Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

After producing nine books on scientific subjects, in his late sixties Loren Eiseley turned to an account of his own life and career. Though All the Strange Hours may strike the young adult reader as a highly unusual autobiography, its subtitle, The Excavation of a Life, illuminates its complex structure. Just as Eiseley, an anthropologist, had reconstructed the life-styles of vanished tribes by examining scattered and fragmentary remains, he narrates his own life by centering on scattered, isolated experiences and images that remained vivid in his mind. The work reads more like a series of impressionistic personal essays than a carefully structured biographical narrative. A few black-and-white illustrations serve to complement the book’s tone—that of an individual’s grim struggle for meaning, for success, and for a measure of security.

The twenty-five chapters are divided among three major headings. “Days of a Drifter” gives an account of Eiseley’s difficult and sometimes traumatic early life in Nebraska. In “Days of a Thinker,” the book explores his graduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and his early career as an anthropologist and university teacher. The final section, “Days of a Doubter,” focuses on his later career, including his uncertainties about its significance and his penchant for advancing scientific knowledge through questioning previously accepted views. The autobiography’s concluding...

(The entire section is 586 words.)