Why So SAD

Hello lovely readers! I hope you are all through the worst of your midterms at this point and are managing to keep your head up above your projects and job hunting. Speaking of which, good luck with the ranking and matching process, especially if it’s your first time! Keep reading for some quality content!
It’s likely that as this term has worn slowly on you have noticed a trend with the sun. Namely that it has been getting up later and later (like me) and going to bed earlier and earlier (unlike me). This may seem unfair to you, especially because lately it seems like the sun is getting more sleep than my entire class put together, but then again my class is very small. However, it does mean that when I have to wake up every day for my 8:30am classes, it’s pitch black outside. And even when I leave campus at a reasonable hour (before 8pm), I’ve got to have all the bike lights flashing and reflective arm bands because I’m convinced the drivers of Waterloo are actively trying to run me over and I need to be seen.
Why is the sun getting more sleep than it deserves? Well I have Bill Nye and my grade seven science teacher to thank for teaching me that the reason for this change in light-to-dark ratio is because of the Earth’s tilt being at 23° or something. It’s also a sure harbinger of Winter is Coming – in the mere weeks from now sense and not the five seasons from now sense.
With Halloween behind us it’s time to look forward to the next big event of the term: the end of Daylight Savings Time, or as I like to call it “Fall Backward”. Yes, at long last we will gain back that hour of sleep so rudely taken from us in March, once again we will be able to go to sleep expecting another cold dark morning and wake up instead refreshed, not hung over, and with a glint of sunlight in our eyes because last night while you slept something that was wrong in the world was at last made right.
Sure, the benefits of DST ending are short-lived; soon you’ll fall back (ahaha) into your bad sleeping habits and the sun will continue rising later and setting earlier until even that one blessed hour makes no difference. This is when it starts to feel like you go to class in the dark, experience an hour or two of sun in the middle of the day, have some more classes and emerge from campus to go home once again in darkness. You may start asking yourself the question “When did I move to Sweden?” A question exacerbated by everyone around you starting to wear their Canada Goose jackets despite the daily temperatures hovering around the 0°C mark. It’s not cold enough for down, people, it’s really not cold enough.
When I start feeling the effects of Constant Darkness, I’ll occasionally put on Simon and Garfunkel and huddle in a blanket on the floor, but more often I like to settle into a good book. What’s on the menu? Anything Scandinavian. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Scandinavian writing, it’s that it’s DARK. Dark in the “not a lot of light” sense but also dark in the “Wow, this is really really grim” sense. If you’ve ever been tempted to try one of those Northern countries in the winter, I suggest looking into some of the art because shit gets messed up.
Not to mention the number of alcoholics would put the engineering department to shame. (Not to joke about alcoholism though because that’s a serious matter) But it truly seems that for these people the only light is at the bottom of the pint glass, and it makes for really good pre-winter reading. Crime novels in general go well with chilly weather I find, maybe because reading about gruesome things is more delicious when the wind is howling and rain is lashing and you’re safe inside.
Well then, what do I recommend and what do I mean by grim? We’ll start with the book I’m currently reading (in snippets late at night before I hit the hay), The Ice Princess by Swedish author Camila Läckberg. The story centers around a biographer struggling with the recent death of her parents and trying to piece together the murder of her childhood bestfriend, found frozen in her bathtub. I enjoy that the style of writing follows multiple characters so you can really get into everyone’s heads and try to guess at the murderer yourself. It’s been giving me some weird dreams though, especially surrounding fishing for herring which is the mainstay of the town where the murder took place. I’m really enjoying procrastinating with it though and despite the gory details of the murder and the realistic descriptions of bad people in the book, it also has some beautiful passages describing the village of Fjällbacka in the winter. Camila has written tons of crime novels and I’m sure a quick search will help you find a story that interests you, so I’m more recommending the author here than this particular novel.
You may recognize Let the Right One In from the 2010 remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Richard Jenkins. If you’ve seen the movie you know it’s about a child vampire. The book by the Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist takes it to a new level of adult scary. There’s no ghosts or ghouls or things that go bump in the night, but there is pedophilia, alcoholism, real-life zombies and the most disturbing cat scene I’ve ever read and hope never to read again. The story centres around Oskar and his burgeoning friendship with a little kid named Eli, his personal struggles with bullying, mysterious deaths in their small town, and some side characters with incredibly depressing lives. This book is addicting but extremely upsetting and not for the faint of heart. I also had weird dreams following this book and none of them involved happily skipping through the snow with my best friend the vampire.
I used to want to live way up north, in fact I still desperately want to work in the Yukon. Since childhood I’ve been obsessed by the northern lights and polar bears. When I was young I read a lot of kid’s stories by Jan Brett about life in winter in Scandinavia that made it look like an exciting place full of trolls and friendly reindeer. A quick Google search has revealed to me that she is in fact American! It’s all a lie, what does she know about the horrors of a “real” winter! I feel slightly betrayed at the thought that my childhood brain was being molded by fake news. On the topic of trolls, friendly reindeer and feeding children fake news, Frozen is doing exactly that! This generation isn’t growing up with Jan’s ‘90s stories about the Trouble With Trolls, but they are growing up with Olaf and that dude with the shaggy hair. I would not be surprised if in ten years another editor sits at this desk felling betrayed at the unrealistic portrayal of winter in the far north. You are cold Elsa! It’s freezing outside, put your mittens back on!!
What if the cold Scandinavian winters don’t float your boat and you’re just looking for something gloomy? Something with some great pathetic fallacy to your own rainy November life? Well, I can recommend Gothic literature instead. Stuff like the Brontë sisters’ work is dark and a little spooky and makes you really glad to be born 200 years after them. These gals lived in the wilds of the Northern England and I think we can infer from all the data that living in “Northern anything” is a cold, dark and thus often depressing place to live. The three sisters, all novelists, wrote in the “Romantic” style of the day which happened to be influenced by the many issues of the day topmost being death. So romantic.
The characters in their books are cruel, think only of themselves, follow their own whims, purposely deceive each other and die for terribly depressing reasons. It’s exactly the sort of book that makes you wish you had a large fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate and a couple puppy dogs to keep you company while reading it.
In honour of Halloween my last book is Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein, most well-known for its hundreds of Hollywood spin-offs. The book opens with a series of letters from a Captain Walton to his sister as he embarks on a journey to the North Pole. At the very beginning he writes from St. Petersburg in Russia speaking of the wind and icy cold air that blows from the direction in which he is headed and it only gets colder and snowier from there. In the snows of the Arctic they encounter a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who tells them his life story and his unconventional experiments which resulted in the “monster” pop culture has taken such a liking to. It’s dark, it’s grim, and it’s not written by a Swedish person although it is set very far up north.
Happy procrastination by reading folks, I hope you stay warm and snug as winter closes its icy fist around us once again.

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