Monday, February 19, 2007


I’ve been enjoying the few inches of snow that fell on this city last week.
Wait, back up.
First off, yet another apology regarding the length of time that has elapsed since my last post. What can I say, this isn’t what I really do; I really play keyboards.
Okay, so snow. It’s been nice to look at and not too deep or slushy to walk through, and I’m glad at least a little snow fell on us this year.

But the best part about it is that the snow fell just as I was reading “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” which felt pretty magical to me, almost as if someone up there wanted me to have a nice white background for my reading.
Oh, and wait! -- prior to that I’d been reading Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, so it was a veritable snowy, Scandinavian extravaganza!
Truly the gods of snow and Scandinavian noir favor me.
Mankell’s “Faceless Killers” was okay, though not earth-shattering. The prose was oddly terse, to the point where it felt like it may even have been badly translated or something. Sentences like, ‘”Who could have committed such a terrible crime,’ he wondered” felt a little on the nose to me. But the mystery was genuinely gripping and I definitely loved the atmosphere that Mankell created. Cold, snowy, dark, like Sweden in winter. Still, certain elements didn’t add up the way I thought they would. I thought the protagonist’s daughter would have been of more significance than she turned out to be, and I felt that the mystery ultimately remained unsolved, which was, needless to say, unsatisfying. The protagonist had a partner who was a little suspicious to me, but his problem turned out to be cancer (or did it?). I can’t figure out if Mankell is a genius or a very lazy writer, but either way, the lack of ending will stay with me, mainly because I’ll never really get rid of that feeling of irritation the ending – or lack thereof – evoked.
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, however, turned out to be a wonder. Which I guess everybody already knows. I mean, it’s been talked about for ages, and I’ve personally had it on my “to-read” list for about eight years. So it came as no surprise to find it spellbinding. I wasn’t prepared to meet a character like Smilla, though. She is by far one of my favorite protagonists, male or female, ever. But the fact that she’s a gal like I makes her all the more wonderful. I haven’t been this impressed with a female character since I met Scarlet O’Hara (don’t laugh, I like her indomitable yet fragile spirit).
Smilla’s incredible sarcasm and wit were at the heart of her appeal, but add to that her incredible resourcefulness, determination, brains, and stamina and, well, I’m in love.
Oh yeah, and all the side characters, and the plot and the subplot and all that, they were good too.
This book makes me want to visit Greenland and get myself a pair of kamiks and pursue justice vigorously.
Here’s a sampling of wisdom from Smilla:
“Life leads us through a series of bitter, involuntarily comical, repetitive confrontations with the problems we haven’t resolved.” (Okay, so this sentiment has been expressed many times before, but I like the way it’s expressed here: “bitter, involuntarily comical.” That’s a good turn of phrase.)
“Private space must be subjected to the severest discipline if it is to withstand the dissolution, destruction and pressure to yield coming from all sides.” (The hermit in me likes this.)
“Geometry exists as an innate phenomenon in our consciousness. In the external world a perfectly formed snow crystal would never exist. But in our consciousness lies the glittering and flawless knowledge of perfect ice.” (Sigh, so true. It’s never perfect, is it? Also, I like the words “glittering” and “flawless.” Maybe I’ve seen too many diamond commercials.)
“There’s so much you could do if you had the strength.” (I want this engraved on my tombstone when I die. Witty, no?)
“With age I have voluntarily chosen certain limitations. I don’t have the energy to start over again. To learn new skills or fight my own personality or figure out diesel engines.” (Again, this perfectly sums up how damn exhausting it all is. Where’s my tea?)
“Falling in love has been greatly overrated. Falling in love consists of 45 percent fear of not being accepted and 45 percent manic hop that this time the dear will be put to shame, and a modest 10 percent frail awareness of the possibility of love.” (Yes. This time.)
“You have to be younger or at least more idealistic than I am to try to fix people who are determined to kill themselves.” (This is basically my last eight boyfriends.)
“Love arises when you have a surplus; it disappears when you’re reduced to the basic instincts: hunger, sleep, the need for security.” (Here’s hoping. It’s part of my rehab, darling.)
“There will be no resolution.” (For some reason, this doesn’t bother me at all.)

Well, here’s to winter, spinsters. Embrace it in all its chilly glory. Learn to love it for what it is, be at one with the snow, celebrate all your favorite things about the season. Curl up with some challah French toast and real Canadian maple syrup and watch Fargo, as I did this morning (well, afternoon). Celebrate our strongest detective heroines, our brave Smilla and our darling, scene-stealing Marge Gunderson.

An aside here on Marge Gunderson and the greatness that is Fargo. Always a great movie to watch in the wintertime, even more so for this spinster because it’s a heck of a good crime story. Jerry Lundergard’s ceaseless bungler is a masterstroke of characterization; Carl Showalter, Grimsrud, and Shep Proudfoot are superb foils, and each supporting character brings something exquisite to the film. But it’s Marge who wins my heart over (notice how she can capture and corral Grimsrud when no one else could? And deliver a lecture to boot?). Hell of a policewoman. I love this movie, and I salute Marge.

So here’s to my lady detectives, and to snow.

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