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This article is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Skyspaces Rowland Bagnall
Gigantic Cinema: A Weather Anthology (Cape) £14.99

‘– the day goes on, a strange, wild, smiling, promising, lowering, spitting day – full of threats and contradictions’
               – Walt Whitman

‘This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather,’ suggests Mark Twain at the beginning of his novel The American Claimant (1892), in which all atmospheric ‘intrusions’ are banished to an appendix – ‘out of the way’ – from which the reader is at liberty to ‘help himself from time to time’. Twain’s gripe, however tongue-in-cheek, is that the appetite for weather as a ‘literary specialty’ is getting out of hand. ‘Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather,’ he writes, while ‘Nothing breaks up an author’s progress like having to stop every few pages’ to check in on the forecast. ‘Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience,’ he concedes, but it ought to be put ‘where it will not interrupt the flow,’ a comment about the relationship between plot, digression, and stagnation that shares something with another famous observation credited to Twain: ‘Everybody’s talking about the weather but nobody’s doing anything about it.’

While it might be too simplistic to frame Gigantic Cinema – a recent anthology of weather-related (and -adjacent) writing co-edited by Alice Oswald and Paul Keegan – as evidence of somebody finally doing something about it, the collection certainly embraces weather’s plotless and digressive nature. Presented as a twenty-four ...

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