12 February 2012

To winter

The past few days have shown us that we had, as Marshall Mathers might say, in fact, forgot[ten] about Feb. February is supposed to be cold—brutally cold, at that. It is not a time suitable for the uncovered face. We’re supposed to reel and and stagger into March like battered pilgrims—with a sense of having reached the far shore, with relief that, come cold rain and mud, the worst weather is behind us. Though I hunch my shoulders against it and curse, I’m glad it’s cold again. A February that’s even warmish is apocalyptic.

One of the things that makes winter bearable or even enjoyable is reading. House slippers, a decent lamp, a cup of tea—you’re good to go with your own personal fortress.
A cozy place for winter reading

Last semester I did not have the privilege of reading a single goddamn thing that I had a choice about—so, I fantasized about what I would read over the winter holiday. I usually crave Ibsen’s plays in early December, but most recently, I set out, literarily, at least, for warmer climes. I read a heap of Amos Oz and a soupçon of A. B. Yehoshua. (David Grossman's Her Body Knows is on queue for my next reading jag, I think.)

I asked some poets and writers I know what they have or plan to read this winter, have read in winters past, and prefer/can't stand for winter reading flights of fancy.

 Linguistics student and sometime book artist David Menees said winter was the ideal time to read books about astronomy since the nights provide more star-gazing time. What he's been reading of late, though, has been Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition and Norwegian and Irish textbooks. 

Three current or former Woodland Pattern Book Center (WP) employees emailed their answers. WP Literary Program Manager Chuck Stebelton listed Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by Jame Gleick, and Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr by Richard Rhodes, which, he wrote in an email, he "borrowed [...] as an e-book from Milwaukee Public Library."

Marie Larson, the former Director of Marketing at WP, is a graduate of Naropa University's MFA program in Writing & Poetics. In an email, she indicated she was reading Alphabet by Inger Christensen, Transfer Fat by Aase Berg's, and Ilya Kaminsky's Dancing in Odessa, which I now want to read.
"I've been reading for school mostly," former WP Education Coordinator Julie Strand wrote in an email. She is the author of chapbook The Mae West Defense and currently an MFA student at Boise State University. Like Chuck, she's reading The H.D. Book. She's also reading Circle's Apprentice by Dan Beachy-Quick and Daniel Tiffany's Infidel Poetics. "Over break I read A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Also The Lectures of Gertrude Stein."

What current or former MFA student doesn't dream of becoming a professor in one of the country's most highly ranked creative writing programs? Amy Quan Barry is living that dream. Herself a graduate of the University of Michigan's MFA program in Creative Writing, she is a full professor in the University of Wisconsin's Creative Writing program. According to the program's website, she has received fellowships from Stanford and the National Endowments for the Arts, among other entities. In an email, she wrote: "During break I read: Salvage the Bones, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 1Q84, [and] Yellow Dog."

Last of all, Lisa Rosenbaum is the author of one of my favorite books A Day of Small Beginnings, which was chosen by Spertus, the Chicago "center for Jewish learning and culture" to inaugurate its One Book| One Community initiative last fall. I was so taken with A Day of Small Beginnings when I read it a few years ago that I emailed Lisa to let her know how taken with it I was. She depicted Kraków as I had always imagined it, as an old-fashioned city with cafes and cobbled streets. "I'm reading Philip Roth's I Married a Communist. Of all things!" she wrote in an email. 

I totally get it, though. I read I Married a Communist last school year. Roth immersed me in the 1950s witch hunts—and even convincingly brought the (in my mind anyway) sepia-tinted world of silent film close to me. I raved on over the book, all but insisting my then-housemate read it. She was monumentally unimpressed. Perhaps because, at the age of 85, she remembered what the days of McCarthy were really like. 

Winter helps me feel as if I've truly earned whatever warm, sunny weather we eke out here in Wisconsin. It's interesting how different winter reading is from summer or "beach" reading, isn't it?