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Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology Paperback – November 26, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the non-Aristotelian, non-Euclidean, non-Newtonian space between the walls of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles exist bats that can fly through lead barriers, spore-ingesting pronged ants, elaborate theories of memory, and a host of other off-kilter scientific oddities that challenge the traditional notions of truth and fiction. Lawrence Weschler's book, expanded from an article for Harper's, is, at turns, a tour of the museum, a profile of its founder and curator, David Wilson, and a meditation on the role of imagination and authority in all museums, in science and in life. Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder is an exquisite piece of "magic realist nonfiction" that will prove utterly captivating. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

New Yorker staff writer Weschler probes into L.A.'s highly unusual Museum of Jurassic Technology in this NBCC finalist.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679764895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764892
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. It's beautifully written and captures perfectly the spirit of the Museum of Jurassic Technology. By the way, the Museum is real -- I've been there. I wandered in not knowing what it was and was immediately hooked. Having read this book, I like the Museum even more. David Wilson is a national treasure.
One recommendation to anyone lucky enough to read this book: don't flip through and look at the pictures first. Read it from beginning to end as it was intended, or you'll ruin the story.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
What is a museum? Are the things we see in a museum "the truth", and how did they come to be so? These questions and others fill Lawrence Weschler's marvelous extended essay, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder. Weschler takes as his jumping-off point the very real "Museum of Jurassic Technology," privately owned and operated in Los Angeles by David Wilson. In this book, Wechsler tells how European museums began as private collections of "wonder-ful" objects, with the focus less on whether the object was "true" than whether it evoked amazement. Many of the objects in Wilson's "Museum" appear real, and are described in the dry, precise prose known to museum viewers around the world. But they are not real. Or are they? This short (168 pages, with endnotes) book examines both the "wonders" of Wilson's storefront museum and the even more astounding wonders of the real world in gifted and sprightly prose. Not to be missed!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I can't praise this book highly enough; I second everything in the foregoing reader comments. The book manages to pull off an awesome coup, explaining Mr. Wilson's work without demystifying it, and emotionally paralleling the author's own discovery process with the reader's. A unique and wonderful book, not least because while it's an enlightening and frequently hilarious read, even as it keeps you entertained, it subtly, unpretentiously, and subversively changes the way you look at the world. I'm giving it five stars; I wish I could give a hundred times as many.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Rimorin on December 5, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after visiting the beautiful and strange Museum of Jurassic Technology. I was first discomfited to find that the Museum's wonders could be -- how could they be? -- frauds and hoaxes. I was at first crushed and a little annoyed at Mr Weschler's seeming cynicism-- unlike me, he had apparently rushed immediately out to fact-check the exhibits' provenance, and gleefully points out how most visitors had been hoodwinked. However, Mr Weschler moves from simple cynicism to a greater appreciation of the Museum's gnomic aims, and the reader moves with him from everyday disbelief and sour disgruntlement to a rapturous awe. A magnificent book, and a worthy addition to study of the Lower Jurassic.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Hawkins on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Weschler's animated look at the 'asthetically just' museum curator David Wilson and an examination, in the book's second part, of the history of 'Wonder-cabinets' from the sixteenth century to the present day is a fascinating mix of profile, historical inquiry, and detective story. David Wilson and his museum are almost too good to be true and should encourage anyone who can get to Los Angeles to visit the MJT. The prose throughout is superb: Weschler is a master at making people talk on the page, and his own thoughts are conveyed in a prose that mimics colloquial speech -- a murderously difficult thing to do. I have read all of Weschler's books, and this, I think, is his very best.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brandy Agerbeck on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well, the editorial reviews above tell you about as much as you should know about this book pre-reading it. Put abstractly, this book is about what is real and what isn't, who says so and most importantly, about _wonder_.
You know how you think you have a handle on how big the world is and what it contains? And then you see or read or hear something than makes you realize how small your view is? After reading this book, I felt the space inside my head get bigger to accomodate all the things I hadn't considered.
I'm a small lending library with several copies of this title around to get more folks reading this brilliant book. Although this should be required reading for all inquisitive types, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder is a fantastic read for folks heading off to college - especially grad school - because it gets you asking good questions about schalorship, what we know and what we don't know.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful, compelling book. The notion of wonder is approached in a way that gives one pause to wonder about what's become of wonder in our own lives. I was especially taken by Weschler's idea that the discovery of the New World was a key event in inspiring all those wacky, creative, nutty people to collect everything and anything. It makes me smile to think what it must have been like for those individuals to contemplate the news of discoveries made in the New World. What an exciting period in the history of ideas. Weschler conveys this excitement and sense of wonder beautifully; he's an elegant, graceful and funny writer. And Mr Wilson is a wonder himself in every way. This is a terrific book and it will change the way you look at your world, wherever that might be.
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Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology
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