When the likes of fantasy authors as diverse as Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub and Jonathan Lethem are praising Jonathan Carroll's work, offering it the finest compliments that they can muster, then you know that Carroll is an author worthy of your attention (All three provided memorable blurbs in the back cover of this book's paperback edition.). Truly, without question, Carroll is both a memorable writer and a fine literary stylist. However, at least not in "Outside the Dog Museum", should he be regarded as a writer of fantasy. Instead, I concur with another reviewer who noted that this novel is truly a philosophical novel draped in moments of magical realism. Carroll's usage of magical realism may not be as beguiling as those from the likes of Borges and Garcia Marquez for example, but nonetheless, he manages to do a fine job of it in this novel.
Caroll's fine prose is written in a breezy, almost conversational, style, that works well in his depictions of the protagonist, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Harry Radcliffe, and his intense personal and romantic relationship with both of his mistresses, Claire and Fanny, who know each other well. After winning his award - and recovering from a recent divorce through the aid of a bizarre mental therapist - Radcliffe is offered a commission by the Sultan of Saru - a fictitious Gulf State emirate - to be a dog museum in honor of the sultan's late father, the previous ruler of the emirate. What follows is a series of fascinating, and occasionally confusing, adventures and misadventures for Harry Radcliffe set in both the emirate and Vienna, Austria - where the museum is ultimately built. Not only must he contend with his complex personal relationships with both of his mistresses and his therapist, Harry is unexpectedly confronted with a fundamentalist Islamic rebellion against the Sultan of Saru within his emirate. Until the very end Carroll does a fine literary juggling act, but his less than memorable conclusion is the main reason why his fine novel isn't earning my highest praise.