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Enchanted Night: A Novella (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

Steven Millhauser
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Martin Dressler comes a stunningly original new book set in a Connecticut town over one incredible summer night. The delicious cast of characters includes a band of teenage girls who break into homes and simply leave notes reading "We Are Your Daughters," a young woman who meets a phantom lover on the tree swing in her back yard, a beautiful mannequin who steps down from her department store window, and all the dolls "no longer believed in," left abandoned in the attic, who magically come to life.

With each new book, Steven Millhauser radically stretches not only the limits of fiction but also of his seemingly limitless abilities. Enchanted Night is a remarkable piece of fiction, a compact tale of loneliness and desire that is as hypnotic and rich as the language Millhauser uses to weave it.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews 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

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 148 KB
  • Print Length: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0012DZ33S
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,695 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The night is beautiful. March 1, 2000
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Gossamer Delicacy and Heady Sensuality October 18, 2000
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreamy and delightful July 9, 2001
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modernizing magic December 26, 1999
By Ann
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mesmerizing Tone-Poem to America December 21, 1999
By A Customer
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the language and the weave ... not the plot July 7, 2004
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This novella tells the story of one peculiar night in a small town that is having difficulty sleeping. Of course there have been other sleepless nights in this small town, but none until this one have been enchanted.
When the people of the town cannot sleep, they wander the streets, thinking that they are alone. Little do they know that the rest of the town is experiencing the same insomnia and are also wandering through the night. A girl longs for her beau to come to her lonely window; he does. A man lusts after a manequin in a window; she comes to life. The Pied Piper leads the children through the woods with his magic flute. A girl who decides to moonbathe in the nude is followed by a lusty man and rescued in the nick of time by a guy who lives in his mother's attic. A band of young female thieves enjoy lemonade in the most unlikely of homes.
The night is so fantastical that perhaps it was just a dream. Whatever it was, it makes for an enjoyable, short read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I absolutely LOVED Enchanted Night on audio cassette
I absolutely LOVED Enchanted Night on audio cassette....Stefan Rudnicki's voice made it come to life!! Highly recommend the audio version!!
Published 6 months ago by Prepgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicate dream falling like a snow-white feather
While this is indeed a short work, it's as luminous & rich as a handful of pearls scattered in the moonlight ... Read more
Published 9 months ago by William Timothy Lukeman
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful purchase.
What an inspiring piece of literature, I am so glad we live in an age where a book like this exists.
Published 12 months ago by Sean C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser
This is a slim, gorgeous, simply enjoyable, startling romantic little book about a smattering of everypeople using the night to entertain their deep desires and hidden longings. Read more
Published on June 21, 2011 by scott89119
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!
A quick read - lots of fun, imagination and quite an atmosphere - not to be missed.
Published on August 9, 2010 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful poetry
This is a beautiful exploration of a small Connecticut town on a summer night, but calling it a novella seems a bit of a stretch to me. Verbal snapshots would be more appropriate. Read more
Published on December 27, 2009 by Brianna Kempe
5.0 out of 5 stars surreal americana
a wonderful novella about the strange, surreal goings on in a classic american smalltown one night after dark. beautifully written, as everything by millhauser is. Read more
Published on March 24, 2009 by wordtron
5.0 out of 5 stars I hated to see it end
I read it while washing dishes, folding laundry, on my breaks, and even though I didn't want it to end, I couldn't stop reading. Read more
Published on February 21, 2007 by Remmy LeFresne
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreamy nocturnal escape
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)... Read more
Published on February 23, 2006 by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming and imaginative tale
One enchanted night, under a full moon, the loners come out to walk in

the moonlight. The mournful music of a flute calls to children, who

leave their homes... Read more
Published on October 22, 2004 by Bluestalking Reader
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