Nick Bantock’s The Egyptian Jukebox

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Long, long ago in a state on the East Coast of the USA, I had a friend with a vast knowledge of alternative music and various levels of pop culture (And apparently still does!).  She introduced me to college radio, obscure bands and author Nick Bantock .

Have you read his books?  They are full of otherworldly illustrations and layered, eerily romantic prose.  I spent years obsessed with his Griffin & Sabine trilogy.  One day while perusing the clearance book section outside our local Borders Books, I came across The Egyptian Jukebox.

The first page, entitled The Mystery says in part:  “The Egyptian Jukebox is a wondrous-quirky museum cabinet.  It was built by the eccentric millionaire Hamilton Hasp, who used his ineffable wealth to indulge his passions–carpentry, painting, acquiring old artifacts, and as he put it, “cunningly contriving conundrums.”

The Jukebox is the last and most enigmatic of Hasp’s fabrications. It is a three-dimensional mystery housed in a splendid wooden cabinet of 10 drawers filled with items carefully selected from his bizarre museum collection.  Although these items seem randomly jumbled, they are carefully placed with care to lay down a trail of clues–clues that answer a question.

On the box’s inscription plate Hasp invites the viewer to solve the riddle: Where do my worlds join?

Flipping through the book, I gazed at the 10 drawers and clue pages, admired the intricacy, and promptly shut it, feeling overwhelmed and a bit too dull to even make an attempt at the puzzle.

The Egyptian Jukebox has accompanied me through four moves over the last 15 years, sitting pretty on my bookshelf. Recently feeling a need to sharpen my mental faculties I pulled it down and started filling my drawing pad trying to decode the pages, all to no avail.

Then, a revelation!  Since the book is based on a stack of drawers and clues based on a grid mentioned in page two, ‘Inscription’, perhaps if I entered all my findings in a spreadsheet a pattern would emerge. And voilà! I started seeing relations in the formerly scrawled words, letters and numbers and, naturally, spots where I was completely off track.

So far, I have not come up with the final solution (the book jacket assures that there is one) and found ‘where all his worlds join’, but it has been a great exercise for “the little gray cells” and an enjoyable diversion from the everyday hustle and bustle of our home life.

Photo Credit:  Alicja Colon via Unsplash

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