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Winter: Five Windows on the Season (CBC Massey Lecture)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
Gopnik's book on winter is a series of meditations that explore common ideas associated with the season. His five ways of framing winter give us a view into our experiences with this cold and dark time of year. Gopnik's main contribution is found in both the first lecture and throughout the book, where he shows that our current understanding of winter is largely a modern phenomenon, which has changed over time, as we have changed how we interact with the season. In being able to experience winter on our own terms, through advancements like central heating, we can choose to engage winter and therefore remain attuned to its fine details (e.g. the quieting of noise, and even the pace of life, from snow).

He covers a wide range of attitudes towards winter (e.g. romanticizing winter's beauty and pace, the development of Christmas and winter holidays into occasions for both renewal and reversal of life's typical flow, winter's role as a marker in time, reminding us of time's passing), which help us understand better our relationship with winter, and why it's important. Winter becomes multifaceted, a source of consternation for many who don't like the cold, but simultaneously a time to slow life down and look forward to Spring's bloom. Gopnik's ability to capture emotions generated by common experiences in winter were instantly recognizable to me, and are a nice treat.

These individual journeys read very well, as if you're recounting stories of winters past with Gopnik. One final note: the lectures were written for a Canadian audience, and reference North American and European history and literature. So he doesn't aim for this to be an exhaustive look into winter, but it certainly succeeds as a view into North American winter in modern times.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2013
This is a mixed bag. I think it could have been a great deal shorter while conveying it's central themes more clearly. A number of the sections go on for long enough, and with little enough focus, that I can't see the forest for the trees. And while the author admits that to a certain extent this book is a list of wintery things he likes, the writing is not interesting when that's ALL it is. If there's no cogent analysis you can connect to your own life and experience, then what's the point? But the book doesn't always suffer from these problems--some portions are more tightly written and feel more grounded in the real world. And looking back on the book, I appreciate the new perspectives it has given me on the season of winter.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2012
Mr. Gopnik's collection of essays on various aspects of the winter season is thoughtful, scholarly, and thoroughly readable. His points of view are also accompanied by illustrations of beautiful paintings.
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