University of Queensland Press
Narrated by a 13,000-year-old extinct American mastodon, Mammoth is the (mostly) true story of how the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy and the narrator himself came to be on sale at a 2007 natural history auction in Manhattan.
Ranging from the Pleistocene Epoch to nineteenth-century America and beyond, including detours to Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, Mammoth illuminates a period of history when ideas about science and religion underwent significant change. By tracing how and when the fossils were unearthed, Mammoth traverses time and place to reveal humanity’s role in the inexorable destruction of the natural world.
This is not my usual sort of read – in fact it is probably unlike anything I have read before or will read again😊. The narrator is the voice of an extinct mammoth – one with a very droll sense of humour and a melodious story telling style. Simply put, I felt like I was a child, snuggled in a chair (or bed) being told a rambling bedtime story about the world as it was and how the hominids wreaked havoc and destruction on the environment.
The book is full of thought provoking and enlightening anecdotes, one that is a standout is the mammoth’s reflection on ownership. “Ownership is a strange, uniquely human notion. The bipeds are obsessed with staking their claim over places, people and things. I cannot understand it. No beast of air, land or sea ever asserted the right of possession over another creature, except to devour it. The hominids don’t even eat each other anymore.” p37. Such a simply stated yet relevant observation, Mammoth is such a brilliant observer.
To complete this unusual read is a cast of curious (deceased, extinct, mummified or fossilised) creatures; the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy. I particularly liked the irreverent voice of the Tyrannosaurus bataar.
This unusual book is the perfect read for these unusual times