on 25 March 2008
This book is the fourth of the six volume series that John Clute has called the "Answered Prayers" sequence. None of the six require the reading of any others (this was the fourth one I read and it worked perfectly on its own) but reading them all in sequence does give rise to understanding of some subtleties and can assist your own postulation of what might be going on underneath the higher levels of story.
Our protagonist is Harry Radcliffe a highly successful and acclaimed architect. However, Harry went a little bit off the rails and his cure required the intervention of the apparently ordinary (but definitely not) Venasque. Venasque was a potent shaman who also helped characters in books two and three (Sleeping In Flame and A Child Across The Sky). Venasque has now passed away although he still seems to be able to contact his pupils and Harry has taken charge of Venasque's dog Big Top who has many unique qualities of his own. Now back to considering work Harry is toying with but not seriously considering the commission of the Sultan of Saru to build a Dog Museum (dogs have saved the Sultan's life several times) but at the same time Harry is busy running between two alpha females as he indulges himself. When Harry visits the Sultan to turn down the request an earthquake hits the building and Harry and the Sultan are saved by Big Top leading them out of the building. Now it seems Harry must proceed with the commission and so begins the challenge of doing this set against the backdrop of a revolution in the Sultanate, the murder of the Sultan and ultimately Harry's own belated recognition that he is building something a bit more unique than a museum.
Outside The Dog Museum uses many of the trademarks of a great Carroll novel, sucking us in with believable characters and great storytelling. With subtle shifts of scene and story we gradually move from the world we know into one decidedly disturbing and different but because of the starting position it remains very believable. We are four books into the themes Carroll wants to address and he is fully warmed to his task now. Jonathan Carroll writes about the human condition, its transiency, why we do not always want to have our prayers answered or be a "golden" one and does it with some entrancing prose. Highly recommended.
on 3 March 2006
"I read the reissue of OUTSIDE THE DOG MUSEUM and was blown away by it. It may very well be his best book. I made the mistake, the first time I read it 14 years ago, of thinking of it as a fantasy novel instead of a mainstream philosophical novel with fantasy tropes. Carroll, like Graham Joyce, uses fantasy tropes but he isn't a fantasy writer. There's an argument that Mahler's 10 symphonies are really only parts of one vast search for the meaning of life. I think of Carroll's novels the same way. They're all a search for transcendence through mystic or surrealist means."
Charles Brown, editor