Thursday, October 21, 2010

How about this weather?

"There are seven or eight categories of phenomena in the world worth talking about, and one of them is the weather. "
-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Luckily for me, being in any sort of position of customer service involves talking about the weather a lot.

This is especially true, it seems, in San Francisco, where the very fact that there's so little dramatic variation in the weather seems to mean that people are that much more astounded and indignant about it on any given day ("This fog, huh? I mean, I've lived here for 27 years, and it's always foggy, but today, THIS fog..."). Don't get me wrong, I like this about San Francisco, because (like Annie Dillard) the weather is one of my favorite topics, mostly as an effort to reconcile the rather unreasonable extent to which the weather profoundly affects me, not the least of such effects being how and what I read.

Lately, for example, I've been reading more than my usual share of essays, short stories, and poetry: bits-n-pieces that are easily picked up and put down-- I wonder if my tendency towards this mirrors the fact that the weather in the Bay has been so sporadically sweltering and then fall-like, to the point that it influences my ability to commit to a novel that attempts to sustain a time and place. One novel that's worked for this reading mood is The Facts of Winter by Paul La Farge (translating the fictional Paul Poissel). The bulk of the novel is made up of a series of dreams dreamt by residents of Paris in the winter of 1881. Each dream is recounted in just 500 words or so, each one, even (especially) the sad or terrifying ones are perfect and lovely. I recommend it if, like me, you need to read brief, kind things in this uncertain climate.

Of course, I've already started looking ahead to winter reading. There seems to be a generally agreed-upon preference for long books in winter, books you can really hibernate in for a while, large and heavy, like caves. The season's new releases reflect this, with bulky, "cozy up by the fireplace and wish that it actually worked because you live in San Francisco and it almost certainly doesn't" reads like the Autobiography of Mark Twain, the Instructions*, and classics like a new translation of Madame Bovary rolling in.

Today it is rainy. What are you reading? Why are you reading it?**

* I read the galley of this one in July, which is basically winter.

** I recently joked with a coworker about how the easiest way to wrap up a blog post when you're on the run is to turn your too-big-for-a-blog-post topic on your readers, and end with a question. This is not one of those questions. See the Dillard quote above. I just wanna talk about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Engineer of Human Souls by Josef Skvorecky