The Strange Story of Our Earth

NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.

The library here, in this creaky old hunter’s cabin by the side of the road, is a weird mix of books about machines, nature, and Christianity–with titles such as Bear!, Fix Your Chevrolet, Cowpokes Ride Again, Old Gun Catalogs, Best Ways to Catch More Fish in Fresh and Salt Water, Is the Bible REALLY the Word of God?, and Father Smith Instructs Jackson, a instructional manual for Catholicism written entirely in Socratic dialogue form.

But my favorite so far is The Strange Story of Our Earth, a science book for kids, published in 1952. It reads like science written by Nabokov’s Kinbote; in other words, you might hope that a book about something “strange” would answer questions, but instead it leaves them dangling and convoluted, the author preferring to pick fights with unnamed enemies. I can’t imagine a kid reading this and not wanting to run the hell away from science, screaming.

This is the book’s final paragraph:

If the ancient inhabitants of America domesticated the Megatherium why shouldn’t they have domesticated other creatures including the horses? At all events even if some scientists will not admit that the first Americans originated in America they must admit that the Americans were the first men to domesticate large animals, for as far as known, dogs were the only animals domesticated by the men of the Old World at the time.

Why should they not have indeed? replies the 10-year-old in the early fifties, making a mental note to give the humanities a closer look.