Monday, March 2, 2015

Reading about Very Bad Winters

People everywhere are commenting (I am trying to avoid saying 'complaining') about the long, cold, snowy winter we are having here in New Jersey. The stiff-upper lip to which we all aspire is getting kind of old, or whiny even, if a lip can be described as whiny. Plus, it is required  by law that New Jerseyans cannot complain about snow without qualifying the complaint by saying 'at least it's not as bad as Boston.' Boston has the distinction this winter of making Buffalo, New York look, if not tropical, at least not as snowy as it usually looks. Early in the season, Buffalo got something like a gazillion feet of snow all at once, but now Boston is taking the lead with at least two gazillion tons of snow since the New Year. I say a gazillion because I just don't want to look up the actual depressing statistics, but the gist is that the Northeastern part of the United States has had way too much snow this year and we are all awaiting spring eagerly. While we are awaiting spring, you could read about winters that were way worse than this one. Two titles leap to mind immediately:
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (J WIL) which is the 'Little House' book about the winter of 1880 - 1881. Laura and her family almost starved and were stuck in that prairie house that probably wasn't as cozy as it appeared on the Little House TV show.
The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin (978.02 LAS) describes the huge blizzard of 1888, the harrowing storm which shut down the Northeast and piled so much snow that it lingered well into spring.
Now those were terrible winters and what made it all worse is that the modern conveniences we now take for granted were not even invented yet, like the ability to drive in heated comfort to the supermarket before a storm to get more milk, bread and frozen pizzas or to curl up in front of a fake fire app on our tablet. No, a little appreciation of truly awful winters might just warm you up while you are waiting for spring to arrive.

Read Ellen's review of an Icelandic winter mystery in Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason  
(MYS ARN,  note that this title is filed by the author's first name in the Icelandic tradition.)
Research the blizzard of 1888 in the library's New York Times database for coverage of the event as it happened. Go to the Databases and Articles page to find this and other library databases that you can use from home.
Browse through the beautiful art book  Impressionists in Winter, effets de neige by  Charles S. Moffett (758.1 MOF) which documents the exhibit of the same name at the Phillips Collection in 1998, featuring paintings from the late 19th century which was very snowy in the United States and Europe. The Sisley painting below is owned by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. If you visit Washington, DC, be sure to add the Phillips Collection to your list of museums to visit.
Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley 1873

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