This week was the gathering
of the Los Angeles chapter of the Edan Lepucki fan club. Or so it seemed. Edan read
to an adoring full house at the legendary Book Soup, where she began her career
as a bookseller, for the paperback release of her bestselling novel, California. I think of this novel as the story of
one ordinary couple’s relationship, albeit under the extraordinary circumstances of an apocalypse of sorts (a vision that may prove to be prescient due to California’s drought.) As
interested as I am in relationship books as an adult, as a child I was obsessed with books about the apocalypse. A cold war kid with a vivid imagination fueled by
school duck and cover drills and fire and brimstone Baptist preachers. I even shared
my concerns with both President Carter and President Reagan in handwritten
letters to the White House. (Carter wrote back, Reagan didn’t.)
My Top Five Favorite Apocalyptic
- California. A
strange and wonderful post-apocalyptic relationship story that treads lightly
in the world of science fiction while digging deep into the complexities of
- Alas, Babylon.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of reading this book. This 1959
classic about the aftermath of a nuclear attack scared the hell out of me, particularly since the impetus was an accident–a concept even a child can understand.
- Age of Miracles. Those of you working on your own novel will be inspired by the author’s story
of waking up at dawn every morning for four years to write before her day job began. Her efforts paid off with a charming coming-of-age story about a young
girl who happens to be living during an apocalyptic event: the rotation of the
earth is thrown off resulting in the days and nights growing longer and longer.
You can imagine the remarkable repercussions related to sleep, crops, tides,
etc. but it’s the beautiful prose and loss of innocence at the heart of the
novel that are most striking.
- Cat’s Cradle.
I love Kurt Vonnegut and this is my favorite of his novels. You could say that
all of Vonnegut’s novels are apocalyptic, in their vision at least, blackly
fatalistic as he is. But as usual Vonnegut is also profound and funny and weird
- The Brief History of the Dead. On a family outing I drove the cart and read this book
while everyone else played golf. A golf course proved to be a surreal setting in which to read this
haunting book that I couldn’t put down. Author Kevin Brockmeier imagines the
afterlife: a city where those who have died on earth now reside, as long as
they are still remembered by someone on Earth. (Let that sink in for a moment.
So beautiful. So sad.) He calls it “the City.” And the City is shrinking, a
fact that implies an apocalyptic event has occurred on Earth.