Arts & Culture

Jewcy Review: “The Clock Without a Face”

This very instant, as you read this, intelligent, honest citizens all across America are digging holes in the sides of highways in search of twelve scattered emeralds. Why? Because a new illustrated mystery book from McSweeney’s, The Clock Without A … Read More

By / May 26, 2010

This very instant, as you read this, intelligent, honest citizens all across America are digging holes in the sides of highways in search of twelve scattered emeralds. Why? Because a new illustrated mystery book from McSweeney’s, The Clock Without A Face, told them to. Make sense? Leave it to McSweeney’s to publish a book whose heist mystery extends past the confines of the book itself and into the actual real world. The story revolves around a single apartment building and its legendary clock, the Emerald Khroniker, which belongs to fancy pants tenant Bevel Ternky and whose twelve jewel-studded numbers have been stolen! All twelve of the other tenants have also been robbed, and brilliant detective Roy Dodge and his bumbling assistant (and our narrator) Gus Twintig are summoned to solve the case. The book is divided into thirteen chapters – one for each tenant in the building. On the left page is Gus’ account of his and Dodge’s investigation of each apartment and on the right page is a detailed illustration of the apartment itself. The building’s inhabitants are all eccentrics with crazy names and crazier abodes – alchemist P.K. Quello, pack rat Ida Mayfield, military man General Klobberduck, Jigsy Squonk the clown, Bert D’Grnp the mime, and so forth. Make no mistake, this book is delightfully silly above all things. Naturally, Dodge cracks the case of who stole the clock’s numbers, but that is but scratching the surface of this mystery. Dodge reveals that the twelve jeweled numbers have been buried in twelve holes throughout the country, and the co-ordinates of said holes are hidden within Gus’ sketches. The sketches in the book. The book in your hand. The book in your hand contains clues to the locations of twelve real goddamn emeralds! Or so we’re meant to believe. Much like Kit Williams’ Masquerade, a British book from the 70′s that inspired a real-life hunt for a golden hare, The Clock Without A Face has prompted people throughout the U.S. to try and crack the code, hit the road and uncover the buried jewels. As of today, none have been found, but not for lack of effort. An entry from the book’s website: We are junior sleuthers and adventure hunters who live in the Midwest.  Today, we drove three hours (each way!) in hot pursuit of emeralds. Confident that we had deduced the state, highway, and mile, we packed a picnic, bought a shovel, and hit the road. Imagine our excitement when we neared the spot and found a thematically related business at the appropriate location! We hauled away heavy materials obscuring (marking?) the site.  We dug a huge hole through heavy wet clay.  We examined loose stones as potential emerald holders.  We dug a little deeper.  Problem is, Gus, we didn’t find anything.  We dug another hole under a suspicious pile of rocks.  We ate our picnic in the back of the car.  We reread the story out loud. We played with anagrams.   The anagrams were mean.  Did they taunt us or was it our own fear of failure that found jeering words hidden in character names? After digging more holes, we started to attract attention, arouse suspicion, and disturb the local earthworms. Given the wealth of clues, I’m afraid that the molemen may have beat us to the treasure. Is this for real? The romantic in me wants to believe that these people do not dig in vain, but the cynic in me is alive and well and tends to chalk this up to a whimsical social experiment conducted by the good people at McSweeny’s. Regardless, the book is sincerely funny, has great illustrations and is shaped like a house.