Cover of  Gigantic Cinema

Gigantic Cinema

A Weather Anthology

Paul Keegan

This is a captivating and surprising anthology: three hundred entries from every sort of source imaginable (naturalists, poets, scientists, philosophers, humorists, prophets… you name it) which in some way concern the weather. The curation is expansive, and the range of effects from the passages is quite varied. The source authors are indicated very casually at the bottom of the page, and the overall effect gives primacy to the excerpts themselves. The book’s back cover indicates that the collection “narrates the weather of a single capricious day” but I certainly couldn’t keep that thread in my hands. More instructive is the authors’ preface, which describes the collection as “absurd, fragmentary, unfinishable.” Of course it is! The weather is one minute the most interesting and impactful thing in one’s life, and the next something taken for granted as mere fodder for small talk. The overall effect here is expansive. Each extract (even ones that left me unmoved or disinterested) felt like a pinhole camera, showing several other dimensions. It reminded me of the expansive feeling of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock.” I read one passage thinking it was an evocative poem about camping, noticed it was from Antarctic explorer Captain R. F. Scott, and read it again and it hit differently. I read in the index that this came from his final (doomed) expedition, meaning this was from the last year of his life, and read it a third time. Again, different. I was smitten by this weird, unexpected collection.

Book Info

National Geographic Books (2021)
ISBN/EAN Product Code
Publisher Description

A luminous, “deliciously playful” (Rishi Dastidar, Guardian) anthology of poems and prose inspired by the weather. In three hundred varied entries, Gigantic Cinema narrates the weather of a single capricious day, from dawn through rain, volcanic ash, nuclear dust, snow, light, fog, noon, eclipse, hurricane, flood, dusk, night, and back to dawn again. It includes reactions both formal and fleeting—weather rhymes, journals and jottings, diaries and letters—to the imaginary and actual drama unfolding above our heads. Ranging from Homer’s winds and Ovid’s flood to Frank O’Hara’s sun, Pliny’s reportage on the eruption of Vesuvius to Elizabeth Bishop’s “Song for a Rainy Season,” Gigantic Cinema offers an expansive collection of writing inspired by the commotion of the elements. Rather than drawing attention to authors and titles, entries appear as a medley of voices; as editors Alice Oswald and Paul Keegan write in their stunning introduction, the excerpts ask to be read “with no hat, no coat, no preconceptions, encountering each voice abruptly, as an exclamation brought on by the weather.” Assembling a chorus of responses (ancient and modern, East and West) to air’s manifold appearances, Gigantic Cinema offers a new perspective on the oldest conversation of all. (Publisher’s Description)

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