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Gloomy Literature for Dreary Days

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Great Writing, gloomy literature, winter reading, sad novels, The Independent,

Gloomy trees

Here in the dreary depths of midwinter, a mood of melancholic gloom often prevails—and so, James Kidd chirpily announces in The Independent, “there has never been a more appropriate moment to explore the darkest corners of your bookshelves and wallow in some truly miserable literature to enhance those winter blues.”

Kidd pronounces Cormac McCarthy’s The Road a titan of doom lit, “a bona fide contender for the title of Saddest Novel Ever Written. … In a shade over 300 pages, he conjures environmental desolation and physical deprivation and human degradation, not to mention the most poignant father-son relationship committed to paper.”

Other notable titles on Kidd’s list:

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx: A yearning tale of cowboy meets cowboy, cowboy loses cowboy, that ends with Ennis Del Mar’s tight-lipped expression of stoic nihilism: “There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: Perhaps the most piercing of all anthems to doomed love … which begins on a dreary January day: “It was as though our love were a small creature caught in a trap and bleeding to death: I had to shut my eyes and wring its neck.”

Animal Farm by George Orwellfor the pathos of Boxer’s “disappearance” and blunt prose such as: “Muriel was dead; Bluebell, Jessie and Pincher were dead. Jones too was dead—he had died in an inebriates’ home in another part of the country.”

Speaking of dying in an inebriates’ home, I’ve also got some favorite poems for relentlessly bleak winter days. Macabre poet/illustrator Edward Gorey’s tale The Iron Tonic opens with the stupendously grim rhyme:

The people at the grey hotel

Are either aged or unwell.

The guests who chose to stay aloof

Lie wrapped in rugs upon the roof.

Then it goes on to conjure some truly chilling horrors of winter:

It’s known the skating pond conceals

A family of enormous eels.


The infant dead beside the path

Escaped the orphanage’s wrath.

Finally, when the sky turns to slate for days on end and people with seasonal affective disorder starting fidgeting with the gun cabinet key, I can’t shake the memorable opening stanza of “Snow-Bound” by John Greenleaf Whittier:

The sun that brief December day

Rose cheerless over hills of gray,

And, darkly circled, gave at noon

A sadder light than waning moon.

Happy reading.

 (Thanks, Arts & Letters Daily.)

Source: The Independent

Image by karpov the wrecked train, licensed under Creative Commons.