Winter ListCreated by 49thShelf on January 14, 2012
The 2011 CBC Massey Lectures celebrates fifty years with bestselling author, essayist, cultural observer, and famed New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik, whose subject is winter -- the season, the space, the cycle.Gopnik takes us on an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists, and thinkers, who helped shape a new …
A groundbreaking, genre-bending new work from one of Canada’s most respected writers.
In its long history, the River Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river.
And so opens one of the most breathtaking and original works being published this season. The Frozen Thames contains forty vignettes based on events tha …
In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times.
These are the stories of that frozen river.
I look for you along the banks of the river, where the great fires have been laid. Each fire a pyramid of coal, taller than the tallest man, and blazing with a fierceness that seems to match my need to find you.
You’re not there, by any of the fires, nor at any of the tables that have been set upon the ice for this enormous feast. You promised you would come, and yet you haven’t, and so I cannot settle, walk along one bank to the end of the coal fires, and then back along the other bank.
Here at Reading, the Thames has frozen so thickly that it will hold up the pyramids of burning coal without a quiver. It will hold up the long tables laden with food, at which sit all the poor and weak in the town. For one night only, for this night, we are to be treated to a great feast by the Abbot and the Grey Friar monks. The brothers themselves are acting in our service for the evening, fetching us food and drink when we so desire it.
I would be enjoying this, but I am too worried about whether or not you will arrive as promised. I know your family have been ill. You might have stayed to tend to them.
I am standing on the ice, a little way out from the fires so that I am not blinded by the flames, so that I can still see you if you come walking from the north end of the river. I am wearing a new black cloak I have fashioned from a blanket. It is not the green cloak you are used to seeing me in, and I worry that you will not recognize me, so I am determined to recognize you first. I don’t like the new law that has been passed this year, decreeing that only the nobility are permitted to wear coloured clothing, and that each of the colours is coded with meaning. As the lower orders, we are only allowed black or grey. They can have red to signify their superior position, blue to show their fidelity, yellow to flash hostility, pale grey for sorrow, and green for love.
It seems an impossible law to enforce, and yet I have complied, and in my acceptance I show my fear of disobeying.
All around me, at all the tables set upon the frozen river, there is great merriment. The monks have provided each table with a hogshead of ale, and some of the merriment is caused by the generous taking of this ale.
And suddenly, there you are. You walk towards me over the ice, the fires throwing you into shadow, lighting you boldly with each surge and ebb of flame. You have recognized me, even in the new cloak. You walk towards me without hesitation, and my body feels suddenly weightless, as though I could float up like a bird, look down upon this little stretch of ice with the orange puddles of light bleeding at the edges, and the black lines of the tables laid out in the centre of the river.
When you are almost upon me, I move forward so that I may clasp you in my arms, but you hold out your hands to stop me. You are also wearing a black cloak, and there is frost decorating the ends of your hair where it touches your face. Not frost, I realize with a start, not frost but frozen tears.
“What?” I say, and my breath unknots in the cold night air, drifts off into threads of smoke.
You pull back the sleeve of your cloak and hold your bare arm out for me to see the black boils that are pockmarked over your flesh.
The Black Death.
It seemed as though the plague had passed. For more than ten years people died. Every second house in London seemed affected. There were so many dead that they were just tossed into massive pits, piled one on top of the other with no ceremony or marker. The nobility fled to the country, and then, when it all seemed to be over, they came back and passed this law about the clothes. This is to keep us in our place because, with so many dead, the poor have become less so, have inherited money and property from those who have died.
You hold out your arm and I see the black spots, know that you probably already have the fever, that you will be dead in two or three days, and I cannot bear it.
All around us I can hear the sounds of people being happy — laughter and talking. I cannot remember this kind of happiness, not ever, and it seems so wrong that a moment so good could lie peacefully alongside a moment so bad.
If I touch you, I will be infected. You probably shouldn’t have come here, because you now carry the disease, and because it has most likely taken all your strength just to get here. But I am glad you kept your promise, and I am more than glad to see you. I don’t know how I can live without you, or if I will. It was only days ago that I last saw you, that I touched you. The plague could be bubbling under my skin as we stand here.
I lift my cloak so that you can see the lining, so that you can see what I’ve wanted to tell you. I have sewn pieces of my green cloak into the lining of this black one. Green for love, under the new law.
