Nemo is making me read. No, not that lil' orange-and-white piece of future sushi, but the nor'easter that's bearing down on New York and New England. Events may be cancelled, travel may be tough, but a good story is pretty much storm-proof. Even if it's about a storm! From The Ice Storm to The Perfect Storm, what's your favorite storm book?
The Ice Storm, by one of my long-time favorite writers, Rick Moody, is set in 1973 suburban Connecticut--where I myself grew up and lived through an early 1970s ice storm that knocked out power for days in the Northeast. My parents, two brothers, and I shacked up with some good friends and their four kids in their gas-heated house and lived the dream--perhaps not so much Moody's nightmare as Please Don't Eat the Daisies, though. They had a giant old house where we seven kids ran amok while my engineer dad fiddled with the pilot lights and gas generators and the moms, who were not perhaps the most Doris Day types, looked dubiously at whatever they had cooked for us. All us kids slept in the attic, set up with a row of cots like a scene from a 19th c. orphanage novel, where we told ghost stories, ran marathon Ouija sessions, and fought deeply destructive "Battleship" wars.
Winter storms and winter weather in particular strike fear in our heart; keeping warm is a human imperative--that's why we piled into our neighbors' place. No list of books for nasty weather should be without Jack London's classic short story "To Build a Fire," in Northland Stories, where it is accompanied by "The White Silence," "The Law of Life," and more tales of the frozen North, in a fine Penguin edition.
Arctic cold and the dark suburban dysfunction of New Canaan, Connecticut, are frightening indeed, but for sheer adrenaline-pumping storm-driven terror it's hard to beat Sebastian Junger's tale of heroic real men on the Andrea Gail battling The Perfect Storm off Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Halloween Gale of 1991 pounded the seas off New England, and Junger's reconstruction of nature's ultimate power and man's battle to survive is harrowing, thrilling, and deeply moving. Not to be read on a ship, but safe at home, where one will never look at the Gorton's fisherman icon the same way again. No mockery. Those guys demand respect, and that's the truth.
Surviving the weather is such a bedrock human experience it's no wonder that it animates plots from literary fiction to mass market entertainment. If the nor'easter doesn't knock out your power, inclement weather weekends are a fine time to break out the DVD player and watch some of the all-time great storm survival stories on screen. Number one would have to be Titanic, although it's certainly not one of my favorites; I much prefer the 1958 Night to Remember, based on Walter Lord's book on the Titanic sinking.
And of course, should one need a cheesy snack, the all-time winner of onboard adventure survival has to be the Poseidon Adventure, a best-selling Paul Gallico book before it even became the 1972 Ernest Borgnine/Gene Hackman-driven blockbuster movie--the film we suburban teens flocked to see right around the time Moody's The Ice Storm is set.
The Poseidon was downed by a tsunami; the power by The Ice Storm: No matter what your weather, stay safe and warm--and let us know some your all-time favorite storm books!
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