By Mark Helprin. This book was recommended to me by my friend Amrys, and for that I thank her. While I am not yet convinced that Helprin is God’s gift to writing, he does spin a damn engrossing tale. The chapters of this Memoir tell the unbelievable story of an extraordinary man who has been a lover, a thief, an investment banker, a gold-stacker, a WWII pilot, and and English teacher. It is not told chronologically. Rather, he picks up on themes of his life and follows them with his memories, coming across another thread and following that in the next chapter, and so on.
One constant thing however, is his hatred of coffee. So it was with much guilt that I sat down to read the book in a cafe in Berkeley with my double espresso. Since reading it I haven’t had a single cup, although I’m sure that will change eventually. I did have tea, after all. But the passion of his fight against the bean which he claims has “enslaved the world” is both humerous in its extremes and also reminded me that there are principles worth fighting for that seem absurd, but they help to define who you are. Sticking by your beliefs is important, and ther world would not be the same without iconoclasts.