A Crack in the Edge of the World: America & the Great California Earthquake of 1906
We have all had those professors who have spent a lifetime sticking interesting facts into their heads. These facts may be pertinent to their particular line of enquiry for which they are considered an expert, or they might be random interesting tidbits of knowledge that have been squirrelled away for future research. They might even be just fascinating stories that may have very little to do with anything else.
Except of course that ...more
Simon Winchester has a passion for geology, which makes him a good person to write about this topic. However, his passion is such that he gets carried away on long tangents, and in truth, this book meandered so much that I nearly abandoned it in frustration.
The meandering starts early, with a long prologue about Neil Armstrong and how his trip to the moon affected the way scientists ...more
Let me tell you what there is to love about this book.
Firstly, Winchester starts off by talking about the Gaia Theory – essentially that everything is related to everything else. He does this because talk of earthquakes has only begun to make ...more
This was my last attempt with Winchester. He simply isn't an engaging author. I find him pompous and his books horribly bloated and lacking in any energy, connection, or ...more
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 ...more
Much to the delight of info gluttons, Winchester as always ranges widely from the nominal focus of the book. Any reader looking for an in-depth history of the whys and wherefores of the earthquake and fire will be more than satisfied, as well anyone wondering about the broader ...more
"There is a tendency common to most of us to take the more modest of our landscapes for granted. We see a wide and fertile ...more
So you get on a shuttle bus and head for Newark, and board your new flight, and ...more
I lived in sparkling San Francisco for a summer, on beautiful Beach Street, which took a hit during the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. But that recent quake was nothing compared to the 1906 disaster Winchester portrays here. He bases his account on first-hand journal entries, letters, diaries, newspaper articles by James Hopper, and the bleak photographs that made Genthe famous.
I bought it for my 9th grader to read as part of her homeschooling program, but I read it before her. At first I thought I would never get through it. His writing is stilted and boring at the beginning, even as he describes the miracles of our astounding planet. And because I am not a student of geology, I was falling asleep over the technical talk.
Soon he picks up speed and his language starts to flow, I start using my dictionary to gain an understanding of his geology terms, and we ...more
Well, we'll see. Let's check out the first sentence:
Some while ago, when I was half-idly browsing my way around the Internet, I stumbled across the home page of an obscure small town in western Ohio with the arresting name of Wapakoneta.
He goes on to paint the town as a quaint, worried old man or woman taking pride in their mechanical work and sucking their teeth with worry over "such ...more
a) History of Geological theory, including the introduction of tectonic plate theory
b) History of tectonic plate movements from the beginning of earth's formation
c) History of the North American Plate, including the ongoing origin story out of Iceland and recent historical intraplate activities esp those in the New Madrid seismic zone
d) Geological cluster events, including volcanic eruptions
e) History of CA from ...more
Winchester is a very knowledgeable fellow. The book is framed around his own travels to places like Iceland and then across North America, from Charleston, to New Madrid, and on westward to San Francisco. His goal is to explore tectonic theory and how the San Andreas Fault fits into the larger ...more
I've been looking for a good book on the disaster for a little while now, and when I came across A Crack in the Edge of the World I was thrilled. I'd read Winchester's Atlantic a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. However, the jacket copy is a bit misleading here. True, the book is about the 1906 earthquake, but I was ...more
I loved his earlier book, The Professor and the Madman
Generally speaking, I enjoy disaster history (Isaac's Storm, The Children's Blizzard, etc).
But the science bits, explaining plate tetonics and exactly what kind of earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906 too far too long. I ended up skimming quite a bit of it, something I rarely do. His trip across the US, checking out fault lines, also got skimmed.
The stuff about the actual disaster was good--there ...more
Winchester's latest work is a lesson in unfulfilled expectations. Though he presents the book as a history of the San Francisco quake, over the first 200 pages Winchester offers an abbreviated version of John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. Where McPhee made clear his intentions to write a comprehensive geological history of the North American continent, critics feel duped by Winchester, or by the publisher's marketing department. Many reviewers are dismayed to see him reusing information...more