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Enchanted Night: A Novella Paperback – October 10, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375706968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375706967
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 6.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In novels such as Edwin Mullhouse and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, Steven Millhauser conjured fictions as intricate and delicately formed as soap bubbles. True to form, his Enchanted Night seems to want to float right up out of the reader's hand. In its pages are many of Millhauser's trademark fascinations: dolls; mannequins; an obsessed artist; teenage girls meeting secretly at night; and above all, the strangeness lurking just under the surface of everyday life. Set entirely over the course of one night, Enchanted Night follows the denizens of a Connecticut town as they rise from their beds under the light of a brilliant, almost-full moon. Fourteen-year-old Laura Engstrom wakes to a restlessness so fierce that "if she doesn't do something right away, this second, she'll scream." Middle-aged Haverstraw (who still lives with his mother) writes for hours in the attic, then leaves to wander the streets. Janet Manning trysts with a lover in her yard, and a band of teenage girls breaks into houses only to leave behind the cryptic message "WE ARE YOUR DAUGHTERS." Meanwhile, more magical events are afoot. "This is the night of revelation. This is the night the dolls wake. This is the night of the dreamer in the attic. This is the night of the piper in the woods," a chorus of night voices tells us--and a mannequin begins to stir behind a store window, while all over town, abandoned dolls and stuffed animals come slowly to life.

So far, so good. But somewhere along the way, the fairy dust gets a little thick. Is it the chapter in which the moon goddess ravishes virginal Danny? ("Now she strokes the skin of the sleeping one, now she kisses his eyelids closed in dream, now she stiffens his love-lance with her hand.") Or perhaps the appearance of Pan, "a moon-dancer, a flute-dreamer" making music for the town's children? How about the "Song of the One-Eyed Cuddly Bear" chapter, which reads, in its entirety, "I wuv woo. Does woo wuv me?" The only real danger posed in this wispy novella--"the man with shiny black hair" who stalks Laura in order to add her to his "gallery"--is not actually a threat, we're assured. Millhauser even reduces his bold girl outlaws, with their "pleasure in violation," to sipping midnight lemonade with their victim. And what, really, is magic without danger? Decoration, mostly, though there's nothing particularly wrong with that--just nothing particularly urgent either. None of which is to say that there aren't moments of startling beauty in Enchanted Night. There is no stylist more graceful than Millhauser at his best, and here he writes movingly about the formless yearnings of adolescence and the mortal sweetness of sex. Yet even the prose can't quite animate his novella. In the end, Enchanted Night is a rarefied aesthetic experience that asks for very little back. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Compared to his ambitious, Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, Millhauser's new novella may seem slight, but it has a resonance and fairy tale allure that belie its slim page count. Set on a sultry summer night when an almost-full moon hovers over Southern Connecticut, the book follows a handful of small-town characters who yearn for anonymity, recognition, love or escape. Laura Engstrom, 14, seeks a solitary release from the deep restlessness that makes "her bones itch." Haverstraw, 39, lives with his mother while he works on a novel and despairs of ever achieving anything with his life. Janet Manning, 20, longs for the appearance of a "heartbreaker" she met on the beach that afternoon. A drunken romantic, William Cooper, 28, gazes into storefront displays, hoping for love and a lucky break. An old woman who lives alone yearns for company. He gracefully intertwines these lives and others with magical elementsAa mannequin that comes alive, a chorus of "night voices," a silent visit from a moon goddessAto create a trance world suffused with luminescence and longing, where each character verges on the brink of fulfillment or collapse. Millhauser sketches each person's plight in a few skillful lines and repeats gestures and thoughts so their variations resound on many levels. A set of abandoned dolls, for example, awaken and pantomime a sorrowful romance that echoes Janet's desire for her young lover, Haverstraw's long-standing friendship with a friend's mother and Coop's abstracted love for the mannequin. Only a scattering of facile nursery-rhyme type of songs echo hollowly in Millhauser's elegant, penetrating tale. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
A beautiful, quick read.
A. Wallace
Filled with mythology and fairy tale happenings, this book is so complete as to be visible.
Ann
It's a beautiful, stylized read that lilts and flows.
