‘The Weather Outside is Frightful’


Cambridge, MA:  Snow melts  2/4/12
Cambridge, MA: Snow melts 2/4/12

           A new favorite writer offers a respite from our steamy weather:

           Now it is snowing, one of the terrific storms that first mute and then obliterate the sky.  The snow sweeps down, making the buildings seem like liners at sea, muffling everything with silence.  The streets become white, all the ledges and the trees, the sleeves of overcoats, the marquees.  Soon snow has blanketed the earth and hour after hour still down it comes.  The cars with their headlights are drifting through the whiteness, the buses and bundled figures struggling home.  All night it snows.  The city has never been more intimate, more prodigious.

           In the morning the snow goes on.  The avenues have disappeared, the traffic lights on long unblocked vistas shift without meaning from red to green and back again.  There is a sole, breathtaking architecture:  white lines.

           James Salter, Burning the Days: Recollection [1997] (New York: Vintage, 1998), p. 43.

           For an example of really fine narrative writing, look at the section the quoted paragraphs introduce.  I couldn’t foresee where these sculpted lines were going.

           But Salter has played fair.  He’s omitted two details almost required in city snow scenes that on rereading tip his hand.  But only on rereading.