Norfolk, Virginia 2015
Dear Mr. Helprin,
A little over thirty years ago, I sat in a high school English class as my crazy, but lovable, teacher passed out the latest edition of Literary Cavalcade. That night, probably after long hours of homework, ballet lessons, and chores, I sat up late and read your story.
Its name? “Katrina, Katrin'”
I forgot the name of the author, but I never forgot that tale. The final words, a quote from The Song of Songs, lingered in my memory.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.
Some, but not many, years later, a used copy of Winter’s Tale found its way to my mailbox. Tucked inside the front flap was a short note from a friend: “Read this.”
I did. I liked it. I looked you up.
And I discovered, or remembered, who had penned those words that touched the heart of a fifteen-year-old girl.
I bought A Dove of the East and swallowed it whole. I bought a copy for the friend who urged me to read Winter’s Tale. I probably bought a copy for everyone I knew. It was that good. And it included “Katrina, Katrin'”.
When someone makes magic, you want to share that magic with the world. I did that. My husband now owns a first edition of A Dove of the East. Neighbours borrow my Helprin collection and we talk about your literary gifts. I go back time and again to the stories you wrote when I was barely old enough to read.
In my eagerness to share you, I assigned “Katrina, Katrin'” to my freshman writing class. I knew they would be as enchanted as I had been.
I was wrong.
You see, that freshman writing class happened to be in a place called the United Arab Emirates, and I, in my blind enthusiasm, never played out the inevitable uproar that your story would incite. Naïveté on my part, eh?
Parents called the university. The Dean called me. The Provost didn’t bother calling anyone.
In the coming days, student after student withdrew from my course. Within a week, the short letter informing me that my contract would not be renewed was waiting on my office floor.
Not everyone, it seems, is ready for the sort of magic you make, Mr. Helprin.
But I love it.
If you’re interested in the sort of magic Mark Helprin has made, I encourage you to check out his collection of short stories entitled A Dove of the East and his novel A Soldier of the Great War. Both are long-time favourites of mine.