Remmy LeFresne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brent Woods on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A beautifully descriptive novella which washed over me effortlessly. A few cliched strands couldn't ruin the emotive tone set by Millhauser. It reads like a short dream you wish could go on forever. Readers tip: Plan your time to read this in one go as it's rhythm is vital to the overall effect.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser successfully marries the marvelous to the mundane in his shimmering novella, Enchanted Night. Enchanted Night is the thought chronicle of dozens of insomniacs in a Connecticut seaside suburb: three teenage boys who are attempting to break into a library; a music-mesmerized army of children; a pair of teenaged lovers on the brink of intimacy; an ominous "man with shiny black hair," and a strange band of girls who break into houses only to steal meaningless knick knacks and who leave behind notes proclaiming, WE ARE YOUR DAUGHTERS. These are the human insomniacs. This is Millhauser, so, of course, there are others.
There are the dolls, "not dolls in the freshness of their youth...but old, abandoned, dolls, no longer believed in," and there is a chic department store mannequin who "dreams of release, of the dropping of her guard, of the voluptuous fall into motion."
These "moon-mad, summer-looney" characters have intentions that range from friendly to sinister to bizarre. Among the bizarre are Haverstraw, a thirty-nine year old man still living with his mother who spends his time working on "an immense project, an experiment in memory," and Mrs. Kasco, the sixty-one year old woman who regrets not having seduced Haverstraw when he (and she) were younger. Perhaps it is not too late; these two strange-but-wonderful characters meet each night for conversation and wrangling over matters as far-out as how "memory keeps turning into conversation."
Overall, Millhauser is himself in this book: masterful, erudite, inventive, original, poetic, restrained. There are, however, a few moments when we have to stop, shake our heads and wonder, "What happened?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ann on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Calling on Shakespeare, this is a sort of reworking of Midsummer Night's Dream. With short vignettes that convey much more than what is written, Millhauser vividly recounts the magic of summer night. Filled with mythology and fairy tale happenings, this book is so complete as to be visible. There is not a detail missing. It is concentrated and nostalgic, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Levens on July 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
This quick read wonderfully describes the goings-on one summer night in a Connecticut suburb. There is great attention to detail here, from the reflection of the red and green of the stoplight in a storefront window, to the steaming coffee in thick white cups as heavy as rocks. An extended metaphor of the moon entices throughout, and Millhauser's prose flows so smooth that I'm sure the amount of work that has gone into these 128 pages rival that of much longer works elsewhere. Different in style from his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Martin Dressler," this book is a lesson of beautiful writing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Millhauser has given shape to the dangerous and delicious longings of the American night, lit them with the transformative light of a full moon, and cast their elusive shadows across the glittering pavement, down the back-alleys, and over the well-tended lawns of an elusive and familiar American town. This is a book that will enter your consciousness like a vivid dream.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Wallace on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Poetic, romantic, funny night of lunar longing for the residents of a suburban Connecticut town. One night with a cast of many intersecting entities including (but not limited to) a 14 year old girl, a mannequin, satyrs, wee children, and a lonely, middled aged man who still lives with Mommy. Oh, and dolls that come alive. Yes, this sounds overwrought and implausible, but the far-fetched is so neatly intertwined with the very believable longings of recognizable, everyday people that it works. There is also plenty of suspense. A beautiful, quick read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
In Enchanted Night, Millhauser has assembled a number of cultural images of the magical moon especially moon and youth, lonely nights etc. In this sense, the book is conventional and predictable. It is in his use of language and the intricate interweaving of stories, that Millhauser is inventive and original. This first several chapters seem unrelated except by time and location. One meets a 14 year old girl leaving a hot bedroom to escape angst. One meets dolls in an attic. One meets an unproductive 40 year old writer wanna be living in his mother's attic. One meets a mannnequin in a store window. A group of teenage girls who get their kicks breaking into homes not to steal but for the adventure of it. A twenty year old woman. In tracing these, and others, throughout the night, the novel slowly shows interconnections that yield a picture of a full town, a town with the average range of people and dreams. As Millhauser develops the interconnections, a reader may easily become distracted by the skill and ease with which it is done. The plot is not sufficient for the suspension of disbelief to eradicate the interest of the craftsmanship.
Millhauser shows a poets comfort with using words as his raw media - the pace of the sentences' rhythm rises and falls with the tension in the scene. The use of detail to create character is superb. Now and then the freshness of an image or a word makes the reader stop and take note. Yet the author sticks to the mundane - a partial roll of LifeSavers as thanks - in a way that makes the "enchanted night" somehow possible in every reader's experience.
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