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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Simon Winchester

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4. Oktober 2005

The international bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of towns to its north-northwest and the south-southeast were overcome by an enormous shaking that was compounded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, registering 8.25 on the Richter scale. The quake resulted from a rupture in a part of the San Andreas fault, which lies underneath the earth's surface along the northern coast of California. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines throughout the Bay area, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century.

Perhaps more significant than the tremors and rumbling, which affected a swatch of California more than 200 miles long, were the fires that took over the city for three days, leaving chaos and horror in its wake. The human tragedy included the deaths of upwards of 700 people, with more than 250,000 left homeless. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Simon Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities -- as well as his unique understanding of geology -- to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. But his achievement is even greater: he positions the quake's significance along the earth's geological timeline and shows the effect it had on the rest of twentieth-century California and American history.

A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake. It is also a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

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Geologically speaking, 1906 was a violent year: powerful, destructive earthquakes shook the ground from Taiwan to South America, while in Italy, Mount Vesuvius erupted. And in San Francisco, a large earthquake occurred just after five in the morning on April 18--and that was just the beginning. The quake caused a conflagration that raged for the next three days, destroying much of the American West's greatest city. The fire, along with water damage and other indirect acts, proved more destructive than the earthquake itself, but insurance companies tried hard to dispute this fact since few people carried earthquake insurance. It was also the world's first major natural disaster to have been extensively photographed and covered by the media, and as a result, it left "an indelible imprint on the mind of the entire nation."

Though the epicenter of this marvelously constructed book is San Francisco, Winchester covers much more than just the disaster. He discusses how this particular quake led to greater scientific study of quakes in an attempt to understand the movements of the earth. Trained at Oxford University as a geologist, Winchester is well qualified to discuss the subject, and he clearly explains plate tectonics theory (first introduced in 1968) and the creation of the San Andreas Fault, along with the geologic exploration of the American West in the late 19th century and the evolution of technology used to measure and predict earthquakes. He also covers the social and political shifts caused by the disaster, such as the way that Pentecostalists viewed the quake as "a message of divine approval" and used it to recruit new members into the church, and the rise in the local Chinese population. With many records destroyed in the fire, there was no way to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, and thus many more Chinese were granted citizenship than would have otherwise been. Filled with eyewitness accounts, vivid descriptions, crisp prose, and many delightful meanderings, A Crack in the Edge of the World is a thoroughly absorbing tale. --Shawn Carkonen

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. Those books were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by her Majesty the Queen. He lives in Manhattan and in western Massachusetts.

In diesem Buch (Mehr dazu)
SO FAR AS THE ANCIENTS OF CHINA ARE CONCERNED, 1906 was a year of the Fire Horse-a time of grave unpredictability that comes along every six decades, and a time when all manner of strange events are inclined to occur. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Amazon.com: 3.7 von 5 Sternen  145 Rezensionen
36 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good overall, great at times and somewhat of a ramble 31. Dezember 2006
Von Patrick D. Goonan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This book by Simon Winchester has many good stories and contains as lot of useful information on earthquakes, geology and geography. It also contains a lot of good material that brings the period before, during and after the 1906 earthquake to life. However, this title also has a number of drawbacks that prevents it from being a great book.

Some of the issues for me were:

-- The title doesn't quite match the contents. The book is less focused than the title suggests.

-- I think more time should have been spent on deciding what to keep and what to cut. There is a lot of unnecessary detail and I wonder if the author forgot about the audience he had in mind as well as the main subject.

-- Sometimes the book is too rambling and the digressions are not interesting to many audiences, although extremely interesting to some. Should there have really been two even better books created from this material?

I'm not saying this book isn't worth reading. However, it's important to know what you are getting. If you want a concise and specific book on the SF earthquake alone, this is NOT it! If you want to know more about earthquakes in general and also understand more about the SF earthquake of 1906 then this might be great for you. In short, it is a more technical treatment than the title suggests and although it has a lot of good stories, they are not gathered into a cohesive well-organized whole.
36 von 37 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Another Tale of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 9. Oktober 2005
Von C. Hutton - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Simon Winchester is a storyteller and he rambles around the tale of the great earthquake of a century ago. This is not the definitive account of the 1906 quake but the account of what Mr. Winchester found to be interesting -- fortunately it is interesting for the reader too.

