From faculty lounges to garrets to the watering holes of writers across the nation, the unsettling news spread that the script for Bob Dole's best speech ever, his not-a-dry-eye, "White House or home" abdication address, was the work of a Wall Street Journal columnist listed as Mark Helprin. Come again? The Helprin known by starving artists and threadbare assistant professors of English is, after all, an aesthete hatched at the New Yorker and renowned as the writer of eloquent, rarefied novels. And as a tormentor of reporters, who in his early years invented an ever changing, operatic past in which to...

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