Monday, March 1, 2010

Life Through the Ages

Charles Knight, Stephen Jay Gould wrote, was "...the person most responsible for our usual sense, our everyday 'feel,' of the nature, status, beauty, strangeness, and fascination of prehistoric life."

My copy of the commemorative edition Charles Knight's Life Through the Ages, which I ordered during the recent Indiana University Press 60% off sale, arrived today. Gould's foreword, from which the above quote comes, and Philip J. Currie's introduction are largely concerned with paying homage to Knight and explaining why his work still deserves an audience. Yes, it is an annoyance when modern artists lazily copy Knight's renderings of dinosaur anatomy. But that's hardly Knight's fault; he was going by the best information paleontology could provide at the time. Gould was a champion of the voices that are voided by progress. Having been a devoted reader of his, I've got a bit of that in me, too. What I see here are not a bunch of obsolete sketches but the work of a man who was completely in the thrall of life's evolving forms. I'm really digging this book.

The last book I ordered was Dinosaur Odyssey. It was left at a door we don't use, in a bad stretch of weather; I found it some unknown number of days after it arrived, caked in ice and frozen to the porch. The postal service must have read my enraged FB status and learned their lesson. Impotent rage expressed on the interwebs works!

UPDATED: Forgot to mention the fine Charles Knight website, located right about here. It's run by his family and is a fine place to learn more about him and see a lot of his work.

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