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Book Title: The Cabinet of Curiosities|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 319 KB
v The author of the book: Douglas Preston
Edition: Grand Central Publishing
Date of issue: November 20th 2012
ISBN 13: 9781455519385
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books The Cabinet of Curiosities:Thus far, I have, for whatever reason, been comparing the Pendergastian works of Messrs. Preston and Child to food (see, for example, here and here). It’s entirely possible I have a tapeworm. That said, in keeping with that theme, let’s call Cabinet of Curiosities a pumpkin spice latte.
On a crisp late October day with the leaves overhead a blaze of orange, red, and yellow, there are few more sublime experiences than sitting outside and sipping a pumpkin spice latte while you enjoy that blaze of color (good company or a good book might, of course, further enhance the experience). The weather, flavor, and mood all mingle together perfectly, complementary parts whose whole is considerably greater than the proverbial sum of its parts. Sure, you know you’re drinking something flavored with an artificial substance that’s probably equal parts carcinogen, extract of gecko, and stray cat urine, but you’re not worried about that—you’re just enjoying the moment because you’re exactly where you want to be doing exactly what you want to do while drinking exactly what you want to drink.
What happens, however, if we contemplate having that same drink on a sunny and sweltering mid-July day, when, in the immortal words of Meat Loaf (or Jim Steinman, really), the “skin on the streets is a-gleaming with sweat” and the redolent stench of rotting garbage stings your nostrils because the moment anyone puts anything curbside, it heats instantly to the point of putrefaction? Suddenly, not only are weather, flavor, and mood not happily mingling, but they’re actually engaged in open hostilities (the PSL, of course, would be lobbing pumpkin bombs at the others, Green Goblin-style), and you want no part of any of them.
It should go without saying that this is, of course, solely my exceedingly subjective view, but Cabinet is the type of book that, when you’re in the mood for it, is like that first pumpkin spice latte of the season that you just can’t drink fast enough. If you’re not in the mood, though, it’s the kind of thing where, after a few sips, you want to dump the thing, kick yourself for essentially setting five dollars on fire, and then rectify the problem with an iced mocha (point of fact: an iced mocha can generally be used to rectify any problem regardless of severity, season, or circumstance).
Fortunately, I was, by and large, in the mood when I embarked on reading Cabinet, though that mood waxed and waned a bit as I read, which made the less superb parts of the book—flat characters, overly nefarious villains, lengthy descriptive passages, improbable coincidences—leap out more than they might have under other circumstances. That said, this is a thrilling addition to the Pendergast oeuvre, and the first book where he really takes center stage—which is good, because he’s by far the most compelling character here. We get to see Pendergast in his Sherlockian mind palace (yes, I know the concept predates the BBC’s Sherlock, but I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that the show has popularized the idea a fair bit), learn a bit about his family’s crazy history, and see him in a more human light than we have thus far.
“Cabinet of curiosities” was the term used to describe private collections of esoteric natural history miscellanea (often of dubious origin) that men of means and a scientific bent as well as hucksters of the first order put on display in the days before natural history museums existed (they were, in fact, precursors to those worthy institutions); such collections might include everything from a giant whale bone to the shrunken head of a cannibal to a yeti penis (see previous comment re: dubious origin). The book introduces us to perhaps the creepiest (and most comprehensive) cabinet of curiosities ever assembled (well, fictionally, anyway), and while I don’t want to spoil anything, let’s just say that it’s not a place I’d like to hang out despite my affinity for natural history.
The book is not without flaws, and it drags at times for being a fast-paced thriller, but, by and large, Preston and Child are master craftsmen who continue to build a phenomenal series around a Sherlock-type who’s rapidly evolving into a character worthy of his place in the pantheon of great fictional detectives.
I’m not sure when I’ll be ready for my next pumpkin spice Pendergast, but rest assured that I’ll be in the mood at some point, and will continue the journey.
Read information about the authorDouglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. Following a distinguished career at a private nursery school--he was almost immediately expelled--he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston. Notable events in his early life included the loss of a fingertip at the age of three to a bicycle; the loss of his two front teeth to his brother Richard's fist; and various broken bones, also incurred in dust-ups with Richard. (Richard went on to write The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event, which tells you all you need to know about what it was like to grow up with him as a brother.)
As they grew up, Doug, Richard, and their little brother David roamed the quiet suburbs of Wellesley, terrorizing the natives with home-made rockets and incendiary devices mail-ordered from the backs of comic books or concocted from chemistry sets. With a friend they once attempted to fly a rocket into Wellesley Square; the rocket malfunctioned and nearly killed a man mowing his lawn. They were local celebrities, often appearing in the "Police Notes" section of The Wellesley Townsman. It is a miracle they survived childhood intact.
After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and eventually manager of publications. (Preston also taught writing at Princeton University and was managing editor of Curator.) His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin's Press, a polymath by the name of Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: "This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!" That thriller would, of course, be Relic.
In 1986, Douglas Preston piled everything he owned into the back of a Subaru and moved from New York City to Santa Fe to write full time, following the advice of S. J. Perelman that "the dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he's given the freedom to starve anywhere." After the requisite period of penury, Preston achieved a small success with the publication of Cities of Gold, a non-fiction book about Coronado's search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. To research the book, Preston and a friend retraced on horseback 1,000 miles of Coronado's route across Arizona and New Mexico, packing their supplies and sleeping under the stars--nearly killing themselves in the process. Since then he has published several more non-fiction books on the history of the American Southwest, Talking to the Ground and The Royal Road, as well as a novel entitled Jennie. In the early 1990s Preston and Child teamed up to write suspense novels; Relic was the first, followed by several others, including Riptide and Thunderhead. Relic was released as a motion picture by Paramount in 1997. Other films are under development at Hollywood studios. Preston and Child live 500 miles apart and write their books together via telephone, fax, and the Internet.
Preston and his brother Richard are currently producing a television miniseries for ABC and Mandalay Entertainment, to be aired in the spring of 2000, if all goes well, which in Hollywood is rarely the case.
Preston continues a magazine writing career by contributing regularly to The New Yorker magazine. He has also written for National Geographic, Natural History, Smithsonisan, Harper's,and Travel & Leisure,among others.
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