[cue: windy sounds]
The dim days of earth's sabbath are before you.
[cue: record scratch]
Did I ever tell you that my New York apartment is called "The Winter Palace?" No? Did I not do that because it reveals how violently dork-faced I am, that I actually love AllThingsRussian so profoundly that I have named my apartment after the winter residence of the Tsars of Russia? Well! (I say to all you cooler-than-though scoffers) Well! At least I am consistent. At least I faked left and swung left.
Anyway, here in The Winter Palace I don't rely on the calendar or the weather to let me know that winter is here (also, here in New York, that would be particularly ineffective as it was 60 degrees last week...) My winter traditionally kicks off with:
- A viewing of Bill Murray in Scrooged. (Because this is the one time of year when Bill Murray and I spend time together with a movie that is not What About Bob?)
- Setting up my sweet little lopsided Christmas tree as well as a portable menorah given to me from a big black bag by an enthusiastic Orthodox Jew in the middle of Leicester Square 5 years ago.
- An attempt or two at making the best of watching winter sports on television (because sometimes you have been taken hostage and/or are tied to a pole and forced to watch curling).
- A Google Image search for "Peppermint Schnapps Office Drunk-Fest." (Because there may not be snow on the ground, but there is always time for a pointless Google search featuring the non-word "fest"...)
- Preparing the sofa: for me to be curled up before it all winter long beneath a snuggle-y duvet, curled around a book.
: : :::snow::: : :]
It is winter.
You will be cold.
You will, at times, be housebound.
You will sip delicious hot beverages.
You will endure terrible winter sporting events on television (if you are dating anyone from Minnesota...)
You will warm your apartment with the oven in desperation (because central heating is sooo un-New York).
You will catch The Latest Animal Cold/Flu and give it to your friends.
But you will have books.
And a good book on a winter's day will make your heart warm, your imagination alive, and your afternoons better than enduring the Nordic Combined when you are watching winter sports (only because your cable has inevitably gone out...)
Here are some winter reading suggestions, for the only season that begins with "WIN."
|original cover. nice.|
I won't bother to go on and on (and on) about The Narnian Order Debate again.
...But I will passive-aggressively say that this FIRST novel in The Chronicles of Narnia is winter reading perfection: a snow-laden magical land discovered in the back of a wardrobe that leads to the adventure of a lifetime for four young children in war-torn England. There are talking animals, an evil Snow Queen with both a carriage and a bone to pick with Goodness (not to mention an endless supply of poison brain-washing candy), a war against Evil and a journey back home to England.
If you have only seen any of the lovely film adaptations, you are missing out. Go get it right now (and make certain you love the cover because there are many to choose from, some far better than others, and honestly? it matters...)
I also want to say this for good measure: I am not a religious person, but I am a person of great individual (though unspecified) faith, and despite the ownership the religious community finds in these stories (which I do not, and I encourage all of you to not begrudge, for they were written by a beautiful man of great faith), I admit that I never connected to them on that level.
As a little girl and as an adult I relate to Narnia on the level of an inquisitive child whose life was happy, but not without a constant, low sonorous note of tumult represented by my father's illness. This allowed me to identify greatly with the Penvesies-- who were happy children surrounded by great unrest in their country and their world.
Full of hope, I was always ready for a fairy tale that fostered a faith in myself more profoundly than in any particular Deity, and encourage anyone else to mine the books for more than what is "on the label."
My point for religious and secular readers alike is this: just as traveling to Rome, to Italy, to Europe itself, is not merely about a trip to the Vatican, a trip to Narnia is as fulfilling and rich as we have the vision and openness for it it to be.
Narnia is for us all.
"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation."
2. Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
Ah! One of my favorite Christmases in literary history begins on page one: sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March are discussing what they might buy themselves for Christmas if they only had the means (as the March family did in the days before their father went into the Civil War), only to remember all the things they could give to their selfless mother, Marmy.
But of course, Little Women is one of the most beloved books of all time, chronicling the four inextinguishable March sisters as they struggle through poverty, miss their soldiering father, and cope with the harsh realities of life as they grow up in an often frigid New England (in both literal and social climate). Louisa May Alcott based much of this story on events and people in her own life and the prose, dialogue and swollen feeling that drapes each character she describes (and clearly loves) is as endearing and readable as it is passionate.
by Daphne DuMarier
Rebecca is a novel by Daphne du Maurier. When Rebecca was published in 1938, du Maurier became – to her great surprise – one of the most popular authors of the day. Rebecca is considered to be one of her best works.
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the book's famous opening line, and from here its unnamed narrator reminisces about her past. It is evident at the beginning of the novel that Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter now live in some foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a flashback of the narrator's life at Manderley.
Its heroine, symbolically nameless, comes to Manderley and finds herself competing with the ghost of her husband's dead wife. The heroine has recently become "Mrs. de Winter," but Rebecca was "Mrs. de Winter" first, and the novel shows us the heroine's attempts to escape the dead wife's shadow, even as the sinister servant Mrs. Danvers dresses her in Rebecca's clothes and urges her to kill herself and leave the house to the ghost.
Rebecca is a classic of modern gothic and psychological, and suspense literature. Gothic fiction is characterized by picturesque settings, an atmosphere of mystery and terror, and a hint of violence and the supernatural; Rebecca exemplifies the genre. The action takes place in the hallowed mansion of Manderley; the book encompasses a murder, a terrible fire, and features a sinister servant; finally, the entire story is pervaded by the unquiet ghost of Rebecca herself.
Plus, in typically gothic fashion, the weather mirrors the characters' moods (which is why it makes the Winter list!): a fog descends when the heroine is confused and depressed; Maxim kills Rebecca on the night of a terrible storm. A mansion consumed by fire? The (Freudian field-day) romance between an older man and a younger woman? The lurking, secret-enshrouded presence of a first wife? 19th Century fiction heaven! This story comes full circle, bringing us back to the present where we began, having been led us on a gothic adventure of psychological and supernatural intrigue. Read it.
4. If on a winter's night a traveler