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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

on 19 December 2011
I picked this up for the most superficial of reasons -- I rather like taxidermy, and anyone who puts a dead animal head on the cover of his book, I figure, must be a bit of an iconoclast.

Turns out I was right. Meek is an iconoclast-savant of the first order, achieving something very few writers have done since Barthelme...striking a perfect balance between the outrageously comical and the deeply melancholy.

It is a gift, and one he shares with us generously throughout this gem of a book.

To be honest, I don't quite know just how he did it. My understanding is that he wrote this while also working as a journalist for The Guardian. To achieve such creativity while entrenched in the soul-killing environs of a newsroom is a testament to his immense talent.

While the bleakness of the human condition never comes without its share of (inadvertent) hilarity, Meek manages to tease it from even the darkest of corners with preternatural ease.

Now, a confession. I have already clicked on Amazon's 'Like' button in honor of this gorgeous tome, but not until I can click on 'LOVE' twenty times will I be satisfied. In other words, cancel all your plans right away and buy this book. You are in for a treat.
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on 12 November 2000
Once in a while, one comes across a book that threatens to break the mould. Threatens, because it doesn't quite transcend the gap between self-conscious and overtly calculated absurdity, and genuine, inspired literary 'impressionism'. In other words, this book, for me, never quite shakes off the impression that it is trying too hard.
I was prompted to read this book following a review in The Big Issue that compared James Meek to Franz Kafka. This, I thought, must be rather a good omen. Unfortunately, the BI's view was superficial and simplistic. It took one dimension of Meek's book - the underlying feeling of despair (and indeed doubt) - and categorised the entire book with the work of another author popularly connected with these concepts. This does not do justice to Meek or Kafka. Meek's work, for me, tried to perceive the potential of fear and of abstraction at any given moment, in ordinary situations. Kafka was more concerned with the workings of subjugation and surpression on the human mind by more powerful forces, and in extra-ordinary situations.
Despite this, The Museum of Doubt is fantastic book for those that revel in the exploration of the bizarre and perverse. Formed into a number of short stories, Meek's work runs a delicate line between truly shocking, funny, bizarre, and tragic. It is a book unlike any other that I have read, a book that plants seeds implicity in the mind of the reader, and then leaves them to germinate without the interference of explicit explanations or patronising reader directions. The Museum of Doubt is a work of such diverse and myriad subtleties, that the true wonder of the work is that it contains a common thread of resigned darkness.
I recommend it, not as a stable-mate of Kafka, but as one of those works that finds its own category, depending on the reader.
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