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Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

A Rookery of Pterodactyls

May 22, 2014 | by

In celebration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday, have a look at these illustrations from the original serialization of his novel The Lost World, which appeared in The Strand Magazine from April through November of 1912. Conan Doyle’s novel tells of an expedition to South America, where—wouldn’t you know it?—dinosaurs still roam the earth. Everyone associates Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, but The Lost World also left its mark on popular culture: though Conan Doyle borrowed a large part of its conceit from Jules Verne, it remains the paradigm for a sort of swashbuckling supernatural adventure, full of bumbling professorial types and out-of-their-depth journalists and strapping, granite-abdomened men in pith helmets. It’s served as the source material for everything from The Land That Time Forgot to Land of the Lost and plain old Lost, and, of course, for Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, the sequel to Jurassic Park.

This is no country for Jeff Goldblum, but these illustrations, full of terror and adventure, do seem like the sort of thing Steven Spielberg and George Lucas might have hanging in their offices—and there’s definitely something of that Industrial Light & Magic awe in Conan Doyle’s vivid description of a pterodactyl nest:

Creeping to his side, we looked over the rocks. The place into which we gazed was a pit, and may, in the early days have been one of the smaller volcanic blow-holes of the plateau. It was bowl-shaped, and at the bottom, some hundreds of yards from where we lay, were pools of green-scummed, stagnant water, fringed with bulrushes. It was a weird place in itself, but its occupants made it seem like a scene from the Seven Circles of Dante. The place was a rookery of pterodactyls. There were hundreds of them congregated within view. All the bottom area round the water-edge was alive with their young ones, and with hideous mothers brooding upon their leathery, yellowish eggs. From this crawling flapping mass of obscene reptilian life came the shocking clamor which filled the air and the mephitic, horrible, musty odor which turned us sick. But above, perched each upon its own stone, tall, grey, and withered, more like dead and dried specimens than actual living creatures, sat the horrible males, absolutely motionless save for the rolling of their red eyes or an occasional snap of their rat-trap beaks as a dragon-fly went past them. Their huge membranous wings were closed by folding their forearms, so that they sat like gigantic old women, wrapped in hideous web-colored shawls, and with their ferocious heads protruding above them. Large and small, not less than a thousand of these filthy creatures lay in the hollow before us.

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Mrs. Crist

August 16, 2012 | by

In early July, 1971, just out of journalism school, I took off for Paris. My intention was to spend a year or so freelancing. To this end, I carried with me assignments from two very small magazines and a sealed envelope, which I’d been given by Judith Crist, lately my critical-writing professor at Columbia’s School of Journalism.

“Give this to Murray Weiss at the International Trib,” she instructed.

Weiss was the editor in chief of that august journal and, she said, formerly a colleague of hers at its long-defunct but still much-admired progenitor, the New York Herald Tribune.

“What’s in it?”

“Don’t worry, just give it to him.”

A week or so later, in the Trib offices on the rue de Berri, I handed it over to Weiss’s no-nonsense assistant. “It’s from Judith Crist,” I said meaningfully—not the twenty-two-year-old nothing standing before her.

She walked briskly to the office beyond, and, after a long beat, like in a too-obvious movie, there came a roar of laughter. “Send him in!”

Weiss was behind his desk, holding the letter, still looking much amused. He half rose to shake my hand. “Listen,” he said, chuckling, “this is very nice of Judy. But, no, I’m not going to fire our film critic and hire you.”

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