In honor of our “seismologic day” yesterday, we looked at literature in which earthquakes played a major role. Natural disasters have always been a transformative force in fiction, a way of literally and metaphorically shaking things up. David Ulin of the L.A. Times selected nine books that “channel both our terror and awe” of earthquakes. We chose a few of our favorite shaky titles our own below.
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (2000)
Surreal, bizarre, yet grounded in very real tragedy, the stories in this collection take place in the months between the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the deadly poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subway the same year. These brief, meditative stories examine the transformative effects of natural disaster.
Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
Before finding a mass audience with The Corrections, Franzen already had a knack for using environmental upheaval as a device to magnify the personal upheaval of his characters. The “strong motion” from the title refers to a series of earthquakes mysteriously rocking Boston; discovering the source of the quakes complicates everything for Louis Holland and his seismologist girlfriend.
The River Wife by Jonis Agee (2007)
Romance and disaster converge in this family saga set in Missouri’s rural boot heel. In 1811, the New Madrid earthquake rocks Missouri, crippling 17-year-old Annie Lark, who is rescued from certain death by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme. Annie begins the rugged life as Jacques’ “river wife,” setting off a multi-generational tale of seduction, violence, and tragedy.
1906 by James Dallesandro (2005)
This historical fiction begins as a complex, multi-layered crime noir about political corruption until the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the ensuing fires create all-out chaos throughout the city.
Richter 10 by Arthur C. Clarke and Mike McQuay (1997)
Set 30 years after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that struck Los Angeles, Lewis Crane is on a mission to rid the world of earthquakes for good by setting of nuclear explosions along fault lines.
Follow Stephan on Twitter: @stepephan