In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety An earthquake in Napa Valley this week brought back old fears for author Gustavo Arellano. In his anxiety he's revisiting the book A Crack in the Edge of the World.
NPR logo

In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/344324494/344328009" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety

In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/344324494/344328009" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

People in California's Napa Valley are still cleaning up after an earthquake that struck early Sunday morning. It was a magnitude of 6.0 - the worst there in 25 years. In this week's Must Read, author Gustavo Arellano offers a literary perspective on the seismic event.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: When the quake hit, a lot of media focused on Napa's famous wine industry because America needs to know that our stock of cabs and zinfandels is safe. I, on the other hand, got anxious. This earthquake injured dozens of people and caused a lot of damage. But it's nothing compared to the big one.

The big one is what we southern Californians know is coming to us. The catastrophic quake that seismologists say will happen someday, but no one knows when. So every time I see a little movement - every sway of a lamp or rattle of a pan - it puts me on edge, makes me duck and cover. And then I turn to literature.

After the Napa quake, I reopened Simon Winchester's book "A Crack In The Edge Of The World: America And The Great California Earthquake Of 1906," you know, for some light reading. The book tells the story of a massive quake that killed over 3,000 people and essentially leveled San Francisco. Winchester describes houses turned into piles of sticks, thousands of people left homeless for months, city blocks destroyed by the fires that followed.

But the books most terrifying passage takes place on the morning of the earthquake. Here, Winchester describes the calm before the disaster hits. The breeze was westerly, but light. Dawn was unfolding quietly, serenely. All was perfect peace. Cliche? Sure. But that's the scary thing about earthquakes. You never know when they're coming or where. So I guess I'll just wait and read and reread a Winchester's book again and again until the big one arrives. Happy Labor Day.

SIEGEL: That was Gustavo Arellano. He's the editor of OC Weekly and author of "Taco USA." The book that he recommended is "A Crack In The Edge Of The World" by Simon Winchester.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Stay tuned we have more ALL THINGS CONSIDERED coming up right after this.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.