OUTSIDE THE DOG MUSEUM by Jonathan Carroll


Email this review


Another surreal trip into magic realism by Carroll (A Child Across the Sky, 1990, etc.). This starts as if Carroll is going to rein in his fantasy, but the floor soon turns to Vaseline and the reader finds himself looking for handholds. Meanwhile, Harry Radcliffe, prize-winning architect, has a nervous breakdown while trying to hold onto two women at once, both of whom know about each other. Harry is being wooed by the Sultan of Saru to build a billion-dollar dog museum in Sam (a Mideast state where dogs are loathed): the Sultan thinks dogs are his best friends, his life having been saved three times by dogs. Harry's triangle with Claire and Fanny is not helped by a heavy California earthquake that takes Claire's hand. Harry tries to get a grip on his future by befriending a shaman, Venasque (who appeared in Sleeping in Flame, 1989, and will remind some of Castenada's Don Juan), who owns an amazing pig and dog. Venasque takes Harry through otherworldly learning experiences, then dies, as does his pig (he needs the pig for a later magical Austrian one-year-old who speaks English). Harry finally accepts the Sultan's offer and has an epiphany in his shower, seeing the museum as a kind of train engine standing on end like a steel ziggurat. As it happens, the museum can't be built in Saru, and so is built by Arab, American, and Austrian workmen in Austria. When Arab terrorists bomb this tower of Babel, God rebuilds the fallen structure, but only a third of the way: He is not completely happy with Harry's masterpiece. Though this summary barely suggests the greasy details and slippery path of the story, Carroll is admirable in going his own happy way as a cult writer. But his magic seldom takes a memorable turn or finds the unforgettable moment that draws the reader back to reexperience a serious beauty. Each page feels like a magpie's pastiche.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0765311852
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Doubleday