In this acclaimed collection of short stories, Pulitzer Prizewinning author Stephen Millhauser shares the dark suspense and humor that have gained him a cult following. Millhauser’s imagination and creativity are on full display with stories featuring artists gone mad, egomaniacal architects, and a historical society that’s given up its chronicling of history. Characterized by “phenomenal clarity and rapacious movement” each story “focuses on the misery wrought by misdirected human desire and ambition.” (Publishers Weekly)
Millhauser does lovely work with words and sentences, but the stories are odd. Like the art of Hieronymus Bosch, the stories are intricate, novel, loving constructs, consistent within themselves, but mostly didn't (like Bosch) create a world I could get into.
The first story is typical. M. tells the story of a cat/mouse cartoon. The natural medium for that story was a cartoon on film or TV. IMO, he didn't add anything by doing it all in words beyond showing that one could.
Another was about a man who made miniatures. Beautifully done, but I found the story itself hard to stay with, and if there was a deeper meaning I didn't find it worth the effort to understand.
MIne may be a personal, idiosyncratic disappointment, but I prefer more true-to-life stories like Englander's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Ann Frank," my idea of masterwork. Or, staying with story collections, Jennifer Egan's "Goon Squad."
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