cover image Outside the Dog Museum

Outside the Dog Museum

Jonathan Carroll. Doubleday Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-41973-4

If you didn't know that Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym, you might wonder if this Carroll ( A Child Across the Sky ) might be a relative. He, too, uses fanciful jests to point up common absurdities and makes fantasy seem altogether tangible. Here his narrator is a curmudgeonly genius, the aphorizing architect Harry Radcliffe, who, with the aid of a maverick therapist, has recently recovered from a mental collapse and is ready to reexamine his constructs of reality. He's also rebounding from an amicable divorce and conducts affairs with two fabulous females. Various developments--including an earthquake from which Radcliffe's party is miraculously rescued by a Middle Eastern sultan and the therapist's dog--oblige Radcliffe to accept the sultan's commission to build a vast dog museum. When war breaks out in the sultan's realm and he is killed, his son--a romantic rival for one of Radcliffe's lady loves--presses Radcliffe to build the museum on his property in Austria and promises to pay in magic. After further astonishing feats (leaping into other identities, the momentary reincarnation of the dead, etc.) the picaresque tone, surprisingly, yields at the end to a reprise of a biblical theme, turning this spirited novel into something like a moral tale. (Feb.)