“But see! nearer and nearer the great fish comes, mouthful after mouthful of the fishes falling into its horrid jaws. It must be starving; so eager is it for its prey that is seems unconscious of the fact that the tide has turned and is moving outward. Now it discovers its danger and turns, but too late. The water has gone back to the dep, leaving it struggling for breath in a shallow pool. It thrashes wildly about with its tail, whose sticky secretions help to envelop it more and more thickly with mud and slime, until at last its struggles cease.”
This is from the autobiography The Life of a Fossil Hunter by Charles Sternberg, written in 1909. I stumbled upon this title in the afterward of Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton. His widow Sherri did a nice epilogue and mentioned the Sternberg book as one that Michael had used in his extensive research for Dragon Teeth.
As you can read in the section above, the style of autobiography and memoir was a little bit different back then than it is today. In today’s memoir, we would learn about how abuse in his childhood caused him to seek out a career in the wilderness, how his career caused lifelong challenges in all his relationships and he overcame all kind of obstacles to achieve his desires. That’s pretty much how every memoir written in the last few years read anyway. In Sternberg’s autobiography, he mentions a son about 1/3 of the way through the book. Then he mentions a son about 2/3 of the way through. We he mentions in the conclusion that he has “raised up a race of fossil hunters”, we learn that there are at least two sons, but that’s it. No courtship, no marriage, no discussion of any toll his work/travels took on his wife… in fact, the word “wife” doesn’t even come up in this book.
But he did know how to breathe life into his fossil finds!
What’s the oldest book you’ve read recently?