thinking about her is possible without tears or theology” • How he and Constance split—he did not understand her dislike of children anymore than she understood his aversion to coffee (209-211)-she repeatedly asks him where his aversion comes from and he will not tell her, becomes too enraged to do so—why does he not reveal the roots of this hatred? (213) • “New York gave me strength. The Hudson gave me strength, being, as it was, my garden of Eden.” (219) • Pain of divorce from Constance (236, 242) • “I cannot talk to my wife, because she is only fifty years of age and still imagines that the body can be the fortress of happiness.” (243) “I’m old enough to remember vaudeville but I never imagined that I would marry it. When I was young I assumed I would be coupled with a woman who spoke like a poet…” • Funio—knows he is not his son biologically, but it hardly matters—“Above all, I want this time in his life to be unburdened, for I have never seen such a beautiful thing as childhood, and perhaps if he is not stripped of it early on, as I was, he will have the strength to live his life untormented.” (245) • Eugene B. Edgar (251), sniper he killed in self-defense (266) • “…the spark of transgression comes directly from the heart of God” (273) • Finds his ‘brother,’ another man as disgusted with coffee as he is (282), Paolo Massina/Smedjebakken • Gold vault (303)—they decide to rob it (326), (384) • Madonna del Lago (338) • Watoon, filthy English phrases (387) • Pictures of parents, icons, suffused with memory and love: “As a child I would consider these photographs, convinced that I would have neither the strength and vitality of my father nor the luck of meeting a woman like my mother…And then a bolt of wonderful lightning would strike me and pleasantly ricochet as I realized that, because I was my father’s and mother’s son, I did have a chance, after all, of growing into their strengths and graces” (389) • Loses pictures upon crash landing in Brazil • Born 1904, begins telling about growing up in Hudson River Valley, parents, etc. (390) • Schoolmaster makes boys eat coffee as a punishment (396-7) • Father a farmer, watched him fail (399): “The ground gives back more or less what you put into it. It was not the ground that had changed, or the substance of what we did, or the virtues, but everything else in the world.” • Memories like a kiss (403) • June 5th, 1914—goes to fish from the tower (against his father’s wishes) (405) • “What is necessary is not so much that parents set a good example for their children but that they fail to set a bad example/” (407) • Train stops, car with initials (415), parents killed • “..he was interested in my story because I was just old enough to keep everything in my memory so vividly for the rest of my life that my life would never be my own, no matter how hard I struggled, no matter what I did.” (416) • Two men jump from car, approach him ask for food, then ask him to go fetch coffee—when he comes back, most of the coffee spilled down his front, they are gone and his parents dead (420-424) • ***“For a child whose parents are taken from him in this way, the world becomes, if not permanently broken, then at least permanently bent. If, as in my case, the actual murderers are never brought to justice, then one is condemned to live one’s life with the knowledge that they are out there; that they’ve ruined, bested, and beaten you; that they might come for you; that any man with whom you deal, anyone you meet, no matter how smiling or likeable or how good, as long as he is of a certain age, may be the devil incarnate, and that therefore you cannot trust, or believe, or confide in anyone; that your life must become a contest of endurance so that you can live to a hundred, so that you can be sure the murderers will be dead before you, something that you imagine would be your parents’ fondest wish and deepest need; and that when you parents died they did so in terror, fearing that their assailants would turn on you, the child for whom they would gladly die, but for whom at the very last they could do absolutely nothing.” (404-5)*** • Figures out the initials on the train car were Eugene B. Edgar’s—the man in whose employ he has been for thirty years (435)—goes to archives to find out • Bridge over Hudson, his parents in the way, father wouldn’t sell—kill them as an example (453-55)—“My father never would have sold out, because what was at stake was not money but love” • Feels relaxed about his plan to kill Edgar: “I can only say, let them help and rehabilitate the murderers of their families, I will deal with the murderers of mine somewhat differently.” (455) • Corners Edgar at home, confronts him (465), lets him know he has stolen from him—Edgar tells him “it caused me much grief…you don’t have to believe that.” A statement that gives him pause (466) • “After that, I didn’t want to kill him. And killing a helpless person is the most horrible thing you can do. All my life I have believed that you defend the helpless, protect the innocent, love the child in the man.” (467) • “I killed him, and in so doing I killed the part of me that was best.” (466)—Love, followed where it led: “My childhood was over, the circle was complete.” • Flying, crash landing (482) • “ My previous life had disappeared. If I would never again see a single person who might remember what I remembered, how could I know that I hadn’t dreamt the whole thing? Pieces of paper, that’s how.” (485) • Realizes what he has written won’t fit into his antproof case (500), goes to the shop in Rio where he bought it 30 years before, but finds they are no longer being manufactured—is told by stationer “Dah vorld vas different.” (504) • Tells his son where he can find the gold, hidden in the riverbed (507) • Money makes people idiots, wants Funio to become who he is before he inherits, gives him a choice (509): “Now you can claim your patrimony, or you may be like me, and quietly do without it.” (510) • “Coffee is evil because it disrupts the internal rhythm that allows a man or a woman to understand beauty in all things. …I know this, though I have never had coffee. I know it because I have not allowed the rhythm to be altered, and I never will.” (512) • “I have recounted it for the reason that a singer sings a song or a storyteller tells a story: once you have come to a place which you cannot return, something there is that makes you look out and back, that makes you marvel at the strength of the smallest accidents to forge a life of sweetness, ferocity, and surprise.” (514) • “I was graduated from the finest school, which is that of the love between parent and child. Though the world is constructed to serve glory, success, and strength, one love’s one’s parents and one’s children despite their failings and weaknesses—sometimes even more on account of them. In this school you learn the measure not of power, but of love; not of victory, but of grace; not of triumph, but of forgiveness. You learn as well, and sometimes, as I did, you learn early that love can overcome death, and that what is required of you in this is memory and devotion. Memory and devotion. To keep your love alive you must be willing to be obstinate, and irrational, and true, to fashion your entire life as a construct, a metaphor, a fiction, a device for the exercise of faith. …Though my life might have been more interesting and eventful, and I might have been a better man, after all these years I think I can say that I have kept faith.” (514)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Sprung

