Snow in Florida
(WARNING: THIS POST IS FOR A CLASS ON HORROR FICTION. IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE NOVEL SNOW.)
I was born in Florida, and I’ve lived here my whole life. When I watched kids’ shows or read textbooks in my childhood, I always felt left out of the fall and winter fun. I’ve never jumped from a tire swing into a pile of autumn leaves. I’ve never had to wear a scarf and hat and mittens just to walk to the car. I’ve never woken up in the morning to see my backyard blanketed with soft ice. I’ve never waited at the TV or radio, hoping, hoping, hoping that school would be canceled the next day for snow.
Snow just isn’t a language I speak. You’d think, then, that Snow the novel wouldn’t translate properly to me. Since it’s not a part of my world, it shouldn’t be among my fears.
And yet, I think my lack of experience actually makes me that much more phobic. For me, snow really does seem cruel and dangerous.
The first time I went to a Seton Hill residency in January, I got to know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and see a white world outside my window. In some ways it was beautiful and fascinating, but in other ways it was terrifying. There was no color, no warmth, no life. For all of its sparkling beauty, snow is a dead, dreadful thing – especially to a Floridian.
So when I picked up the book Snow, I knew it had the potential to really scare me. I could see myself getting stuck on a Road Trip of Doom, trapped in the cold with wind so sharp it feels as though it’s penetrating your skin.
“He turned and looked out over the vast terrain – the mounds of snow rising up on either side of the highway and the looming forest of pine trees all around them, so tall they looked capable of poking holes in the sky. ‘So what’s the game plan?’” (38).
I read this and instantly felt claustrophobia clutch me and whisper, You can’t find your way out safely. It’s too cold here. You’re trapped. I don’t know snow like northerners do; I don’t have an escape plan or the basic know-how to find my way out of snowy woods. This setting description caught me instantly.
It’s great to use snow as a monster because it does sometimes feel as though it’s forcing itself into your skin, with painful icicles pricking you every time they fly past your face. Everyone’s heard real tales of people who were unfortunate enough to break down in the snow and freeze to death there. And it reduces visibility. What better way to create a monster than to use these real life handicaps and discomforts?
Malfi hit on a topic that even the most tropical of readers can fear – perhaps more so because they have a natural resistance to the cold weather. This novel does a fantastic job with a tough monster, telling a terrifying story that feels realistic because it plays on basic survival phobias.
Malfi, Ronald. Snow. New York: Dorchester, 2010.