The 2011 CBC Massey Lectures celebrates fifty years with bestselling author, essayist, cultural observer, and famed New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik, whose subject is winter -- the season, the space, the cycle.
Gopnik takes us on an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists, and thinkers, who helped shape a new and modern idea of winter. Here we learn how a poem by William Cowper heralds the arrival of the middle class; how snow science leads to existential questions of God and our place in the world; how the race to the poles marks the human drive to imprint meaning on a blank space. Gopnik’s kaleidoscopic work ends in the present day, when he traverses the underground city in Montreal, pondering the future of Northern culture.
A stunningly beautiful meditation buoyed by Gopnik’s trademark gentle wit, Winter is at once an enchanting homage to an idea of a season and a captivating journey through the modern imagination. This deluxe 50th anniversary edition includes full-colour images printed on two 8-page inserts.
In this ruminative collection, Gopnik offers five essays on winter exploring it as season and idea, elemental force and cultural influence. The New Yorker staff writer and author of Paris to the Moon composed these pieces for the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Massey Lectures. He acknowledges that "chapters are meant to sound vocal" and rough edges have been left in place. Readers will find pleasures of the serendipitous variety, including introductions to Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, the underground architect Vincent Ponte, and the engineers who helped developed central heating. Gopnik's round-the-world tour of "romantic winter" covers more than 200 years in art, music, poetry, literature, and theology. In "Radical Winter," he describes the absurd courage of the men who raced for glory at the North and South Poles; in "Recreational Winter," he untangles the motley origins of ice hockey. Though the prose moves slowly at times, Gopnik leavens dense material with humor, and makes unwieldy concepts accessible through modern-day comparisons (consider Dickens the Francis Ford Coppola of his day). In the end, the lectures serve as Gopnik's equivalent to a Playmate's "turn-ons and turn-offs." That being the case, we'd call him a worthy Mr. December.