This time of year I usually re-read Ray Bradbury’s The October Country because . . . well, do I really need to explain why? But Jonathan Lethem is looking ahead to winter with a list of his favorite icy books.
Can’t argue with any of his choices: the four I know are all stellar reads and the one I don’t know — Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice — sounds worthwhile. Cat’s Cradle remains my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel, though not until Lethem pointed it out did I realize that Vonnegut preceded his novel about the Dresden firestorm, Slaughterhouse-Five, with an apocalyptic tale that shows life snuffed out by a jacket of ice. Interesting. Ice-Nine, a substance so dangerous that its mere existence threatens the world, remains one of the most powerful metaphors of the nuclear age.
A Simple Plan has been overshadowed by Sam Raimi’s film adaptation, but that opening chapter remains a model of how to set the stage for a moody thriller. And as much as I admire Deliverance, To the White Sea is the James Dickey novel that deserves to be better known.
If I were going to expand Lethem’s list, I might add Peter Hoeg’s novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which I’ve blogged about before, and Anna Kavan’s novel Ice, a surrealistic work in which civil war and an encroaching ice age serve as the background (and, sometimes, a terrifying foreground) to an three-way relationship in which the players — a nameless woman, her obsessive pursuer, and her abusive husband — play out appropriately frozen roles.