|Yet another Penguin edition
for me to covet
So it’s a completely random story where a group of grown men go traipsing off into the jungle to see what they can find and maybe prove that Professor Challenger isn’t delusional but it’s one that doesn’t take itself too seriously so it never seems like it’s trying too hard or falling over itself for validation. Maybe because Sir ACD wrote it later in his career when Sherlock Holmes was already a tour de force. This is the kind of story of exploration and braving new frontiers that you just don’t see any more. There’s an innocence about the sort-of-intrepid explorers and the novel itself that’s really kind of charming. Sir ACD (sorry – blame Hanna) doesn’t try to come up with a pseudo-scientific explanation as to how there might ever be dinosaurs just hanging out in the jungle because he probably didn’t have to. We know now that the premise was daft but did his original readers in the early 20th century? Maybe there was still enough of an element of uncertainty that it stopped readers thinking it was bonkers and the cast of academics gave the tale enough gravitas to sweep them away. Or maybe pre-World War England was prepared to have little fun with what it didn’t know about the world. I’m happy to pretend that either is true.
And what I think really made it for me (yep, another thing) was that, somehow, it’s obvious that Sir ACD isn’t just trying not to write about modern technology but that it just wasn’t there. There are compasses and maps and ill-timed letters and no cameras with which to prove your experiences in far flung lands and it works perfectly and I fell for it completely. It doesn’t feel like there’s a gap where he’s dodging some modern creation that would have given his plucky heroes the answer and it just…well, it just works. I know that the story is faintly ridiculous, even for it’s time probably, but this is yet another classic where I can honestly say that I just didn’t care. That’s becoming a kind of theme for me – I’ll forgive these classic authors their jaunty silliness because the writing is almost always spot on and the themes hark back to a time when plausibility wasn’t the key to a good adventure and there were enough unknowns to make filling the gaps with dinosaurs a worthy pastime.