Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nine literary works about earthquakes

David L. Ulin is the author of The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith.

Earlier this year he came up with a list of "ways of looking at earthquakes through literature." One title to make his list:
Five Fires: Race, Catastrophe, and the Shaping of California by David Wyatt.

In this 1999 book, Wyatt makes a case for fire as the central social shaping mechanism in California history, tracing five events in particular, including the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. "With the earthquake and fire," he writes, "San Francisco began the immediate translation of the text into the myth.... The particular story that San Francisco told itself about the earthquake and fire was of a city coolly eyeing its own destruction, a city acting 'casual,' as Kathryn Hulme describes a man blowing drifting char from his hands, 'casual when you knew he wasn’t feeling so.'"
Read about another book on Ulin's list.

--Marshal Zeringue