Motel of the Mysteries

by David Macaulay | Humor |
ISBN: 9780395284254 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 2/27/2024
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, February 27, 2024
I found this softcover in this Little Free Library in Gloucester, MA while dropping off some books of my own, and nabbed it for another release copy.

Macaulay may be better known for his architectural books such as Cathedral, Pyramid, and Castle, but this relatively early work blends his love of sketching buildings and his rather dark sense of humor.

The premise here, as stated on the very first page: "IN 1985 A CATACLYSMIC COINCIDENCE OF PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN PROPORTION EXTINGUISHED VIRTUALLY ALL FORMS OF LIFE ON THE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT." [The coincidence involves a reduction of postal rates, an increase in junk mail, and the simultaneous precipitation of airborne pollution - "pollutantus literati" and "pollutantus gravitas" {grin} - which buries the continent completely. But in 4022 a hapless individual (named Howard Carson, a nod to Howard Carter) stumbled into a hole and discovered...

...the Motel of the Mysteries! It's clearly a run-of-the-mill roadside motel, but its artifacts are interpreted by the discoverers as indicating a tomb and a place of worship, with some hilarious takes on everything from the ice bucket to the remote control to the toilet seat. [There's a bit where aerial photography reveals the outline of a long-buried cloverleaf intersection, and "because the various patterns can only be fully appreciated from the air" this is interpreted as some kind of coded message to the gods. I'll never see the Nazca Lines again without thinking of this illustration.]

The text takes some pokes at various real-world archaeologists; in addition to the nod to Howard Carter, there's a clear reference to Heinrich Schliemann, who claimed to have discovered the site of Troy - and who may have done so, though he apparently dug right through the layer from the time of the Trojan War and found much older ruins instead. There's a picture of his wife decked out in some golden jewelry that he found, and in this book Carson's assistant Harriet dons some of the discovered "treasures" herself. (I won't go into detail, but toothbrushes are involved.)

The last half of the book consists of pictures and descriptions of "the treasures", including "Fragments from the Plant That Would Not Die" (plastic fern leaves) and the Internal Component Enclosure, presumed to be a symbolic canopic jar. And there are souvenir reproductions, too; coasters patterned after the "mosaic ceiling tiles" (the asbestos ones with the holes in them), a framed wall fragment with graffiti ("for a good time call")...

The whole book is a delightful pastiche of pop culture vs. archaeology, and I enjoyed it very much.

[There's a short but entertaining TV Tropes page for the book.]

Released 1 mo ago (2/27/2024 UTC) at Little Free Library, Head's Pond Trailhead in Hooksett, New Hampshire USA


I left this book in the Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

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