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05/06/2003 Archived Entry: "Brit Wit"
Posted by CKL @ 03:15 PM PST

British people are cool. I saw Simon Winchester at Kepler's bookstore last night, reading from his new book, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883. Sure, he tosses off words like "valedictory" (used as a noun) in his prose, but he actually speaks with the same uniquely English demeanor. He says "angler," instead of "fisherman," and "double entendre" with the correct French pronounciation. Cool.

As the title implies, the book is more concerned with the aftereffects of the eruption than the event itself-- those looking for physical, chemical, or geological dissertations will need to look elsewhere. Winchester is fascinated by the ripples in human history, and held forth with great energy on topics like submarine telegraph lines. International telegraphy enabled Bostonians to learn of the Krakatoa disaster just hours after it occurred. Eighteen years earlier, Londoners did not know that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated until nearly two weeks after his death, since the news had to travel across the Atlantic by ship.

Winchester is now moving to San Francisco to work on his next book, a non-fiction account of the 1906 earthquake. He wants to finish it in time to be published before the centennial anniversary of the quake.

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