My family lives in southern California. But not the beachy, warm-year-round part. We live in the mountains just north of Beach Boy fantasy land. For the past month we’ve routinely gotten freezing temperatures, and just this past week had several days of snow. It’s definitely the time of year in which we warm hot chocolate, break out the cozy blankets, and read a good book in front of a blazing fire. And yes, I’ve already burned holes in multiple items as I bask in the cozy but deadly glow of that bright, tantalizing gift from the Gods, which both warms toes and burns things alive.
It’s like a microcosm of all things that matter, eh? If you care about them, if they warm you inside, they also have the power to char the flesh right off of your soul. Same as a good book. For me, at least, it’s during the winter, during the cold months of increased darkness where we huddle near heat sources, that I take some risks and try out bigger, more difficult, and potentially more rewarding books. It was during the winter that I first read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Samuel Beckett’s End Game. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
Do your reading habits change as the trees lose their leaves and collect frosty white stuff on their skeletal limbs? When the earth tilts away from that flaming orb in the sky, when the heat that sustains all life on earth diminishes *just* enough to make you desperately seek other, artificial suns for supplemental warmth and light, does it alter the way literature affects you (and does it inspire you to write florid prose about the changing of seasons and the meaning of life? Maybe that’s just me.)?
Winter is coming. Luckily, though it’s getting cold, and the daylight shorter, the sun never quite turns its back on us (to any folks who live above the 23rd parallel, I’m sorry). Here’s my daughter reading recently in a cozy patch on the carpet, gently warmed by a ray of sunlight that traveled through a hundred million miles of impossibly cold, dark, and empty space to give her just the right illumination to read a book: