Shawn's Reviews > A Crack in the Edge of the World

A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester
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Jan 23, 2008

it was ok
Recommended for: Geology and Non-fiction buffs
Read in January, 2008

Like a train wreck, I can't look away.
The 1906 earthquake that most notably affected San Francisco is a fascinating topic, and I like books with a bit of Science in them, but oh my god! could this author be any more of a pain in the ass? I just have to prove it with a couple of examples, but truly sir: Mr. Winchester, I implore you, where are your trustworthy editors? Nowhere, mon frere. Example One in my hypothetical thesis entitled "why Simon Winchester is a pain in the ass": in one paragraph (pgs. 91 and 92, oh, it's a long-ass paragraph) Mr. Winchester makes use of the following words: panjandrum, lickspittle, gimcrack, gasconading. Now, I believe I have already more than proven my thesis, but two further examples for the sake of thoroughness: 2. in a book about the San Francisco quake, the quake happens in real time in the narrative on page 205; before that is background discussion of plate tectonics and other gimcrack subjects. Finally, example three has to be seen to be believed. I think I'll just put a sample paragraph here that shows the tedious, longggggg-winded, pretentious writing style (and mind you, the author seems like a good dude and all, no offense intended, he just needs a competent editor). The following paragraph, I'd hone down to five or six words if I were editing: "I went to New Madrid, Missouri." He uses 175 words:
"To begin to answer that—and geologists have been grappling for years with the vexing problem of those earthquakes that occur where they ought not to—I first had to drive some 600 miles west, to the site of one of the most remarkable earthquakes that America has ever known—by some accounts the biggest ever experienced in the Lower Forty-Eight states. I then had to travel another 400 miles westward, to a village set deep in the Midwestern plains, where a seismograph is mounted inside the general store. My second destination was a somewhat obscure and all but forgotten place, though one of some importance in explaining why America suffers earthquakes so far from the edges of the plate on which it stands. My first intended stop, however, was at a town that suffered an event that took place over a series of weeks during the winter between 1811 and 1812—a hitherto unremarkable Mississippi riverside town that has since entered the lore and the lexicon of seismologists around the world: New Madrid, Missouri." The End
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Maryann Sorry to disagree but your sentence is boring. I liked all of the extra info packed into the original!!


Shawn Maryann wrote: "Sorry to disagree but your sentence is boring. I liked all of the extra info packed into the original!!"
No, I hear you--no apology necessary; my sentence was a little boring, but if it served to drive forward a fascinating story (like if the rest of my paragraph was filled with great information), it could work.
What about the paragraph that contained all the words: panjandrum, lickspittle, gimcrack, gasconading? Also, okay? You WOULD have had to use the dictionary four times in that paragraph, agreed? Now that paragraph, occurring early on, scared me. I kept open Dictionary.com the rest of the book. I like learning new words--in this book, I'd expect to learn Geology words, historical words, maybe...but gratuitous adjectives that served little purpose. Eh...just struck me as silly.
I do hope you liked the book. Fascinating, but long-winded story!


Shawn Maryann wrote: "Sorry to disagree but your sentence is boring. I liked all of the extra info packed into the original!!"
No, I hear you--no apology necessary; my sentence was a little boring, but if it served to drive forward a fascinating story (like if the rest of my paragraph was filled with great information), it could work.
What about the paragraph that contained all the words: panjandrum, lickspittle, gimcrack, gasconading? Also, okay? You WOULD have had to use the dictionary four times in that paragraph, agreed? Now that paragraph, occurring early on, scared me. I kept open Dictionary.com the rest of the book. I like learning new words--in this book, I'd expect to learn Geology words, historical words, maybe...but gratuitous adjectives that served little purpose. Eh...just struck me as silly.
I do hope you liked the book. Fascinating, but long-winded story!


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