The book is a wonderful geology book for the non-science reader as Mr. Winchester lays out why the quake occurred where it occurred (see the maps within) with vignettes with the fallout from the quake. He also makes clear that the next San Francisco earthquake is just down the road and we are no more prepared for that one either. The book cover itself is innovative and almost worth the price of the book. For the reader desiring a more traditional history of the 1906 quake, see Dan Kurzman's "Disaster: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906" (2001).
88 von 98 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen The rough materials for a great book 9. Oktober 2005
Von Jay Dickson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Simon Winchester's love of learning and information is so incredibly infectious that even at his roughest his books do not fail to illuminate and interest. As with KRAKATOA, Winchester in A CRACK AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD takes a momentous geological event--in this case, the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906--and proceed to tell us as many stories leading up to and out of it as he possibly can, covering not merely accounts of the event itself (particularly the disastrous fires that came from it) but also ways of understanding the event within its multiple contexts. He tells us much about the commerical and social history of California as well as of the geology of the San Andreas Fault, Iceland, Missouri, Indonesia... s you can see, at times it _does_ get a little much. Winchester loves to amble through all these events at his own pace, but the result is a book that often reads as if it were hardly edited. His prose leaps about with weak transitions (along the lines of "As we have seen earlier," "And this brings us to Enrico Caruso," "And this is not the first time he shall appear in these pages, as we shall see," etc.) and seems as irruptive and eruptive as the events he chronicles; his intriguing and edifying narrative would have surely benefited from more studied editing and more careful organization. There's a wonderful book buried in here, but as with some of Winchester's earlier books this seems rushed and undigested.
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Worth a read; not his best stuff 10. Januar 2006
Von Peter Durfee - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I think this guy is one of the better nonfiction writers out there now. His "The Professor and the Madman" and "Krakatoa" and "The Map that Changed the World" are all fantastically entertaining and informative reads. "Crack," however, is his worst outing that I've read . . . It's a sprawling, chatty work that covers vast quantities of information in that peculiar voice that says "I'm really successful and can override my editors now."

The bad: There are really glaring factual errors (Alaska is a bit bigger than 600,000 acres). There are doubled-up currency markers like "$60 million dollars." These annoy the editor in me; someone should have caught them, and that nobody did underlines the lack of editorial care that has gone into the work as a whole. He intersperses his own road-trip memoirs far too liberally among the episodes detailing the 1906 earthquake that shook San Francisco to the ground.

The good: That said, the information he brings together is fascinating stuff. As a history of San Francisco (or of early California, really) this book, faults and all, is well worth the read. It was a wild city--the most important on the West Coast, until the aftermath of the quake sent business and population south to Los Angeles--and Winchester's work paints vivid pictures of the people and development trends that made it what it was.

I recommend this book, but I recommend that you read some of his other works too, to see what he's really capable of.
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen A good story spoiled 21. Juni 2007
Von CJA - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This is certainly an entertaining book and subject matter, and Winchester is erudite and at times can tell a compelling story. The problem is that his rambling digressions detract from a great story. The story is what caused the 1906 earthquake, how people experienced the tragedy, and what happened as a result. But Winchester gets sidetracked from this story with long autobiographical accounts of how he drove across the country and what happened to him in Iceland in 1967.

Also, Winchester is a bit too clever for his own good. For example, he tells an interesting account of how the earthquake spurred on the Pentecostal movement. But then he traces all this to the evangelical right wing and dwells on the irony of how the earthquake and its timing changed American history. But religious fundamentalism and revivalism have been a part of American history for centuries; the argument just doesn't hold water.

In the end, the book is worthwhile, and Winchester makes his points. His most interesting point is how Los Angeles supplanted San Francisco as the dominant West Coast city as a direct result of the earthquake and the city boosters attempt to spin the earthquake by blaming all the loss on the ensuing fire. Also interesting, and chilling, is analysis of the 1989 earthquake showing that it really did not release any of the tension built up in the section of the fault we're most worried about.

And another example of a point well made is Winchester's criticisms of the failure to San Francisco after the earthquake to re-think the architecture and vision of the city and to take advantage of the blank slate that the tragedy created (like Chicago did after the great fire and, arguably, like Berlin has done in rebuilding itself as a great capitol city). The boosters were too busy spinning the tragedy and getting things up and running right away. It looks like the same thing is going to happen with lower Manhattan, where Liebskind's initial brilliant vision keeps get re-written and sacrificed to shorter term interests.

The book would have been much better with a re-write that focuses more on the story at hand and less on the digressions.
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