Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quote of the Day (Robert Inman, on Raleigh’s Favorite Weatherman)

“When you got down to it, the details of the weather were pretty routine stuff—pressure gradients on a map, temperatures and precipitation and computer models. What you had to do was personalize the weather: relate it to how people lived, whether they needed an umbrella or sunscreen; and make an unbreakable connection in their minds between the weather and the weatherman. Will Baggett was the weather in Raleigh. He told people, only half-jokingly, that he worked for God. If you didn't believe it, ask the minister who phoned and asked him to be sure they had good weather for the Vacation Bible School picnic.”— Robert Inman, Captain Saturday: A Novel (2002)

I was going to post today about the blizzard of 1888, but I thought better of it when the Blizzard of 2015 turned out, at least in my area (Northern New Jersey), to be rather less severe than predicted. (Or, as my longtime friend Norine posted on Facebook this morning: “Yet another male exaggerating the inches.”)

But it did get me to thinking about the place of the weather forecaster in our lives. Remarkably, while all sorts of events have radically changed the news business over the past several decades, that position has, if anything, became even more important (even though, as in the case today, meteorology remains more of an art than a science.)

Robert Inman captured perfectly the way members of this profession can become exalted local celebrities (in Will Baggett’s case, “arguably the most recognizable man in Raleigh”) in his novel Captain Saturday. Like much of his other fiction (Home Fires Burning was adapted for a 1989 Hallmark Hall of Fame special in 1989, starring Barnard Hughes, Bill Pullman, and a very young Neil Patrick Harris), it’s a finely observed, seriocomic account of how people react to reverses over the course of a lifetime. At the same time, it’s filled with rich dialogue and local color. (North Raleigh was “a creeping sprawl of subdivisions, apartment complexes, shopping centers, parking lots, and four-lane roads where there had been, not too many years ago, pine and hardwood forest.”) I highly recommend it.

In addition to having written novels, plays, musicals, and movies, Mr. Inman maintains a very fine, insightful blog. Having written one myself, I can tell you that writing this looks far easier than it is. How he manages to keep it fresh and interesting, all the while he is maintaining his other writing pursuits, is beyond me. But more power to him!

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