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Monday, January 09, 2006


Perhaps at the same time you were getting annoyed with Snow, Ben, I was racing through Peter Hoeg's fantastic Smilla's Sense of Snow on the plane ride back to Manhattan. I don't know why I hadn't read it before. I'm also interested to see the movie, in which Juliette Binoche is supposed to be half-Greenlandic, half-Danish and Robert Loggia and Gabriel Byrne are Danish.

I'm a sucker for weather phenomena, so I loved the sections about the different Greenlandic classifications of snow and ice:

qanik: big, wet snowflakes that fall in clumps
agiuppiniq: snowdrifts
apuhiniq: frozen snowdrifts
maniilaq: ice knolls
ivuniq: small ice floes
sikussaq: black ice in frozen in fjords

Since I'm unlikely to see much snow beyond the dirty kind this winter, I try to keep myself warm on my walks home by guessing which bitter winds are blowing along Riverside Drive. Scott Huler's book about the Beaufort Scale, Defining the Wind, is a great popular history of wind classification and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century projects of organizing natural phenomena into lists and scales. There's a great chapter about how poets have taken up the classification scale in their own work: Seamus Heaney wrote a sonnet, "The Shipping Forecast," based on the rhythms of British weather reports; Blur and Radiohead have done something similar, as noted in this Wikipedia entry about the popular influences of the shipping forecast.

In answer to your question about how much I'll read of a book I don't like, I don't have a general rule. Sometimes it's a paragraph; other times it's a few chapters.


Blogger Jenny Davidson on Mon Jan 09, 08:01:00 PM:
I think "Smilla's Sense of Snow" is pretty much the perfect book (and I do not understand why the British insist that the American translation was unreadably bad, just the title alone of the British version--"Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow"--seems completely bizarre and uncolloquial to me). I read a bunch of Hoeg's other novels, though, and they're pretty weird--I'm not sure I recommend them.

I bought a copy of the other "Snow" recently (it falls under the category of "books I will certainly never read before they are due back at the library" so I thought the expense was probably justified) but (predictably) haven't cracked it open yet; Ben's recent post does not make it any more likely that this will happen in the near future....
Blogger Anna on Wed Jan 11, 05:08:00 PM:
Would you consider keeping a list of recommended books in your sidebar? I always want to file your suggestions away for later, but it's hard to keep track.