Ever since I picked up a paperback version of Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale” while spending my summer vacation on a lake in New Hampshire, I’ve always had a hard time articulating why I liked it so much.  I never particularly cared for any of the characters, and I can’t really say that I found the story itself particularly compelling.  My best guess is that I appreciated the degree to which Helprin let his imagination soar, weaving fantastical elements over a framework of recognizable reality.  I’ve always held a cynical disdain for the city of New York and its inhabitants constant refrain of its superiority, but to me Winter’s Tale was a wonderfully crafted love song to the city that made me question whether there must be something I had missed.

Popdose Conceptual Theater – Winter’s Tale


“Fire” – Noah Gundersen

This song is an ideal overture for this story because it contains some nice allusions to the early story of Peter Lake’s life.  A boy born to a doomed mother…raised by the water…setting off…followed by the ice and frost…his time with Anarindas…dancing girls…searching for freedom in the open arms of America…

“Arms of a Thief” – Iron & Wine

I try not to rely so literally on song titles, but falling into the arms of a thief is a nice way to summarize Peter’s attempted burglary of the Penn residence and his seduction of/by Beverly Penn.

“Casimir Pulaski Day” – Sufjan Stevens

While Peter and Beverly’s courtship wasn’t quite as innocent as the tale told in this song, it has the same end: the love of his life dead of a wasting disease and a heartbroken protagonist.

“Three White Horses” – Andrew Bird

The relationship between Peter Lake and Anthasor is never explained to my satisfaction, but while they remain on earth, they are bound together.

“Into the Fog” – Jens Carelius

The cloud wall is one of the fantastical elements of Winter’s Tale – a portal through time – that is accepted as a matter of course to its characters.

“The Wild Hunt” – The Tallest Man on Earth

Hardesty Marratta begins his journey in search of “a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone.”

“Flathead Lake” – Future Historians

The Lake of the Coheeries exists as both a real, tangible place (albeit hard to find) and a potential afterlife.

“The Only Living Boy in New York” – Simon & Garfunkel

Hardesty Marratta’s arrival in New York, and the incredible loneliness of being among millions of people without knowing any of them.

“Bridge to Nowhere” – Amoeba Crunch

The mysterious architect of spectacular bridges – Jackson Mead – arrives in New York and initiates his latest project.

“The Whole of the Moon (cover)” – Peter Mulvey

This song was originally written and performed by The Waterboys.  The songwriter Mike Scott was quoted as saying that he “couldn’t have written” the song without having read Mark Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale.  I did not know of this connection before I selected this song to be part of the mixtape – I simply thought it captured Beverly Penn’s singular vision of the cosmos and her ability to hear its “shouts and growls.”

“Newspaper” – Scheidenbach

“The Reinvention of the Printing Press” – Mischief Brew

The rivalry between the Penn publications “The Sun” and “The Whale” and Craig Binky’s “Ghost” provide an important glimpse into the ceaseless battle between challenging the public with high-minded discourse versus appealing to the lowest common denominator.

“Run from the Gun” – Dead Confederate

Unfortunately, Pearly Soames never forgot about Peter Lake.

“Sylvia” – The Antlers

There’s nothing within his earthly powers as a father that Hardesty Marratta can do to save the life of his daughter.

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Bob Dylan

The society of New York City fragments and explodes.

“Many Rivers to Cross (cover)” – Widespread Panic

Jackson Mead’s bridge of light has failed to take hold, the city begins rebuilding, and the cycle continues.