Adult Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Genre graphic novel Lifespan of a Reader Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

A Museum Of Ephemera And Inventions That Never Really Took Off

The Oopsatoreum by Shaun Tan

Myra here.

I bought this book around three years ago while I was in Perth, but haven’t had a chance to read it until now. It seems that our current reading theme is perfect for its not-so-secret (sorta-failed-but-not-quite) inventions. While not exactly about beauty, art, music specifically – it does touch on the creative mind and the process of invention.

The Oopsatoreum: Inventions Of Henry A. Mintox

Written and Illustrated by Shaun Tan
Published by Powerhouse Publishing (2012).
ISBN13: 9781863171441. Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

It took me several re-reads before I finally figured out that this is a fictional tale of a decidedly-strange inventor named Henry A. Mintox who possessed a very high opinion of his yet-unrecognized genius and his peculiar ideas. He did not keep a notebook of his inventions for fear that someone might get ahold of it and steal his notions. Hence, he would code them using “obscure doodles on self-mailed postcards.”

Whether as an added precaution or plain absentmindedness, he would frequently forget to write down his address in these postcards; thus, “his notes never progressed beyond dead-letter offices.”

Some of his inventions involve alove trumpet” that allows the person wearing it to discern the supposed truth of any given message – such as, for instance, the honesty of the intention of the beloved as it gauges the “level of romantic interest in a potential partner.” In truth, it has no internal mechanism at all, contributing to the eventual demise of this idea.

What truly caught my eye, however, was this laptop messenger, crafted in 1920. This proves just how much Mintox was way too ahead of his time, as he anticipated the existence of “chit-chat” “Goggle” and “Face Chat/ Face Link” and even an “Inter Web” and the “World Wide Net.” 

The curious thing, however, is that this is the device that Mintox eventually dismissed and perceived as having “no conceivable future.”

Clearly, this book is a departure from Shaun Tan’s usual kidlit books. Yet, it contains his trademark wit, intelligent humour, and chuckle-inducing absurdities. In fact, more than anything, it reminded me of his poem Distant Rain, with its ode to unread poetry and non-sequiturs shredded to oblivion – until it finds its way to someone’s unsuspecting hands – included in his Tales From Outer Suburbia which I reviewed here.

Find this book and I dare you (ok, encourage you) to create your own Oopsatoreum. 

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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