After the success of his first novels ( and ), Steven Millhauser went on to enchant critics and readers with two short story collections that captured the magic and beauty of his longer works in vivid miniature.
The seven stories of blend the real and the fantastic in a seductive mix that illuminates the full range of the author's gifts, from the story of "August Eschenburg," the clockmaker's son whose extraordinary talent for creating animated figures is lost on a world whose taste for the perverse and crude supersedes that of the refined and beautiful, to "Cathay," a kingdom whose wonders include elaborate landscape paintings executed on the eyelids and nipples of court ladies.
From the Pulitzer and Story Prize winner: sixteen new stories-provocative, funny, disturbing, magical-that delve into the secret lives and desires of ordinary people, alongside retellings of myths and legends that highlight the aspirations of the human spirit.
Beloved for the lens of the strange he places on small-town life, Steven Millhauser further reveals in the darkest parts of our inner selves to brilliant and dazzling effect. Here are stories of wondrously imaginative hyperrealism, stories that pose unsettling what-ifs or that find barely perceivable evils within the safe boundaries of our towns, homes, and even our bodies. Here, too, are stories culled from religion and fables: from Samuel, who in the masterly "A Voice in the Night" hears the voice of God calling him in the night; to a young, pre-enlightenment Buddha; to Rapunzel and her Prince awakened only to everyday disappointment. Heightened by magic, the divine, and the uncanny, shot through with sly humor, seamlessly combines the whimsy and surprise of the familiar with intoxicating fantasies that take us beyond our daily lives, all done with the hallmark sleight of hand and astonishing virtuosity of one of our greatest modern storytellers.
A master of literary transformation, Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Millhauser turns his attention to the transformations of love in these three hypnotic novellas. While ostensibly showing her home to a prospective buyer, the narrator of “Revenge” unfolds an origami-like narrative of betrayal and psychic violence. In “An Adventure of Don Juan” the legendary seducer seeks out new diversion on an English country estate with devastating results. And the title novella retells the story of Tristan and Ysolt from the agonized perspective of King Mark, a husband who compulsively looks for evidence of his wife’s adultery yet compulsively denies what he finds. Combining enchantment as ancient as Sheherezade’s with up-to-the-minute acuity and unease, is Millhauser at his best.
“Every reader knows of writers who are like secrets one wants to keep, and whose books one wants to tell the world about. Millhauser is mine.”
— David Rollow,
From the Pulitzer Prize — winning author: the essential stories across three decades that showcase his indomitable imagination.
Steven Millhauser’s fiction has consistently, and to dazzling effect, dissolved the boundaries between reality and fantasy, waking life and dreams, the past and the future, darkness and light, love and lust. The stories gathered here unfurl in settings as disparate as nineteenth-century Vienna, a contemporary Connecticut town, the corridors of a monstrous museum, and Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and they are inhabited by a wide-ranging cast of characters, including a knife thrower and teenage boys, ghosts and a cartoon cat and mouse. But all of the stories are united in their unfailing power to surprise and enchant. From the earliest to the stunning, previously unpublished novella-length title story — in which a man who is dead, but not quite gone, reaches out to two lonely women — Millhauser in this magnificent collection carves out ever more deeply his wondrous place in the American literary canon.
The Barnum Museum is a combination waxworks, masked ball, and circus sideshow masquerading as a collection of short stories. Within its pages, note such sights as: a study of the motives and strategies used by the participants in the game of Clue, including the seduction of Miss Scarlet by Colonel Mustard; the Barnum Museum, a fantastic, monstrous landmark so compelling that an entire town finds its citizens gradually and inexorably disappearing into it; a bored dilettante who constructs an imaginary woman — and loses her to an imaginary man! — and a legendary magician so skilled at sleight-of-hand that he is pursued by police for the crime of erasing the line between the real and the conjured.
Cartoons that draw their creator into another world; demonic paintings that exert a sinister influence on our own. Fairy tales that express the secret losses and anxieties of their tellers. These are the elements that Steven Millhauser employs to such marvelous — and often disquieting — effect in , a collection whose three novellas suggest magical companion pieces to his acclaimed longer fictions.
In "The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne," a gentle eccentric constructs an elaborate alternate universe that is all the more appealing for being transparently unreal. "The Princess, the Dwarf, and the Dungeon" is at once a gothic tale of nightmarish jealousy and a meditation on the human need for exaltation and horror. And "Catalogue of the Exhibition" introduces us to the oeuvre of Edmund Moorash, a Romantic painter who might have been imagined by Nabokov or Poe. Exuberantly inventive, as mysterious as dreams, these novellas will delight, mesmerize, and transport anyone who reads them.
Edwin Mullhouse, a novelist at 10, is mysteriously dead at 11. As a memorial, Edwin's bestfriend, Jeffrey Cartwright, decides that the life of this great American writer must be told. He follows Edwin's development from his preverbal first noises through his love for comic books to the fulfillment of his literary genius in the remarkable novel, .
Young Martin Dressler begins his career as an industrious helper in his father's cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top, accompanied by two sisters-one a dreamlike shadow, the other a worldly business partner. As the eponymous Martin's vision becomes bolder and bolder he walks a haunted line between fantasy and reality, madness and ambition, art and industry, a sense of doom builds piece-by-hypnotic piece until this mesmerizing journey into the heart of an American dreamer reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion.
From the Pulitzer Prize — winning author hailed by as “a virtuoso of waking dreams” comes a dazzling new collection of darkly comic stories united by their obsession with obsession. In , Steven Millhauser transports us to unknown universes that uncannily resemble our own.
The collection is divided into three parts that fit seamlessly together as a whole. It opens with a bang, as “Cat ’n’ Mouse” reimagines the deadly ritual between cartoon rivals in a comedy of dynamite and anvils — a masterly prologue that sets the stage for the alluring, very grown-up twists that follow.
Part one, “Vanishing Acts,” features stories of risk and escape: a lonely woman disappears without a trace; a high school boy becomes entangled with his best friend’s troubled sister; and a group of teenagers play a treacherous game that pushes them deep into “the kingdom of forbidden things.”
Excess reigns in the vivid, haunting places of Part two’s “Impossible Architectures,” where domes enclose whole cities, and a king’s master miniaturist creates objects so tiny that soon his entire world is invisible.
Finally, “Heretical Histories” presents startling alternatives to the remembered past. “A Precursor of the Cinema” proposes a new, enigmatic form of illusion. And in the astonishing “The Wizard of West Orange” a famous inventor sets out to simulate the sense of touch — but success brings disturbing consequences.
Sensual, mysterious, is a mesmerizing journey through brilliantly realized labyrinths of mortal pleasures that stretch the boundaries of the ordinary world to their limits — and occasionally beyond.