the time to read them...

Books I have read. More for me than for you, but I guess that depends on who you are. If you stalk me, than this will probably be more useful for you than me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

I have wanted to read this for about 5 years. My upcoming visit to the Museum of Jurassic Technology pressed the issue. First, the book is very short. A lot of the book is notes and bibliography, etc. That leads me to the most annoying part of this book--endnotes! Grr! They are too long to be footnotes, I guess, because they really are notes/anecdotes, and not references. There aren't a lot of references even though there is clearly a lot of research.

I would say the first half is great. This is a wonderful subject. I love Mr. Wilson. However the second half, which could have told me a whole lot more about the museum, its creator, and its exhibits, instead researches the bejesus out of only a few exhibits. Basically, it's a very academic research project to figure out whether the exhibits are true or not. The final conclusion is that most of them are really true, so the whole background research is kinda boring and useless.

Overall I did like this book because I was so excited about the subject matter. But it's really hard to read about all the non-interesting parts without getting to the good parts. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, so apparently many people liked it. It really walks the line between "popular" and "academic." I think it fails this, as the only good parts of academic books (facts! footnotes!) are not used, but the bad parts (long, long references to Freud. Extensive quoting from manuals in non-modern English, a lack of reporting of actual events in favor of discussing cultural impact).

I guess this review will not be complete until I visit the museum!


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