Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 3, chapter 4 – “…and The Ghost”)

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 3, chapter 4 – “…and The Ghost”)

Onwards, with one more chapter of background, backstory and explanation.  This one is a lot of fun – a dive deep into the mind of Craig Binky, editor and publisher of the New York Ghost.  You know what you’re in for when the first sentence of the chapter reads:

Look, there is no sane, organized way to describe The Ghost, and no place to start.

Helprin begins with an account of a civil war within the ranks of The Ghost, over the topic of white wine.  Specifically:

those who said that white wine came from fish, and those who maintained that it didn’t, although they either would not or could not say where it did come from.

Things only get weirder from there; it’s very entertaining reading, and I’m sure all of us have worked with or for someone who is Binkian, Binkyesque or even Binkotic – I certainly see shades of an old boss or two in the description of Binky’s dealings with his staff, and his baffling office policies.

We also get a glimpse of The Ghost’s one true area of excellence: headline writing.  These headlines are at most vaguely related to the actual stories in the paper; more often they’re entirely unconnected – but they are eye-catching all the same. The ultimate example Helprin gives us is this beauty:

“Dead Model Sues Race Horse”

As noted earlier, The Ghost is very clearly modeled on the New York Post, and the Post’s headline writers are nearly as gifted as Helprin’s fictional Ghost-writers; I imagine the author had a good laugh at the most famous ever Post headline, written not that long after this book was published: “Headless Body in Topless Bar”.

At the end of the chapter, we dip back into the actual narrative – a helicopter lands on the roof of the Ghost’s headquarters (right across Printing House Square from the headquarters of The Sun, naturally), a messenger emerges and races through the building to Craig Binky’s office.  Moments later, Binky orders every plane in the Ghost’s fleet of corporate planes to be ready for takeoff.  With their leader in the flagship – looking out at his own personal air force from a giant plastic bubble atop the fuselage of his plane – the Ghost planes take off and head to the east, out over the Atlantic Ocean (despite filing a flight plan for Brownsville, Texas).  Where were they going?

No one knew, except Craig Binky.  And Craig Binky wasn’t telling.

Helprin doesn’t tell us, either – we’ll have to wait until the next chapter to find out.

Not as much to analyze in this chapter; it’s probably the least “necessary” chapter in the entire book – but don’t skip over it!  Helprin’s prose is wonderful, as always.  His descriptions of Craig Binky’s style of office communication alone are worth the time to read this short chapter.

Next up – the plot begins moving in earnest…



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