Tag Archives: Snow


 (Short Fiction)

As I dropped the coin into the beggar’s hand, his icy fingers brushed mine and I shivered. Icy fingers – slow mo : my fingers were icy – Jake’s fingers were icy, I did all I could but his fingers got colder and colder – icy fingers – why didn’t I do more? All that snow! Spruce branches groaning and creaking under their cargo of snow – snowfields up to the jagged peaks – snow – snow – nothing but cold snow – fast forward  – “Lady? You okay?” – the bearded face, the sour winey breath, the grubby parka – slow mo – the icicles growing on Jakes’s beard, my icy fingers, my freezing feet – I should have done more – the blinding light off the snowfield – the creaking spruce boughs – my icy fingers – fast forward – “I – I ..”

“Lady – “ slow mo – Jake’s fingers stiffening – getting colder – my breath in puffy clouds – no clouds in that harsh blue sky – rubbing Jake’s stiff frozen fingers  –  fast forward – “Lady – what you been takin?  Lady?”

Slow mo: I dimly hear the roar of the traffic on the nearby Trans-Alaska Highway – and I know where that goes – all the way up to the north, where it’s cold, cold, cold and there’s nothing but snow and ice and mountains and there’s Jake sinking into a snowdrift  –  fast forward  “Lady: what you sayin? Ain’t no snow here! just rain – this is Seattle and all we got is rain – no snow!”

Slow mo: the distant clatter of a helicopter – a shadow swooping over the snow –  but it’s too late – Jake’s fingers are stiff – mine are numb – my brain is frozen – my tongue won ‘t work – my eyeballs are stuck – fast forward – “Lady, that’s the radio station traffic bird – WRX – always up there, spyin’ on us all! ain’t rescuin’ nobody – leastways not tonight, not here”.

Slow mo: –helicopter – that’s it – we’ll go to the red sand, where yellow snakes bask in the sun, and black  and white striped lemur tails whisk through the trees, where the careful chameleons creep – no snow there, they don’t even know what snow means they –  fast forward –  “Whaddya mean we’re going to Madagascar? Lady, I don’t even know where Madagascar is – someplace down south maybe?  And anyway, I don’t even know you! Who you, crazy lady? Where you from? Where you goin? only place you need to go is Saint Martin’s Memorial I reckon, they got places for crazies like you”   – fast forward  – and Madagascar will be warm, and Sir David will show me round the island, you can come too, dirty old hobo in a parka, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the warmth, the sun, we can swim in the sea, and play with the lemurs, and there’ll be no more snow, no more icy fingers, your fingers will never be cold again – fast forward  : “Whaddya mean: swim? Where? In the freakin gutters? In this weather?  Lady – I’m drunk, I know I’m drunk, helps keep the cold out, but you is somethin’ else. Man!”

Slow mo : No, don’t go, old hobo man, I’m going to sell Aunty Maudie’s ring, that big emerald , and those emeralds  will buy us two tickets and we’ll go far away from the snow, no more icy fingers, no more Jake, we’ll be warm and no more snow and you can have a chameleon, I’ll have one too, and our hands will always be warm  – fast forward  “Lady: I’m getting wet, you is getting wet, I’m tired of your mumbling and your nonsense – go on home now, get outta the rain, I’m  going down the street to the Shelter, where you going? You what? No, Lady, NO! Ohmigod: no lady – what you do that for? Huh? Huh? Don’ wanna be a witness, no sir, guess I’ll just sneak down the alley into 6th Street and go to the Shelter that route – freakin cold, might as well be snowin’, that lady sure was rambling about snow, and why her fingers was cold in them fancy gloves I’ll never know.  Women! I ain’t got no gloves, and I sure do know about icy fingers. “





The Museum of Innocence by  Orhan Pamuk

A  LONG, meaty read. I had to work hard to finish the book.  Due to my sore neck I had to spend hours lying on my bed, so I could read for hours.  Luckily, or else I would not have finished it. Our Book Club chose the book because it was by a Turkish author and we hadn’t read any Turkish books in the seven years of our existence.

