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Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright Paperback – April 16, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
This juxtaposition of adult analysis with childish feelings, toys, and concerns makes a great new form of "fictional biography"
I also loved the "physicality" of words that exists in this work. Edwin, just learning to write, can't help seeing words as pictures. For example, "yellow" is a boat with a rudder and two smoke stacks and "bed" is two fat men looking at each other over a table. Edwin is fascinated with cartoons and comics and writes his masterpiece, "Cartoons" when he is just 11. This is basically a very detailed account of a cartoon. I LOVED IT! To "read" a cartoon and see it in your head as you read brings a new dimension to the printed page. The words become images and the images are words. Great reading, and highly recommended for any serious writer or anyone who wants to remember their childhood....(note: I picked up this book when I heard Charles Frazier was reading it; he wrote Cold Mountain---not only a great author, but a great book critic it seems ;)
More importantly, in his own playful and deadly way, he draws readers into a sinister dance, making us accomplices to the crime at the heart of the book. Among other things, if you're a reader of "real" biographies, you'll likely return to your nonfiction with a slightly different take on the genre.
Not that the following statement will win the books zillions of new readers, but, if you love (or at least admire) Nabokov's Pale Fire, be sure not to miss Edwin Mullhouse.
The reviews here, even the many offering high praise, have missed what is going on in this book. Jeffrey Cartwright was hoping his friend, Edwin, was going to become a major literary figure to whom Jeffrey could serve as Boswell. When Jeffrey finally figured out that Edwin was not a genius, Jeffrey lost it and killed Edwin. He then wrote this biography trying to pass off Edwin's inanities as genius so as to salvage his own need to have been in the presence of greatness.
Many are right in saying that this book provides a powerful evocation of childhood. But at its core, Millhauser has written a clever, biting satire lampooning the need of so many of us to be in the presence of greatness and the bitterness that follows when we find we have been deceived.
I can understand negative reviews by those who missed the nasty conceit underlying this seeming tale of childhood innocence. But I was dumbfounded that not one of the many positive reviews picked up on it. This, as much as anything, serves to establish what a devilishly wonderful book this is.
If you like this sort of thing, track down a copy of Thomas Berger's Sneaky People.Sneaky People: A Novel
The ages of the characters are highly important. If they were older, Rose Dorn and all of Edwin's other obsessions would be out of place. However, we almost understand everything that Edwin goes through, while Jeffrey (the biographer and Edwin's best friend) is left to puzzle it out. Jeffrey's memory is brought into question not by himself, but by his insistance that it is infallible. And, often, it is impeccable at remembering details of early childhood, as far as we know. His intentions are honorable, but just how far can we trust him?
The other notable thing in this book is the language. Millhauser's words are vibrant, whether describing a closed down amusement park or a cartoon or the haunting of a writer. Where else can one find a line such as: "And you see, there are all these words, nothing but words, nothing but words, what are these words, and there they are, so that's what you're faced with, words, words..."
This book is magic. That's all there is to it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
MILLHAUSER IS A GENIUS AND HIS WORK ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AND MUST READ STATUS.Published 10 months ago by Johnny Maddox
I read this because I heard an NPR review of it. I didn't find it as engaging as the reviewer did. The descriptions of small-town childhood are pleasantly nostalgic, but much of... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Finch
This is a one of a kind masterpiece, funny one minute, chilling the next. One scene took me back to a memory from my childhood in the late 40s in a way few books have done. Read morePublished on February 16, 2013 by A B Gordon
This book was recommended to me by an English professor who taught a course on comic books as Literature. I can see after reading it why he would've enjoyed this title. Read morePublished on October 5, 2011 by TasteTheWine
The experience of reading Edwin Mullhouse was well worth the tedium of its lists and redundancy. This modern brain has lost its capacity to sustain interest in such devices. Read morePublished on November 29, 2010 by NorthShoreCanary
This book was recommended to over three years ago and, sadly, it took me this long to get to it. Original in its conceit, massive in its scope and clever enough to remind me... Read morePublished on May 24, 2009 by Penny
Mr. Millhauser won the Pulitzer Prize for "Martin Dressler". If ever there were an example of the committee realizing its mistake and then trying to rectify it at a later date,... Read morePublished on November 25, 2007 by R.S. Encaustic
This is my favorite book; after I read it, I found a first edition on-line, and bought it. I've never done that before, and I'll never do it again. Read morePublished on April 6, 2007 by S. Spiegel