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The Museum at Purgatory

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,202 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Nick Bantock's many fans have come to expect strange and wonderful experiences as they enjoy his beautifully illustrated books, and this newest work will not disappoint. An otherworldly mixture of surreal drawings, photographs of invented and actual objects, fake documents, altered engravings, and fictions, it follows the post-death journey of Non, the museum's curator, as ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published November 1st 1999)
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4.05  · 
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 ·  1,202 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Adam Rodenberger
Having read Bantock's "Griffin & Sabine" series and enjoyed them, I carried on and have decided to check out his others, starting with "The Museum of Purgatory."

By the description, I was instantly hooked. A curator at the museum in Purgatory goes into great detail about the artists or the collectors of various art collections stored within its ever expanding walls and rooms. What I did not expect was such a rich, in-depth analysis of the collectors and their personalities, an analysis that g
I thought it would be something for my spooky October reading, though it turned out to not be spooky at all (imo). Probably at the most extreme case, it might be odd in a few spots (some of the art displayed in the book). It kind of presents itself as a museum guide, a museum in Purgatory. The chapters each outline a particular person & his/her collection that is on display in the museum. Really, the purpose of looking at each display individually is to see each of these people as they looke ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual, art
The premise of this book is that when people die, they move into Purgatory with their most prized possessions. Using these as a focus, each examines his or her life to resolve the major unresolved issue and then decides the best place to go next. We are treated to accounts of a number of individuals, both descriptive and a visual catalogue of their objects.

Plan to spend time with this book. It requires thought.

Bantock’s books speak directly to my center of understanding, bypassing language. I
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is strange. It's mostly an art book, with a narrative created to allow Mr. Bantock to go from picture to picture. I've been curious about Mr. Bantock since perusing his earlier book Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence, which is a fascinating book with all sorts of little envelopes and letters and pictures to tell the story. This book didn't have all the moving parts of G&S, but it had plenty of the strange illustrations I would expect. I'm also going to take a look ...more
Sarah Sammis
Jun 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: released
People define themselves by the things they collect in life and in the afterlife: that is the idea behind The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock. Those who know themselves and are comfortable with what they've become can move on to one o the utopian or dystopian worlds. Those who can't come to terms with themselves (for good or bad) or those who don't know themselves must stay in Purgatory, the holding pen for the afterlife.

The narrator of The Museum at Purgatory is Non, curator of the museum.
Ilana Waters
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found the theme, writing, and illustrations to be beautifully mysterious. The ending astounded me and broke my heart, but also left me with a feeling of hope for the future. I don't often enjoy books that wring me dry emotionally, but Mr. Bantock is proof that some are well worth it!
Amy T
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This book’s concept of Purgatory and everyone’s purpose in it is remarkably brilliant but lacks the intrigue and connection to make it an engrossing read. The writing, one of a dry and scholarly style, will appeal to anyone with a taste for academics, but anyone with a creative side may be disappointed as it’s difficult to maintain focus despite the interesting concept and art.

The Curator’s Tale at the end of the book is both thought and soul provoking with several brilliantly worded passages t
Engel Dreizehn
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-2019
The very fabric of reality, fantasy, culture...actually just the very fabric of things is bent and mixed in this often scary but intriguing trip into a fictional (or is it?) catalogue of museum's items. It really is defying the natures of reality as a portion of the artifacts have real world basis but at the it gets a twisted or re-told in this museum which is nested in the afterlife or a another reality.
Lakota Rossi
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bantock is always a fun read. His mix of mediums to tell a story is refreshing to read between other novels. Whereas the Sabine novels craft beautifully intricate people through correspondences, this story flips that idea and crafts beautifully intricate objects that become imbued/remind us of humanity.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
His creativity in both his ideas and artwork astounds me.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lovely, Amazing premise. BUT it was as if you read the first 2 chapters of an amazing book, and the rest of the book had nothing but blank pages. ARGH! Where's the rest of the story? Yes, it does stand on it's own but gosh, it's so interesting, I would have loved more. Amazing illustrations of objects from the museum, but wait, aren't they fictional like the book? Well, you'll just have to see them to decide!
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eight years after marking this "to-read," I finally did! Flipping through the book last night, I almost decided to skip it - it seemed a bit weird to be reading all this "history" about things that never happened (hard to explain since I love fiction, but if this proved an exercise about how well Bantock could create fake historical art, I wasn't interested). However, this morning I looked at some of the reviews and decided to give it a go.

I agree that Part II, "The Curator's Tale," is the weake
Julia Pillard
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Nick Bantock's other works, The Museum at Purgatory creates a dazzlingly complex world without feeling the need to explain all of it. Curator Non, the narrator and central figure in the story, tells the reader about the Museum he is responsible for, a Museum which helps deceased souls examine and evaluate their lives to determine the most suitable place to move on to. They do this by putting together exhibits of objects from their lives. Curator Non shows us several of these exhibits, compl ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wrote Bantock off years ago as gimmick-y. While 'The Museum at Purgatory' doesn't stray far from his template, the subject matter and themes tackled (if trite) were perfectly suited to it and a pleasure to read. The best thing?:

"This view of a dislocated psyche brings into question the degree to which our needs can be represented by the written word. Are our souls stranded, unable to express themselves in a suitable language? We don't dream in words, our imaginations are picture based. Images
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved the Griffin and Sabine stories. I didn't know what really to expect with this one, though I was expecting more letters. I was pleasantly surprised with the range of sculptures and collages created as the artifacts in the museum.

each section of the book is artifacts linked by the person in Purgatory that collected them. My favourite was the collaged letters kept by one of the people.

