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Ellis Island and Other Stories [Paperback]

Mark Helprin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 31 1991
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award and nominee for both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Book Award, these ten stories and the celebrated title novella are “beyond compare . . . [Helprin’s] imagination should be protected by some intellectual equivalent of the National Park Service” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

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"It's genius. . . . Ellis Island ascends to the peak of literary achievement." - The Boston Globe

"Such an ambitious reach is almost unheard of in our short fiction." - The New York Times Book Review

"Constant brilliance . . . Rarely less than breathtaking . . . every single story sings with purity, vibrates with light."- The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

MARK HELPRIN is the acclaimed author of Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, The Pacific, Ellis Island, Memoir from Antproof Case, and numerous other works. His novels are read around the world, translated into over twenty languages.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Beautiful Stories Sept. 19 2000
By A Customer
My first encounter with Mark Helprin was his long novel, Winter's Tale. I thought it was perfect: glorious and mysterious, realistic and magical, funny and fantastic and wondrous and sad. It was almost too much of a good thing; sort of like chocolate decadence topped with mocha ice-cream and drenched in hot fudge sauce.
The stories in Ellis Island and Other Stories offer the same enticing overdose of goodness but in smaller doses. Lest you be thrown off by the cover or the title, these stories are definitely not history or even historical fiction. They are not exclusively about immigrants, Europe or the War, although threads of these subjects do run through them.
The title story, Ellis Island is the longest and the last. It is about the Ellis Island and immigration, of course, but it is also fantastic fantasy complete with a wonderful machine that melts the snow from the streets supported only by its own jets of fire, the Saromsker Rabbi and his glorious sermon on bees, the lovely Hava, and Elise, whose hair is nothing less than a pillar of fire. Of the eleven stories, Ellis Island comes closest to Winter's Tale in its spirit of fantasy, although A Vermont Winter best describes the perfection of a deep Northeastern snow. As in Winter's Tale, in Ellis Island, Helprin is not averse to destroying beautiful things for the sake of a larger good, even if the logic of his narrative does not demand that he do so. But that, you see, is Helprin; for him death is just another part of art.
All of these stories are brilliant and all of them are beautiful.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Good Jumping-Off Point June 10 2000
I have to preface my comments by stating that though I was dissappointed with this collection, I remain an ardent fan of Mark Helperin. A Soldier of the Great War is one of the most finely-realized novels of the past twenty years. It's in many ways unfare to compare a writer's masterpiece with a collection of short-stories written 25 years earlier. But simply as someone making recommendations to other readers, I would suggest starting with a writer's magnum opus and working one's way back from there. I'd recommend reading The Brother's Karamazov before suggesting Poor Folk, for instance, or Anna Karenina before the Kreutzer Sonata.
What Ellis Island represents is a writer still in the process of finding his footing. We see in many of these stories the genesis of what will become the themes and motifs that will preoccupy the mature artist. The characters are consumed by romanticism and wanderlust, even the Vermont cranes who occupy a central position in the collection. The writing is lyrical and quite often moving. At times, however,it comes across as too consciously poetic, the metaphors forced. While Helperin strives for Joycean epiphanies, his endings too often come off as carelessly constructed fade-outs. This is particularly true of "The Schreuderspitze" and "Martin Bayer." I agree, however, with the reader who singled out "A Vermont Tale" for praise. It stands out in this volume as a forerunner for the type of controlled symbolism Helperin will later perfect. It really is, to use a hackneyed term, a "haunting" tale.
The title-piece of this collection, "Ellis Island," was the source of my biggest let-down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Prelude to Great Works May 8 2001
I am not a regular reader of short stories. In general, I do not like them. Still, as a Mark Helprin fan, this is one of his few works that I had not read. I pressed on ... when I concluded the final story, Ellis Island, I felt completely satisfied with the journey. If you've never read Helprin, I believe "Ellis Island" and "A Vermont Tale" are most representative of his longer works. Each story will tempt you to read his novels, all of which are poetic magic. As I read through these stories, I saw glimpses of each subsequent novel, particularly my favorite, "A Winter's Tale." If you've read Helprin before, you owe yourself the time to read this collection. If you are new to Helprin, this work will encourage you to read more.
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I read this beautiful short story collection after just finishing all of Helprin's lengthy novels. I was surprised that a writer who produced such brilliant long works of fiction (A Winter's Tale and Soldier of the Great War) could write just as well in a short story format. These stories are incredible. The one about the loons in Vermont is one of the most devastatingly haunting stories I have ever read. The opening story is one of my favorites as well. After finishing all of Helprin's works, I'm convinced that he's one of those rare writers that inspires you to want to walk around in his mind for a day to see how he pens such memorable works.
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