It seems strange that this is the end of the world, this scene of feasting and happiness, something that is so outside my usual days. But perhaps that is good, perhaps if I had to leave a world that was my own it would be harder.
You lower your arm and smile. You have understood. I step forward into your embrace and kiss you.
Lorna Jackson's Cold-cocked: On Hockey is much more than the first book-length appreciation of NHL hockey written by a woman. It is much more than a celebration of the Vancouver Canucks — past and present — and the city they call home. Smart, sassy and sexy, brashly opinionated and original, it offers up an inspiring vision of hockey, an apprec …
Barbara Reid delivers her most perfect story yet!
A perfect snow has fallen, and first-grader Scott and fourth-grader Jim have been daydreaming the morning away, making plans, doodling sketches of snowmen and snow forts, all in anticipation of recess and the endless possiblities of this perfect snow.
Barbara Reid uses her signature Plasticine style …
David Adams Richards finds universal truths in the very particular setting of New Brunswick’s Miramichi Valley. This, his first novel, provides a window upon a world that is as unsettling, as uncontrollable, and as inescapably authentic as a sudden brawl.
The frustrations of the community are brought into focus in the plights of 20-year-old Kevin …
Blood had dried to his hands by mid- morning, thin streaks of blood on his fingers and knuckles. He cradled his rifle, walking slowly over wet gully leaves, his jacket opened, his blond hair in sweaty knots. The stench of a headless yearling partridge, foot- strung and dangling, a splatter of its dried blood on his pants. He walked cautiously, almost awkwardly, hearing thin sounds in the quiet, sounds that became audible because he was alone and silent.
He hoped nothing would catch his scent or the scent of the bird. Another partridge perhaps fanning in the side gravel, digesting as he supposed this one had, uncertain whether to fl y or straighten, and so sitting startled waiting. He hoped for a spikehorn late to the spring, insensible to the conditions of survival. He hoped for a fawn, easy and tender, easy to ground.
A warm sun over the slanted coloured birches and a fresh autumn sky. A perfect Saturday. Not a stir. The wind only slight on his face bringing all the day to him, the cleanliness and purification of the season, rotting spruce cuts along the side of the road, the road twisting and overgrown. He concentrated, peering into the shaded growth with a pang of excitement, wishing, wanting something, knowing that something might be there watching him.
He moved from the path now moving toward the spring, hearing it before he reached it, and then crouching when he did, crouching and resting his rifle on the stones. The spring water numbed his hands, the cold clear spring, its pebbles and mud that he sank his fingers into. When he raised himself the tightened thigh muscles ached. He stroked the back of his neck, feeling the wetness of his fingers.
He stood there with his rifle once more cradled, with the dead bird once more bleeding in small drips. And he stood there watching. Maples on the top slope swayed. He looked past them because the day was so unclouded, the sky clean. Moments elapsed, erased themselves before he began to move again.
When he did, he noticed how stiffened his small kill had become. No longer a bird. Only some stiff cold thing. Earlier its warm breast to the sun, neck turned, feathers ruffled. And only the one. By now, late morning, he was unlikely to spot another. There would be little until dusk, and then he’d hunt the path again, slowly over the leaves and dead roots, watching the limbs of trees.
He moved uphill very quickly, his boots and pantlegs soaking from the water. But once the water warmed in his boots he would feel comfortable again. It was easier to wade the brook than walk the dam, he feeling unsure and clumsy on his feet. He hunched as he moved, grabbing limbs for support, decayed spruce gum sticking to his palms, frightened for his eyes, yet forever watchful. And once or twice he thought he heard a fanning, felt a pressure in his ears. He would stop to rest looking back over his shoulder, looking to right or left.
Stop to rest hearing only his heart, his breathing.
Once uphill he moved more slowly so that his breathing slowed, and at the edge of the density peered into the field. If only it was dusk and a buck standing close to the shadows in the other corner, or a doe feeding. He slipped between the wires, tilting the ancient fence logs, and stood in the open. It was a useless empty field even on this day. Enclosed by a dark quarry, the long greyish brown weed and hay unkempt. It had nothing of the colour or smell of the gully.
He moved to its middle and sat down. The dry October weeds. He sat down to the musty smell of weed and brownish turned- down grass. Deer had lain here the night before, moved with the dawn downhill to the brook, fed and watered and now were somewhere in the back woods lazy and fed and hidden. He noticed the half- fresh droppings. He unlaced his boots, taking them off to pour out the water. He wrung out his socks, leaving them off to dry. It felt good to have his feet naked to the slight breeze. And it was Saturday; he did not wish to think of lifting crates, nor did he wish to think of Sunday when there was never anything to do but wait for Monday’s shift. So for a while he thought only of the breeze, the white wrinkled skin of his feet.
