Adam Gopnik interviewed

The Observer, Observed

“For Winter, Gopnik divides the season into five modes: Romantic, Radical, Recuperative, Recreational, and, finally, Remembering. “Romantic Winter” charts the transition from winter as a brutal, dangerous reality—people can freeze to death, after all—to one we can admire as picturesque and stroll through with pleasure and wonder. Throughout, he reflects upon poems by Samuel Johnson, paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, scientific treatises on snowflakes, and the differing ideas about reason from the Enlightenment and the counter-Enlightenment. “Radical Winter” investigates the obsession with reaching the Arctic and Antarctic poles. “The search for that spatial winter, the search for the poles, has become an obsessive subject for modern people. It’s the model of all exploration for exploration’s sake, exploration undertaken with a minimum of national advantage, a marginal economic purpose, and a maximal amount of adventure taken for adventure’s sake.”

If polar travellers are, as Gopnik puts it, “a kind of ecstatic monk of nature,” Christmas, which he explores in “Recuperative Winter,” is the paradigmatic secularized winter holiday. He uses “Recreational Winter” to briefly review the history of ice skating—ice skating paintings, ice skating poems, including a sublime passage on the subject from Wordsworth’s The Prelude—as well as hockey and his beloved Montreal Canadians”

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