The blurb described the novel as “a work of romantic love”  –  if this was romantic love, then it isn’t my version. The blurb went on: “ a haunting novel of memory, desire and loss … with fascinating insights into a society tugged between East and West” : a much more accurate summation.  Especially the East/West conflict.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the city (Istanbul and the  Istanbullus and  traditional Turkish life, and I enjoyed the stories about the outdoor cinemas held in gardens, on balmy nights, under the mulberry trees)  but the main character – Kemal –  I  could cheerfully have attacked with an axe, after reading every other page!  Under the heading of MEN.  He behaved so badly towards his lover Fűsan; however,  in retaliation, she made him suffer for years.

I could not believe my eyes when I read the  last sentence in the book : “Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life”. This, as the ending TO a book about obsessive love, after pages and chapters detailing years of misery, loss, and fixation!

I liked the little touches e.g. Lemon, the canary. This bright yellow little caged bird belonged to Fusan and was probably one of the happiest brightest characters in the entire book! If not the only gleam of brightness in the book.

On thewhole, the Turkish men came across as chain smoking hard drinkers – several of them dying in their early sixties, of heart attacks.  The women were also portrayed as  smoking constantly . Because Turkey is the home of Turkish tobacco, I suppose this was not unsurprising or unrealistic. But what was a surprise to me was the portrayal of rich, upper class society.  I never thought of Turkey during the 60s/70s as having the Filthy Rich that are portrayed in this novel.

My first book by this Turkish Nobel Laureate. I might try some more.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

I decided to try another of Pamuk’s books. This earlier novel is a great deal shorter, but more complex,  than the first one I read.

The blurb says that when the book came out in 2002 it angered Islamists and westernised Turks alike and promptly sold 100 000 copies: it seems to me that any books that irritates absolutely everybody must be doing something right!

Reading Pamuk is like visiting another planet. Although the books are translated skilfully into smooth English, there is a foreign-ness about them, an otherness, a picture of a radically different culture that underlies the characters, the events, the background.  Pamuk is not writing about tourist Turkey : the Turkey of Istanbul, semi-westernised, picturesque tiled domes, crowded bazaars, leather goods and woven carpets.  No.  He is writing about something entirely different, the far north-eastern city of Kars. I had to haul out my giant atlas to locate Kars, it’s in the middle of nowhere, en route to the Iranian border. Pamuk is writing about provincial Turkey, where poverty, unemployment, dirt, hopelessness, government surveillance, plots and counterplots,  spying, arrest and torture, infuse the lives of the Turkish, Kurdish, radical Islamists and Attaturk secularists residents.

The city is drowned for three days in a mammoth blizzard of snow, cut off from the outside world, cut off from sanity almost, as events develop.  He’s writing about a familiar theme: when the world of traditional old-style Turkey collides with the wicked West, but this time he throws nationalism versus Islamic reformers into the mix as well. The poet Ka returns from exile in Germany to write an article about the rash of suicides carried out by the ‘headscarf girls’ who return to head-covering thereby incurring the wrath of the secularists.
Ka falls in love with the beautiful Ipek, daughter of the hotel owner,
whose other daughter Kadife is in love with the dangerous Islamist
revolutionary Blue, one-time lover of her sister ….  the plot writhes and twists like a demented snake.  Meanwhile the political ferment explodes into a Ruritanian  revolution that takes place during a bizarre theatre performance.  The wildly improbable theatre troupe of two provide a modicum of comic relief at intervals, notwithstanding the fact that Sunay, the actor/impresario stages a dramatic and extraordinary climax to the events in Kars.

Despite all this tumult and turmoil, the snowy landscape inspires Ka to write eighteen brilliant poems structured on the diagram of a snowflake. He writes down the poems which arrive perfect and complete, as if he is an amanuensis, but for who or what is never revealed.  Apart from falling in love, Ka regains (fleetingly) his lost faith when he visits a famous Sheik in the city.
As a counterpoint to Ka’s adult love for Ipek there are the religious school teenage boys passionately in love with the headscarf girls, to whom they have never spoken, but for whom they are prepared to sacrifice their lives in noble gestures of pure idyllic love. Can you imagine any Western teenagers behaving like this?

Finally, the novelist inserts himself into the story, under his own name (just as he did in the Museum of Innocence) he seems to feel he has to explain why he is telling us the story of the poet Ka. This strikes me as an odd  approach.  I wonder if he does it in all his books? Clearly I shall have to read more to find out.  Question is: do I have the strength?  These two books were not an easy read.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS