I was reading some of these online today. For Strange Little Girls, he wrote a very, very short story for each of the twelve songs. The songs are all covers, quite lovely, of songs sung by men; without changing the words, she seems to be singing about the women. Here's the story (and picture, of Tori of course) for "Raining Blood":
Here: an exercise in choice. Your choice. One of these tales is true.Or for "Strange Little Girl":
She lived through the war. In 1959 she came to America. She now lives in a condo in Miami, a tiny French woman with white hair, with a daughter and a grand-daughter. She keeps herself to herself and smiles rarely, as if the weight of memory keeps her from finding joy.
Or that's a lie. Actually the Gestapo picked her up during a border crossing in 1943, and they left her in a meadow. First she dug her own grave, then a single bullet to the back of the skull.
Her last thought, before that bullet, was that she was four months' pregnant, and that if we do not fight to create a future there will be no future for any of us.
There is an old woman in Miami who wakes, confused, from a dream of the wind blowing the wildflowers in a meadow.
There are bones untouched beneath the warm French earth which dream of a daughter's wedding. Good wine is drunk. The only tears shed are happy ones.
There are a hundred things she has tried to chase away the things she won't remember and that she can't even let herself think about because that's when the birds scream and the worms crawl and somewhere in her mind it's always raining a slow and endless drizzle.(You can read the rest of them here, as well as see Tori dressed up like the different strange little girls...) And here is the Memento-esque "Pages from a Journal found in a shoebox left in a Grayhound Bus somewhere between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Louisville, Kentucky" he wrote for Scarlet's Walk.
You will hear that she has left the country, that there was a gift she wanted you to have, but it is lost before it reaches you. Late one night the telephone will sing, and a voice that might be hers will say something that you cannot interpret before the connection crackles and is broken.
Several years later, from a taxi, you will see someone in a doorway who looks like her, but she will be gone by the time you persuade the driver to stop. You will never see her again.
Whenever it rains you think of her.
There's something about that really strong mutual friendship between two so talented...like the way Picasso and Matisse were friends, or Byron and Shelley, or Camus and Sartre, or Ginsberg and Kerouac. Inspiring and understanding each other.
"For what can be imagined more beautiful than the sight of a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone."But anyway, I digress. Helprin talked for a couple hours, and I liked it when he was talking about romanticism and books and deer but not when he talked about politics and the avian flu. (Of course, his books have famously been skewered by the ever-liberal literary critics because they resent his vocal support of conservative politics--but that doesn't bother me, he's still a brilliant story-teller.) Strangely, Helprin didn't read from his new book, but I did get him to sign my much-thumbed, very battered copy of A Winter's Tale and it was funny, very Brookline, to see a pierced, tattooed skater-type waiting in line to have Helprin sign his copies of A Soldier of the Great War and The Pacific.
I didn't buy Freddy and Fredericka but I did buy The Facts of Winter, by Paul Poissel. More on that later.