Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology

by Lawrence Weschler

Paperback(First Vintage Books Edition)

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Finalist for Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
Finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

Pronged ants, horned humans, a landscape carved on a fruit pit--some of the displays in David Wilson's Museum of Jurassic Technology are hoaxes. But which ones? As he guides readers through an intellectual hall of mirrors, Lawrence Weschler revisits the 16th-century "wonder cabinets" that were the first museums and compels readers to examine the imaginative origins of both art and science.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679764892
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/1996
Edition description: First Vintage Books Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 549,419
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.53(d)

About the Author

Lawrence Weschler was for over twenty years (1981-2002) a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies.  He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award and was also a recipient of Lannan Literary Award. his nonfiction book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The books begins when Lawrence Weschler wanders into the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, where he encounters an oddly fascinating collection of exhibits. Beginning with the Cameroonian stink ant and the spores of a fungus, which when inhaled, cause the ant to climb upward, eventually grabbing onto the vine or trunk with his mandible, where he dies. The fungus then sprouts from the ant's forehead, raining spores down on the unsuspecting ants below. Other exhibits include a theory of memory, a very small bat and a collection of antlers, which includes the horn of Mary Davis of Saughall.Weschler is understandably intrigued, and speaking with David Wilson, the museum's owner and curator, adds to his curiosity. Professionally presented, the museum nonetheless awakens seeds of doubt in his mind, which sprout when he researches the exhibits. Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder looks at our ideas about museums and looks at how museums came to be; originating from the wunderkammern of the early enlightenment, where wealthy men collected interesting items and grouped them together in a room or cabinet for the wonderment of his guests. Classification was optional and certainly different, with one collection includingtwo huge ribs from a whale (out in the courtyard); "a goose which has grown in Scotland in a tree"; "a number of things changed into stone" (in other words, fossils); the hand of a mermaid; the hand of a mummy; a small piece of wood from the cross of Christ"; "pictures from the church of S. Sofia in Constantinople copies by a Jew into a book"; "a bat as large as a pigeon"...There is a lot packed into this slender book, from the nature of wonder itself to the history of those fascinating and eclectic cabinets of curiosity, which sprang up when explorers to the far east and the Americas began returning with things never before seen and as superstition gave way to reason.
adzebill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An endearing extended essay on a very eccentric man and his museum.
lisa_emily on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A small book which opens vistas how thinking about museums and their collections. While reading, I also thought about taxonomy and how we organize the stuff we are surronded by.
fundevogel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This turned out to be better than I expected. Quite good actually. It attempts to share a taste of the Museum of Jurassic Technology with the reader. I've been to the Museum (located in Los Angeles) which is not like any other museum I've been to. The book does a good job reproducing the seamless blending a fact with fantasy that happens there even as the author retells his attempt to sort the truth from the fiction in the museum's exhibits and history. I can't imagine a more perfect approach to a book about a contemporary wunderkammen.
mosaic42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended.As a boy I wandered the halls of London's British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and other massive dusty relics of empire, and Weschler entertainingly and convincingly connects the dots between an arguably insane collector of bizarre scientific trivia in Los Angeles, and the important history of collecting that is the foundation of much scientific, archaeological and anthropological knowledge.The world is an exceedingly strange place; and though modern credulity will no longer accept narwhal tusks as unicorn horns, there are still wonders out there. And who can say which freakish quirks of nature are important glimpses of truth, and which are merely roadside ephemera?(john)