This year, the CBC Massey Lectures celebrate their 50th anniversary with bestselling author and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik. Adam's theme for the 2011 lectures is Winter: Five Windows on the Season.
While Adam tours Canada to deliver his lectures, CBC Books will feature exclusive content from Adam. We'll also highlight Massey Lectures coverage from around CBC and host a contest related to the theme of winter.
In Winter, Adam takes us on a journey through the ideas -- and people behind them -- that helped shape our modern concept of winter, but he starts with the memory of his first snowstorm. Adam moved to Montreal from Philadelphia when he was 10, and it was after his move to Canada that he first truly noticed snow.
In a recent interview with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter, Adam reminisced about his first snowstorm. "The snow started falling one November day in Montreal," he said. "You just knew the way this blanket of white fell and embroidered and italicised the world, that you had entered a new place, a new land, a new epoch of winter."
Adam said it was one of the truly key experiences of his life. "I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, the most mysterious and the most enchanting," he said. "And I thought, Ahh, that's why we moved to Canada."
That initial feeling about winter has always stayed with Adam and he said that if he had to count the few serene moments in an otherwise hectic life, "they would all be winter moments some place around home, either in Montreal, or where my parents live in Campbellford, Ontario."
Because of these early memories of winter, Adam seized on the season as a subject for his Massey Lectures. He said the topic "spoke so deeply to my own pleasures and preoccupations," but added that it was also because he feels winter is "one of the great modern subjects."
Adam was drawn to the subject of winter not only for his personal memories of the season, but also because of the dichotomy found between the serene and perilous natures of winter. "The dialogue and tension between these two things drew me to it," he said. "Even in the greatest extremities, the explorers were constantly oscillating between: I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life, and I've never been so miserable in my existence."
Winter is divided into "five windows on the season." Adam chose that framing device to discuss the two sides of winter because, he explained, "On the one hand, we're drawn to the enigmatic mystery and the forbidden beauty of winter, but we still see it through a window."
The Massey Lectures are a collaboration between CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press and Massey College at the University of Toronto. Through this partnership, the Massey Lectures are delivered across Canada, published in a book, broadcast on radio, released on CD and made available through Apple iTunes. For more information on how to attend a lecture, listen to the broadcast or pick up the book or CD, visit the Massey Lectures website.