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9 earthquake books revisited

August 23, 2011 |  1:32 pm

The earthquake that hit the East Coast on Tuesday had a 5.8 magnitude and was centered near Richmond, Va. It was felt by many in New York City and tremors were reported to be felt as far away as Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Although the earthquake was widely felt, early reports indicate that destruction was not extensive. One significant icon, the National Cathedral, has sustained damage; the Washington Post reports that the tip of its spire fell to the ground.

Book critic David L. Ulin is our literary earthquake expert; he's the author of "The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith." In March, after the earthquake in Japan, he wrote, "For as long as we have experienced seismicity, we have written about it, going back to the Book of Acts." Ulin detailed nine works (one each for the Japanese earthquake's points of magnitude) that, he writes, "channel both our terror and our awe."

After the jump, the nine titles on Ulin's list.

This list of nine literary treatments of earthquakes is in chronological order.

1) "The Earthquake in Chile" by Heinrich von Kleist, published 1807.

2) "The Flutter of an Eyelid" by Myron Brinig, published 1933.

3) "The Folklore of Earthquakes" by Carey McWilliams, published 1933.

4) "Ask the Dust" by John Fante, published 1939.

5) "Quake" by Rudolph Wurlitzer, published 1972.

6) "Monster in a Box" by Spalding Gray, a 1990 monologue.

7) "Annals of the Former World" by John McPhee, published 1998.

8) "Five Fires: Race, Catastrophe, and the Shaping of California" by David Wyatt, published 1999.

9) "After the Quake" by Haruki Murakami, published in 2000.

Read more about all of these books here.


The New Yorker brings back Haruki Murakami story for Japan issue

Chilean earthquakes through a writer's eyes - not Bolaño but Kleist

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: On the street in Washington, D.C., after Tuesday's earthquake. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press Photos