The collages really were my favourite part. I could see how they had been created since I read his other
Alan Marchant
Jul 12, 2009 rated it liked it
artistic pennance

Nick Bantock's Museum at Purgatory is an art concept book in which eclectic collections of drawings and found-art are tied together by a curious story line. The various collections are supposed to illustrate the eccentricities and struggles of dead souls. The concept is the same as Bantock's earlier Griffin & Sabine. But this larger book suffers from too much overblown prose and artwork that is mostly insipid. It's as if Bantock's back room had become cluttered with unused i
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Museum at Purgatory is exactly what is stated on the cover, “a wondrous strange tale from the author of Griffin and Sabine”. However, Griffin and Sabine are absent. The story is told through Non, the curator of the Museum at Purgatory. Non describes the different rooms in the museum, telling the stories of the collectors, their collections and their spiritual journeys. Once again, Bantock has woven a bizarrely spiritual tale. The artwork was interesting, but secondary to the thought-provokin ...more
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
sonya lent me a copy yay!

a fun read, though Bantock seems to try his best to inject weighty, thought-provoking questions into it. personally, i was too distracted by the artwork and the fact it was all created specific to the book to notice.

definitely going to have to read up on the various versions of the utopias and dystopias. i'd never heard of Fiddler's Green, for example, before i read Gaiman's Sandman series. nor Valhalla (which, ironically, is the name of one of my favorite songs right
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This short and elegant fiction touches on a unique perspective of the meaning of life and the experiences of the dead in the afterlife. It manages to be tragic, hopeful and dryly humorous.
The chapters follow a sampling of the innumerable collections that are meaningful to the curator who is the narrator. The collections are all the objects that had meaning to the deceased. True to Bantock's style several plots lines are being balanced to order to tell the story on the central character.

Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
Individuals in Purgatory are represented by collections of art and objects, some brought with them from their lives, others created there; this is the conceit for Bantock's art-fiction. Interesting in concept, it suffers from a defect common to this type of assemblage; namely, that the artworks are all too clearly by the same person. This book would have worked much better had Bantock stuck with using the narrator, Non the Curator, as his representative and persuaded other artists to take on the ...more
Feb 24, 2014 added it
This is extraordinary and fascinating. The tongue-in-cheek nonfiction makes Mr. Bantock hard to take seriously, and there are a few groaners if you know your mythology. He clearly writes books to facilitate the kind of art he enjoys making (he just couldn't stay away from the postcards). But it turns out to be a sympathetic view of Purgatory which is remarkably in line with the theology of the place. It's interesting to see all the different things that hang us up.
Stephanie A.
The title is by far the best thing about this. I can't even really tell you what it's about because the book is nigh-unreadable, written in such pretentious language that I can't go 2 paragraphs without running into a word(s) I don't know and/or can't pronounce. I liked the Fitzgerald Room story and the Lost Post chapter with the unique mail, but otherwise not even the pictures were worthwhile. A disappointing showing for a Bantock book.
Trevor Falsey
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"-developed a system of belief revolving around the notion of three belongings: belonging to oneself and the discover of one's internal theater; belonging to the universe and the unification that comes with sensual bliss; and belonging to one's ancestry and the earth beneath ones feet"

-Part II The Curator's Tale (pg 103)
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was fortunate to stumble across this in my local bookstore. It was quite clever and well executed, but for my part I would have loved to see much, much more fleshed out and detailed. This reads like the vignettes of a much larger body of work and by the end I was a tad dissatisfied.

Still, a lovely book with an intriguing premise.
Amber the Human
I suggested this years ago as a possible book club pick, and now having read it I'm glad that it didn't win over the other two books I offered up. It's not long enough to pull apart for an entire meeting. Interesting? Yes. Nice art? Yes. As good as the Griffin/Sabine whatnot? No. But it is its own book, and that's fine. Still something here I don't quite get - maybe I'm not supposed to?
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting, but not as compelling as Griffin & Sabine. If the Curator's tale had been woven throughout to show how his story fit in with those of the people he was describing, the book would've been more successful. Still, it's a neat idea and the ideas and visuals are fun. Reminds me of the ultra-strange museum/art installation Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles.
Jul 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
I enjoyed this, though maybe not quite as much as the others of Bantock's I've read so far. Very interesting re-definition of the role of purgatory, and the possibilities for where souls go after their time there. Fascinating quote: "It would seem to me that in death, unlike life, we no longer suffer from the socially enforced collusion that requires us to accept a single version of reality"
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
i couldn't get into this book as much as the griffin and sabine books so i only skimmed it and read a few of the stories. bantock has a great imagination and it was a creative, neat book with lots of great pictures and stories (from what i read of it). but, like i said, i couldn't get involved in it. maybe later.
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
what i learned from this book: while the shape-shifting museum at purgatory seems interesting enough, i probably wouldnt go out of my way to visit unless i was already in the area. the premise of the book was interesting but the book left me wanting more imaginative description, less moralizing and less cheese. color illustrations raised my rating by a star.
Douglas Summers-Stay
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: borgesian
The author of those Griffin and Sabine books (the ones with the postcards) has invented a museum in the afterlife. He takes random odd found things, makes art from them, and invents fictional stories about them.
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Nick was schooled in England and has a BA in Fine Art (painting). He has authored 25 books, 11 of which have appeared on the best seller lists, including 3 books on the New York Times top ten at one time. ‘Griffin and Sabine’ stayed on that list for over two years. His works have been translated into 13 languages and over 5 million have been sold worldwide. Once named by the classic SF magazine We ...more