Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology
A nondescript storefront operation in Los Angeles, California, the Museum of Jurassic Technology actually exists—that may be the only thing about it that is for certain. The creation of David Wilson, a man of prodigiously unusual imagination, the museum is crammed full of some of the most astonishingly unbelievable marvels known to man. Visitors to the museum continually find themselves caught between wondering at the marvels of craft and nature that are on display and wondering whether any of this could possibly be true. Indeed, Wilson’s true subject seems to be wonder itself, the delicious human capacity for astonishment and absorption out of which all true creativity arises.
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder begins as a simple investigation of the tiny storefront in southern California and spirals out into a consideration of the origins of all modern museums in the wonder-cabinets of the sixteenth century, the generative role of pure imagination in both art and science, the mystifying bases of the authoritative in every field, and, not least, the actual existence and profound significance of human horns.
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.