    I'm not sure what I can add about this book that hasn't already been said, save for how I felt about it. I mean, it's Helprin, so the writing is crisp and tight, and the story is entertaining - so there's always a sort of appreciation for how well he does things. But subtracting from this very interesting and odd story is the level of absurdity. The villains are not deep or profound. The things that bother the protagonist are banal and odd. Instead of showing a fighter pilot who fought nazis, go I'm not sure what I can add about this book that hasn't already been said, save for how I felt about it. I mean, it's Helprin, so the writing is crisp and tight, and the story is entertaining - so there's always a sort of appreciation for how well he does things. But subtracting from this very interesting and odd story is the level of absurdity. The villains are not deep or profound. The things that bother the protagonist are banal and odd. Instead of showing a fighter pilot who fought nazis, going on to crusade against something that our culture fights against, like nazism, or post-colonial conquest, or the globalisation of the economy, or neo-liberalism (all concerns in 1995 when it was written) it seems like he has chosen something trivial and banal, to use as a sort of trick to bring him to confrontation. Instead of bullying, he focuses on coffee. Instead of nazism, he focuses on coffee. The one great drive of the protagonist, to avenge the loss of his parents, is almost a pithy coincidence, and one that seems slapped on at the end. Don't get me wrong, the end, the culmination, the rounding of the circle of the great motivator that pushed the protagonist on his quest for justice, is satisfying. The novel as a whole, though, seems unfocused, and a shadow of 'A Soldier of the Great War', which hit all the same themes, but in a much clearer and more moving way. In all, a good, solid novel, and deserving of a 4, but compared to his other works, something that could have been so much more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marcia Chocinsky

    This is only the first Helprin novel that I have read, but it won’t be my last. This imagined memoir covers huge territory in terms of time and place and does so with great gusto. His characters are detailed and quirky although all the women are unbelievably beautiful. But then don’t we think anyone we fall in love with is beautiful. This novel covers murder, robbery, a meeting with a pope, being a flying ace during WWII, investment bankers, life in small towns and big cities, life both rich and This is only the first Helprin novel that I have read, but it won’t be my last. This imagined memoir covers huge territory in terms of time and place and does so with great gusto. His characters are detailed and quirky although all the women are unbelievably beautiful. But then don’t we think anyone we fall in love with is beautiful. This novel covers murder, robbery, a meeting with a pope, being a flying ace during WWII, investment bankers, life in small towns and big cities, life both rich and poor, travels in Europe and South America. In short, this book roams everywhere the protagonist has been during his life and it covers it in great detail. There is so much detail that the author must have done a lot of research to pull it off. And then there is the coffee - the protagonist hates coffee to an unbelievable degree that it sometimes gets him in trouble. And you will be reading along, having forgotten the coffee thing for quite a few pages when there it is again. It pops up for a sentence, a paragraph or several, and sometimes for whole pages. The coffee parts sometimes made me laugh out loud and I can’t wait to enjoy my coffee fanatic friend POV on this book (he roasts his own beans, but doesn’t drink tons of the stuff). At time I was put off by all the details (as with the robbery) but oh the words, the delightful turns of phrase. This man knows how to write and seemingly does so effortlessly. For that alone I will read more of his books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robert Smith