He could feel sharp blades of undergrowth so he resituated himself once or twice, lying down finally and taking out his knife. The blade glinted in the sun, the sun with its faint autumn strength, and he severed in two some of the tall stems that rose around him, whistling to himself as he did. It was a poor kill for a morning’s hunt.
By noon he was up once more, retracing his steps over the pathways connecting the small irregular- shaped fields toward his truck, thinking that perhaps he might move from his position to hunt somewhere else, farther in perhaps. The day was turning cloudy, the breeze stronger, sharper on his wet pantlegs than before. But the tree colours seemed no less distinct, the day still carried in its breath all cleanliness and purification. He passed familiar morning markings, empty cartridges on the wet pathway, bootsteps at the edge of listless puddles. The squirrel he had shot lay belly down on a spruce stump, cold now, tail cut off. He inspected it again, its bloody head, gatherings in its pouch, and threw it aside into the alders and undergrowth.
Then he stopped, silent, stiffened. No movement, not even shouldering his rifle, not even that. And his pulse, he could hear his pulse as it rushed everything through him. The deadened pale excitement of his face. Everything at that moment was weightless, his whole body, the one step lightly on the tinted leaves, now the one step closer to the alders, as if he must see, as if it had to be there. That instant he craved for it to be there, noticing nothing of the day, the field in view, but only the brown hide of the animal, the black heaviness of it through the thin twigs.
He heard the sharp sound of his rifle before he realized he had fired and then he heard its sharp painful sound again, twice to the head. The smell of powder mingling with other smells that he did not notice. And he knew that it was a cow, not a doe. The thickness of a cow’s frame in the field bellowing and whining, not dead. He had realized it all before he had shouldered his rifle and now the rifle sounds were fading in his ears, replaced by that of the cow. At once he cursed himself for firing but he knew that it did little good to curse. And now it was bellowing, trying to stand again as if standing would heal the shot wounds, make the day as it had been before.
It was unexplainable but he knew he couldn’t help firing. He also wished the day to be as it had been. He must kill the thing, must kill it! And he was very afraid now, felt the heaviness of his body, and could not shoulder his rifle again, wished to run but knew he couldn’t. Couldn’t stand the sick whine of the animal.
He cracked the limbs, the twigs with his heavy body, stumbling with his heavy boots uncareful of where he trod, his eyes fixed on his destination, a flicker of angry desperation on his face.
He stood in the open field, the wind at his back, the brightness of the coloured day surrounding him, the strong flavour of autumn once again. The cow lay on its side, trying to jerk upright every so often, falling to its side again, kicking its thick hind legs. It was bleeding very little. Perhaps it didn’t notice he was there. Another cow stood a short distance away watching, not venturing any closer, its enormous eyes watching. He felt sick as he fired, shaking, uncertain of his aim.
And he fired four times rapidly and then only live nerves twitching in a dead hide and everything was quiet. He cursed and he could not stop shaking, could not stop feeling sick. But he felt he must leave it there, forget it. And then he laughed nervously as he turned away.
He turned to walk along the field- path to his truck, but as he did he noticed that someone was watching him from the shadows near the opposite edge of the field. The man came no closer yet but only watched him as the other cow did with its lazy morbid eyes. He stood still and his sickness was replaced by a throb of terror. If he turned to run he would have nowhere to go. He thought of running, thought of hiding in the gully. But of course the man must have seen his truck. Yes, how could he ever reach his truck if he ran? And the man seemed to be staring past him, staring at the carcass, or staring at everything at once. The man seemed very calm; everything in fact seemed very calm now.
In its revised form, Frozen in Time updates the research outlined in the original edition and introduces independent confirmation of Dr. Beattie's lead hypothesis, along with new information about his discovery of physical evidence for both scurvy and cannibalism.
The new edition includes never-before-seen photographs from the exhumations on Beeche …
Winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award
Stella and her little brother, Sam, are spending the day playing in the snow. The forest, snowballs, snow angels and the mysterious white stuff itself provide fuel for Sam's questions and Stella's answers as they discover the world of winter together.
Exquisite, evocative watercolors bring a snowy day ali …