Passing the Baby Around

Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale was voted the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years by readers of the NY Times Book Review. He sat down with Doublethink’s Kelly Jane Torrance, here is an excerpt about why he doesn’t like parties. At all.

“What I don’t like is the social stuff. And that’s my problem. And I know it—I know exactly why. It’s simple. I’ve known this for a long time. When I was less than two, my parents had an apartment. We lived on Central Park West. Way high up, beautiful, view of the park. And my father was in the film business, my mother was an actress. Their friends were actors, film people, bohemians, and those people really know how to party. They’d drink and they’d gamble and they’d have affairs. That’s what their life was like.

And one night, I was awakened by a noise. There were maybe, in a room about the half the size of this one—you see that column there, go across, maybe one and a half times as big as that—there must have been seventy or eighty people. And they’d all been drinking. And you know what happens in a restaurant, people yell, because they have to, to be heard, and then the volume goes up, so everyone yells and it gets louder and louder until people are sitting there screaming at one another. That’s what happens in many restaurants, and it’s kind of good because it’s very easy, they’re all lubricated with alcohol. A tremendous amount of alcohol.

And I wandered in, it must have been 1949, and someone said, “Look at him!” You know, it’s a cute baby. And they picked me up and they passed me from person to person. And everyone wanted to hold the baby. It terrified me so much that I have never gotten over it. Never. Not ever. So, except for work, when it’s required, I have never been to a party. Never in my life.