Excerpt from Earth by Richard Fortey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Earth

An Intimate History

by Richard Fortey

Earth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2004, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2005, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


This rock is called the Campanian Ignimbrite. Its origin was a catastrophe that happened 35,000 years ago: a gigantic volcanic explosion threw out at least 100 cubic kilometres of pumice and ash. The evidence still covers an area of more than 30,000 square kilometres around the Bay of Naples, extending from Roccamonfina in the north to Salerno in the south. The violence of this eruption would make the event that buried Pompeii seem like a small afterthought. An explosion of steam and gluey lava blew out a great hole in the earth at the edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea—not so much a bite out of Italy's profile as a huge punch. A vast cloud of incandescent material buoyed up with gas flowed like a fiery tidal wave across the limestone terrain. Lumps of volcanic rock were carried along willy-nilly in the mayhem: destruction of vegetation was complete. When the cloud settled, in many places it was hot enough to fuse solid: the wispy remains of volcanic fragments testify to this welding.* There were almost certainly Palaeolithic human witnesses to this destruction, who must have thought the gods had gone berserk. The legacy of the earth's ferocity is this apparently mundane rock that looks like cake. The angular fragments of rock within can now be seen for what they are—pieces of a destroyed volcano. It is ironic that this destruction has now been reversed into constructing buildings that are “safe as houses.” Naturally, nothing is safe in this uncertain world. Looking down from the limestone hills you can imagine the hot, devastating clouds settling over where limoncello is now brewed and pizzas are spun, dumping down on the low ground as a thick, lethal blanket. These kinds of rocks were deposited from pyroclastic surges. Another eruption about 23,000 years later was marginally less devastating and did not spread so widely—it produced a different deposit known as the Tufo Galliano Napoletano, the Neapolitan yellow tuff. Rather than the colour of cake, it is the colour of Dijon mustard. Once you can recognize it, you spot blocks of it in many walls and buildings around Naples itself—it is almost reminiscent of the “London stock” bricks that make the Georgian parts of the English capital so appealing. It is there in the walls of Roman remains. Most experts believe that the volcanoes that remain to this day in the Campi Flegrei are aligned around the edge of the massive hole, or caldera, left behind as the legacy of this second huge eruption. The Bay of Naples itself hides most of it. It may yet blow again.

Excerpted from Earth by Richard Fortey Copyright © 2005 by Richard Fortey. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...
  • Book Jacket: I Contain Multitudes
    I Contain Multitudes
    by Ed Yong
    If a stranger were to accost you on the street and tell you that, from birth, you have never been ...
  • Book Jacket: Night of the Animals
    Night of the Animals
    by Bill Broun
    Debut novelist Bill Broun is a gentle, exquisite literary surgeon. His protagonist, 90-year-old ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.