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When Novelists Attack

I really like Winter’s Tale. But it’s hard to take Mark Helprin seriously--as a thinker, at least--when in late 2008 he still writes things like this, in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Today's progressives apologize to the world for America's treatment of terrorists (not a single one of whom has been executed). Franklin Roosevelt, when faced with German saboteurs (who had caused not a single casualty), had them electrocuted and buried in numbered graves next to a sewage plant.

One would hope that someone as brilliant as Helprin had moved beyond the tired, simplistic tropes of the 2004 election. Oh well.

What’s the difference between Helprin and, say, Philip Roth, who’s also been known to dabble in political debates? Roth never pretends to be anything other than a novelist. But Helprin, as a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, wants to be both a novelist and a serious, strategic thinker. But cheap, anachronistic shots like this just make him appear tired and inattentive to the, oh, last four years of American politics. Since this isn’t too far from fiction anyway, maybe he should just stick with his day job.

--Clay Risen