For a guy who thinks a lot about earthquakes, Simon Winchester -- my guest on tonight's show (at 7:30 p.m.; repeated on Friday at 10:30 p.m.) -- seemed remarkably relaxed during our conversation. I, on the other hand, was feeling pretty darned shaky -- having just finished reading his latest book, A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. Ever since I experienced the Fairly-Big-One of '89, I'd wondered what it was like in '06. Well, now I know: it was bad -- really, really bad. What the Great Quake didn't destroy, the Great Fire that followed did its best to erase. But I learned something very heartening as well: in the immediate aftermath of the '06 quake, people -- acting together through their government -- carried out amazing acts of kindness and support. So that the book ends up being not just a masterful account of the awesome geological forces that can make our individual lives seem insignificant; it's also a chronicle of how our shared endeavors can bring out the most laudable aspects of our humanity.
In person, Winchester radiates warmth. He's a raconteur's raconteur -- a guy you'd want to want to be chatting with at an isolated tavern that had been snowed-in for the day. He delights in finding seemingly loose threads and tying them together in unexpected ways. Plus he's got a soothing voice and a great British accent. If only he hadn't kept bringing up all that stuff about earthquakes, I might even have gotten a bit loosey-goosey myself. ...
Also on this episode: a "Wandering Josh" segment in which I help a man accomplish his long-held dream of honoring Daly City as the true epicenter of the '06 quake -- even if Daly City doesn't want him to!
4 comments November 21st, 2005