Last winter I read a wildly comic, touching and savage novel by Mark Helprin - Freddy and Fredericka. This novel takes a Royal Couple, imagine if Prince Charles loved Lady Di, and parachutes them into the United States without passport, cash or a heads up to the American government on a mission to re-capture the Colonies for the Crown.
The novel reminded me of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman . Sterne was an early 18th Century Church of Ireland parson from Clonmel, County Tipperary. As with any man of talent, Sterne was removed from Ireland and established in a vicarage in Yorkshire and later moved among the great and politically important people during late reign of Queen Anne and the ascendancy of the German family that now occupies the throne of England.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman pretends to be a memoir. This memoir is a howl. Tristram can never get to the point of anything, without narrative 'roads less taken.' His story meanders, winds, hops fences, swims and dances around every topic, in fact the details of his birth do not take place until the Third Book. That in itself is a wet-your-Haines and Dockers Moment. At the instance of shall we say 'conception' - that magic moment as it were, Mrs. Shandy asks her lover "Did you remember to wind the clock?" And President Obama calls Weiner a distraction.
Shandy life begins and continues as a series of delicious interruptions. Tristram is so named by Old Dad because of 'interruption' at conception caused a displacement of humours. The little human, or as Sterne calls his character Tristram from the Latin Tristis meaning sorrowful, continued with a parade of physical and psychological mishaps: His long and manly nose is mashed by the Doctor's forceps, later Tristram is inadvertently 'circumcised' while urinating out a window that is closed with great force.
Great force, wanted or unexpected, is what gives us "homunculi," or literally 'little Homos' the push and pull of living. That is why Mark Helprin's great novel Freddy and Fredericka so reminds me of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.
I gave my copy of Marl Helprin's Freddy and Fredericka to my neighbor Molly some weeks ago. I therefore must turn to others for help in presenting some synopsis and of course my favorite passage: This first os from Mr. Mark Flanagan:
Freddy and Fredericka is just such a book. It is a modern day tale of the Prince of Wales and his princess, a royal couple known for their generosity with the media, each in their own manner. Prince Freddy, though he resembles no one so much as Alfred E. Newman, is nobody's fool. He is an erudite and honorable prince devoted unswervingly to the kingly ideal. Unfortunately, he often finds himself bumbling squarely into the embarrassing end of a misunderstanding, and the media is never far off when this happens.
In a particularly scandalous incident, Freddy is sent off in the night by his wife to chase down her dog, a pit bull with the unfortunate name of Pha-Kew (The dog was named after his former master, Fredericka's deceased Chinese nutritionist, who died of malnutrition). As usual, it is precisely when Freddy is chasing the dog through the British countryside yelling "Pha-Kew! Pha-Kew!" that he happens upon a wedding party and their concurrent video cameras.
Fredericka's contributions to the media are of a more appealing sort. It is with her golden tresses, sapphire-blue eyes, and unparalleled beauty, that Fredericka captures the nation, indeed the world. And perhaps England's Queen, Freddy's mother, wouldn't find this so disagreeable, if she didn't then hold the world rapt with her amply displayed cleavage. ( here follows the passage taken from At a Hen's Pace Blog spot)
“Yes, a bosom.”
“But Freddy, why do you say that? You know I’ve got two.”
This shut Freddy up like a stun grenade. “Two what?” he finally said.
“No, you don’t. You’ve got one bosom. One, only one.”
“No, I don’t. I’ve got two,” she said proudly…”One here, and one here.”
…”Sorry, Fredericka, but the fact is, and I know it for sure, and would stake my life on it, that you have only one.”
“The h*ll I do!”
“Yes, you’ve got one bosom, two teats (spelled t-e-a-t-s and pronounced tits), and two breasts. And that’s a fact.”
“Oh! So now I’ve got five!”
“No, you’ve got only one.” Freddy and Fredricka
The novel, like Sterne's Tristram Shandy is one wild ride that includes Republican Candidates, Bikers, Mobbed up Burglars, Medieval Times Ne'er-Do-Wells, Forest Firefighters, and a nasty little prick of a Scottish kid who becomes a member of the House of Lords.
Any novel that is willing to descant upon the nature and nomenclature of a Babe's Knockers is aces with me.