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Snow in America Hardcover – September 17, 1997

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Editorial Reviews


Snow in America is likely to remain unsurpassed as a handbook for novelists wanting to set their stories in North America between November and March. -- The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, David Craig

Professor Mergen uses snow and responses to it as an illustration of both the practical and the emotional development of American character. Snow has changed from a moral resource encouraging endurance and ingenuity to a public nuisance to an ecological and economic resource. Poets have made it a metaphor for states ranging from euphoria to despair. This intelligent study is not ivory-tower theorizing. It deals firmly with street cleaning, the growth of the ski industry, water usage, winter carnivals, and even fashions in the making of snow forts and snowmen. It does all this well. -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian (September 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560987804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560987802
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,290,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bernard Mergen is Professor Emeritus of American Studies , George Washington University, where he taught for 35 years. He also taught at Goteborg University in Sweden, the Community College of Philadelphia, Grinnell College in Iowa, the Free Univdersity of Berlin, and the National University of Mongolia. He now lives in the mountains of eastern West Virginia. His book Snow in America won the Ullr Award from the International Ski History Association and his book Weather Matters won the Louis J. Battan Award from the American Meteorological Society. He is currently writing a history of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, where he lived as a child. He enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and writing poetry.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on July 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bernard Mergen's Snow in America puts the subject of snow under the microscope. He meticulously analyzes its significance in terms of cultural history -- historical, literary, artistical scientific, political, and recreational usage within the American landscape. This is an extensive piece of scholarship that is well researched with much detail. Mergen suggests that the book was specifically written to tell the story of snow and the responses to it, and how it relates to its importance to other issues. He admits that snow has not invoked a sense of appreciation as water, but with Snow in America, he attempts to define the truth about it (xii).

One of the most interesting aspect of the book are the quotes that begin each chapter. They derive from excerpts from well-known poems from literary giants, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Wallace Stevens, which have centered on the subject of snow. Mergen writes of snow's historical significance in the first four chapters of the book, and conveys to the reader the origins of metaphors and symbolism of snow came about. The concluding chapter, "The Modern Minds of Winter," critiques and analyzes snow as it pertains to literature and art. And the amazing part of the book are the many illustrations that document the beauty and picturesque quality of this natural substance. However, Mergen, suprisingly, did not include one picture by Currier and Ives or elaborates on their significance to a snow covered landscape.

Snow in America will be a delight to read during the dog days of summer as well as during any season of the year. For the sake of curiosity, it is a welcome to read. In general, the book will also serve as an important reference tool on the subject of snow in any genre.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce on September 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a meteorologist and a snow lover. I can't argue that this book is an exceptional work. Bernard Mergen is clearly a genius and he covers snow (no pun intended) from about every aspect one can imagine, with a focus primarily on the subject as it developed in America (the US and Canada). Now, frankly, I personally found the book to be a very slow read. This may reflect on my level of intelligence (or lack thereof). But when I finished the last page and reviewed the very extensive notes, I felt that I had indeed learned a lot more about snow than I knew before and was glad I had stuck with this book to the very end. Some of the most intriguing portions included the chapter "The Names of the Snows" and the section "Eating Yellow Snow: The Nivean Food Chain and Pollution." There is a section about snow poetry (Rhyme on Rime) which even includes one stanza from a poem where each one is written so the words form the shape of a snowflake. The artwork accompanying the text is fantastic, though it would have been even better to have seen the works in color. The book is loaded with quotes that I would love to be able to claim as my own creations. One such sample (and there are many better) is "Snow science creeps foreword one crystal at a time." Another (sorry, I can't resist) is the very end of the final part of the introduction, called Accumulation: "The falling snow accumulates like letters on this page, but it makes a page itself. In the following pages, and in the layers of snow, is the story of snow. As you turn this page, the process begins."

My favorite snow research pioneer, America's own Wilson Bentley, at first seems to get very meager coverage. But his name and work keep popping up through the book, much to my delight. The book was written in 1997, but it is still thoroughly relevant today. I thoroughly recommend it if you are a snow buff, an environmentalist, or simply interested in the world around us.
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