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The Barnum Museum (American Literature Series) Paperback – April 5, 2014


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Product Details

  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 2nd edition (April 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564781798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564781796
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Among these 10 stories are "A Game of Clue" based on the famous board game and its characters, and "Klassic Komix #1" starring Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock. The tales "smartly conform to the dictates of literary fashion," said PW. "Alone, any of these pieces might seem novel or stimulating, but collectively they become repetitious, oppressively belletristic."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Imagine a funhouse gallery of fictive techniques and ideas, and you'll have some sense of these stories. "A Game of Clue" delineates the line between strategy and chance in a board game while plotting the relationships among the players. "Klassik Komix #1" is a riotous pop comic version of "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock." Other stories recast classic tales in a counterpoint of scholarly satire and nostalgic reverence; one is a melancholy monolog in the manner of Poe. The gimcrackery and excess of the title piece echo in the fin de siecle charm and foreboding of "Eisenheim the Illusionist." Both stories are about crossing the boundaries between art and life, appearance and reality. In this concern for the role of the artist as iconographer, artificer, conjurer, the author's work invites comparison with that of Robertson Davies. Millhauser's distinctive mix of stylistic dazzle and erudite wonder will intrigue admirers of his Edwin Mullhouse ( LJ 8/72), In the Penny Arcade ( LJ 1/86), and From the Realm of Morpheus ( LJ 9/1/86).
- Mary Soete, San Diego P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's high time someone rediscovered Steve Millhauser's short stories, because there's nothing else like them being written in the U.S. (well, except for Ron Carlson). The title story describes a museum of impossible things--a magical place full of dreams--which would be a pleasant enough subject for a story, but Millhauser also emphasizes the commercialism of the place, the boredom of the patrons, the risks the museum runs of falling apart under its own extravagance. This is fantasy with a difference. The other stories are similarly clever: fascinating premises that actually go further than you'd expect. In "Behind the Blue Curtain," a boy sneaks behind the movie screen and discovers huge actors, as big as they are in the movies, waiting to go and entertain--and when Millhauser describes how vaporous they are, he could suddenly be talking about the weakness of fantasy, or the pressures of celebrity, or the fragility of childhood imagination. He has a deft touch with metaphor--he chooses the right one and simply lets it resonate. The other stories have similar fantastic ideas: "Klassik Komix #1", which is written as a description of a comic book, frame by frame; "The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad" which interweaves three stories--Sinbad in the past, Sinbad in his dotage, and the history of the Arabian Nights; "A Game of Clue," which tells the story of four Clue players AND describes the entire game from the perspective of the pieces...I could go on, but all the stories are imaginative and rewarding, and I can't understand why no one seems to have bought the book. Granted, he can run a little long (if you want terseness, go to Ron Carlson), but if you're hungering for a warm, Calvinoesque, American counterpart to British authors like Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Will Self, meet Steven Millhauser. And prepare to smile
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Garber on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Amazon led me to Millhauser's work through a winding maze of postmodernist writers, and I was pleased to have discovered him. His trademark seems to be exhaustive inspection of detail -- the detail of a puzzle piece, a dusty corner of a library, the curves of a woman yet unknown. This volume is worth reading solely for the first story, "A Game of Clue," which simultaneously describes a family conflict during a session of the classic board game, and the action of the episode of Clue itself, complete with the twisted seduction of Miss Scarlet by Colonel Mustard. Ultimately, Millhauser's stylistic microscopic detail grates on the brain, and it best taken in small doses. However, this author clearly takes great pains to birth his work, and students of fiction can learn from his carefully crafted approach.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lillian Julow on March 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
The short story form is one of the most difficult to master, but Steven Milhauser does just that, become its master. This collection of short stories, including Eisenheim the Illusionist which became a fascinating film last year starring Edward Norton, was - for me - his crowning achievement. You'll want to go back again and again to read the stories and find each time something you hadn't noticed before, some nuance, perhaps, that opens the door a little more into Milhauser's fascinating world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Engineer on July 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These short stories have marvelous imagery but little to no point. If a story could be nothing but descriptions of things, this book would be fabulous. However, I prefer stories that exceed that minimum standard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Gibbard VINE VOICE on August 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
I stand in awe of Steven Millhauser. He is a magician of words who casts a spell over his readers. Each of his stories is like a new magic trick that unfolds with precise timing and meticulous preparation. He skillfully constructs an ocean of detailed observation on which wave after wave of insight crashes on the shore of the reader's imagination. His aim is to enchant the reader, and he nearly always succeeds.

The stories in this volume are marvelous, sometimes breathtakingly so. In "A Game of Clue," the characters and locations of the one-dimensional board game expand into their own sort of virtual reality world, with its own concerns and relationships, that is mirrored at another level by the sentiments and maneuverings of of the game's players. In "The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad," Sinbad exists on multiple levels: as a bored and anxious merchant doubting the reality of the marvelous tales about himself from The Thousand and One Nights, as the hero experiencing those tales in subjective real time, and as a character described by Scheherazade, who recounts the stories about him. "The Sepia Postcard" and "Rain" are dark fantasy pieces that have a whiff of H.P. Lovecraft about them. "Eisenheim the Illusionist," perhaps the best-known story in this collection because of the movie later made from it, left me stunned by its fantastic ending. The only story that didn't really work for me was "The Invention of Robert Herendeen," about a shiftless young man who invents a dream-girl; it seemed to go on far too long. The other nine tales, however, are beautiful and endlessly thought-provoking.

To really appreciate these stories, you have to read them slowly and ponder the multiple levels of insight they represent. But those who are able and willing to give in to Millhauser's enchantment will be richly rewarded.
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