Weatherland by Alexandra Harris Published: 2016 Read from: 04 Aug to 22 Aug My rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Just finished this, a moment ago, on a blisteringly hot day, the kind of day that forces you into a darkened room, windows shut, blinds down, ceiling fan on. Any breeze from outside would only heat things up, and any attempt to sleep is fraught with a hot, icky pillow. It seemed appropriate, though doubtless I would have said the same had I finished it during an icy blizzard or drizzling greyness. Anything but temperate normalcy.
Weatherland is an incredible tour-de-force that takes a roughly chronological approach to how the arts, notably figurative art and literature, but music and others too, depict weather. The breadth of Alexandra Harris' erudition, the nimbleness with which she stitches together seemingly disparate ideas, her thoughtfulness in reminding us of ideas from much earlier in the book, all combine to make this a revelatory read.
Even though I have only a passing familiarity with many of the artists and writers she discusses, there was no sense of missing out on anything. I did mark one writer for further exploration, but overall the text carried me along, gently expanding on references that Harris (and others?) are probably very well acquainted with in order to bring the less knowledgeable reader along. So many ideas, from the lack of anything resembling a sky or weather in the earliest landscape depictions to the thought that science fiction may be the only appropriate response to the climate emergency.
The book had been a gift, uncracked on my shelves for quite a while because its premise seemed so flimsy. How wrong can you be?