Over on Facebook everyone seems to be posting their blizzard photos. The enormous snowdrifts. The bizarre icicle formations. The cars hopelelssly immobilized and abandoned.
I took a few of my own photos, because the enormity of the storm and the mammoth hassle of digging out seemed to require some commemoration. But after a while all the pictures start to look alike. They’re awful or they’re beautiful, but it’s hard to know exactly how to respond. And you can’t not look. It’s like blizzard porn.
We can’t stop talking about it, either. That’s the thing about catastrophe: It’s exciting. You can dread a storm like that—and I confess that I spent a lot of Tuesday’s runup to the blizzard creating various scenarios involving power outages and fallen trees and collapsed roofs and dead furnaces. And when I went outside to try shoveling on Tuesday night, during the storm’s first hours, I was a little surprised to discover that it was every bit worthy of my anxious imagination. I’d never seen anything like it. The snow, yes, and the wind, as well, which was ridiculous. But it was thundering and lightning out there, too. Great green flashes of light across the sky. I mean: I didn’t even know that kind of thing was allowed.
It made me think of a scene in The Moviegoer where a violent rain storm momentarily cheers up the suicidal Kate Cutrer. She tries to explain to Binx that, with her, the worst times are the best times. That’s a theme in Percy: That catastrophe is a kind of existential rescue. That even disaster is preferable to everydayness, to mundane, muddling Tuesday-afternoon-ness.
I’m not willing to come out so forcefully in favor of catastrophe. But it's true that you don't see so many pictures on Facebook of ordinary Tuesday afternoons. Maybe catastrophe is like a loose tooth that we can't stop fiddling with. Is FB trying to tell us something about our secret attraction to disaster?