    I am still processing this first read-through. I have initial thoughts. I am curious of aspects regarding Holden Caulfield, to wit, the solipsistic nature of the entire work and its character study. I note some were put off by the extreme aspects of the character, but the clear absurdity of certain aspects of this protagonist; let's call him Baby Supine, I think could be intentional rhetoric. Lastly, any thoughts on the sentence "[T]his is not a country for old men," and its potential impact on I am still processing this first read-through. I have initial thoughts. I am curious of aspects regarding Holden Caulfield, to wit, the solipsistic nature of the entire work and its character study. I note some were put off by the extreme aspects of the character, but the clear absurdity of certain aspects of this protagonist; let's call him Baby Supine, I think could be intentional rhetoric. Lastly, any thoughts on the sentence "[T]his is not a country for old men," and its potential impact on McCarthy? This text was published in 1995 and "No Country..." was published in 2005. In Lit, there are no accidents... or at least, usually...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    "Memoirs" is not for everyone: the quirky, obsessive, murderous protagonist exists within a narrative that is absurd, disjointed, hilarious, and horrifying. We are thrown into the reminiscences of an old man living out his last days in Brazil: a former fighter pilot, investment banker, thief, and murderer whose bizarre behaviour and thinking makes us question his sanity...until the author brings us full-circle to the stunning revelation of the motivation which gives the man's life meaning and pu "Memoirs" is not for everyone: the quirky, obsessive, murderous protagonist exists within a narrative that is absurd, disjointed, hilarious, and horrifying. We are thrown into the reminiscences of an old man living out his last days in Brazil: a former fighter pilot, investment banker, thief, and murderer whose bizarre behaviour and thinking makes us question his sanity...until the author brings us full-circle to the stunning revelation of the motivation which gives the man's life meaning and purpose. Helprin's writing is rich, complex and thought-provoking, and must be savoured over time. Brilliant.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Henreckson

    Oddly enough, I think this was one of the better cohesive stories I've read in a helprin novel. As I think about it, I do lament that while Helprin is so brilliant at getting to the core of essential humanity and what drives us and captures us and moves us — while he can capture a man's humanity and his individuality simultaneously and beautifully — he has an issue with seeing women less as part of humanity and as individuals and more as constrained to that category, of mysterious "woman." Hmm. M Oddly enough, I think this was one of the better cohesive stories I've read in a helprin novel. As I think about it, I do lament that while Helprin is so brilliant at getting to the core of essential humanity and what drives us and captures us and moves us — while he can capture a man's humanity and his individuality simultaneously and beautifully — he has an issue with seeing women less as part of humanity and as individuals and more as constrained to that category, of mysterious "woman." Hmm. Maybe I should write a paper about it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    William Dolinsky

    I read this book about 30 years ago, and it may be time to revisit it. The writing is flawless, and the story is amazing. I normally prefer linear storytelling, but I enjoyed the narrator jumping forward and backward through time. It is not until you get to the end of the book that you learn of the event, which happened when the narrator was a boy, the colored his entire life. One of my favorite novels!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sherri Shaw

    Gorgeously written. It was a bit tough to get into with transitions between time periods, and I almost abandoned it. But I'd read Mark Helprin before and decided to see it through. I am so glad I stuck with it. The hallmark of a good book is when the reader finishes the book and mourns as if losing a good friend; this is how I felt when I turned the final page of Memoir from Antproof Case. I loved the writing and the story, and I was really sad to reach the end of the book. Gorgeously written. It was a bit tough to get into with transitions between time periods, and I almost abandoned it. But I'd read Mark Helprin before and decided to see it through. I am so glad I stuck with it. The hallmark of a good book is when the reader finishes the book and mourns as if losing a good friend; this is how I felt when I turned the final page of Memoir from Antproof Case. I loved the writing and the story, and I was really sad to reach the end of the book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rick Killian

    A beautifully written, wild tale of love, life, and getting even with scoundrels—told by a lovable scoundrel himself. Outlasting at times, tender at others, and clever throughout. Flashes of brilliance strung together like Christmas lights. Though not a page-turner in the traditional sense, a book to be savored. Best read on a Greek isle I think, over a series of drawn-out afternoons that never seem to end. I certainly enjoyed it. A truly chaotic tale of what a life could be, minus the coffee.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel E Deter

    Catchy title. Not so catchy story Big fan of Helprin. If you're looking for extensive beautifully written passages on philosophy of life. This is your book. For me the story bounced all over time and places. Long before the end I was eager to resolve the thin story threads. Will not be recommending it to friends. As I have eagerly done for his other novels, particularly v "Paris in the Present Tense" Catchy title. Not so catchy story Big fan of Helprin. If you're looking for extensive beautifully written passages on philosophy of life. This is your book. For me the story bounced all over time and places. Long before the end I was eager to resolve the thin story threads. Will not be recommending it to friends. As I have eagerly done for his other novels, particularly v "Paris in the Present Tense"

  30. 5 out of 5

    James O'Malley

    My favorite writer and best book Around my seventh reading and I always discover beautiful vivid turns of a phrase . I will not attempt to give a summary just suffice to say you will be transported . And I still haven't drank coffee. Mark if somehow you come across this O was the person with whom we exchanged postcards me Coffee one you Rome Tiber River area Still have it in original first edition hardcover My favorite writer and best book Around my seventh reading and I always discover beautiful vivid turns of a phrase . I will not attempt to give a summary just suffice to say you will be transported . And I still haven't drank coffee. Mark if somehow you come across this O was the person with whom we exchanged postcards me Coffee one you Rome Tiber River area Still have it in original first edition hardcover

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