From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Phenomenal clarity and rapacious movement are only two of the virtues of Millhauser's new collection, which focuses on the misery wrought by misdirected human desire and ambition. The citizens who build insulated domes over their houses in The Dome escalate their ambitions to great literal and figurative heights, but the accomplishment becomes bittersweet. The uncontrollably amused adolescents in the book's title story, who gather together for laughing sessions, find something ultimately joyless in their mirth. As in earlier works like The Barnum Museum
, Millhauser's tales evolve more like lyrical essays than like stories; the most breathlessly paced sound the most like essays. The painter at the center of A Precursor of the Cinema develops from entirely conventional works to paintings that blend photographic realism with inexplicable movement, to—something entirely new. Similarly, haute couture dresses grow in A Change in Fashion until the people beneath them disappear, and the socioeconomic tension Millhauser induces is as tight as a corset. Though his exaggerated outlook on contemporary life might seem to be at once uncomfortably clinical and fantastical, Millhauser's stories draw us in all the more powerfully, extending his peculiar domain further than ever. (Feb.)
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Pulitzer Prizeâ"winner Steven Millhauser (Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
) has focused his attention in recent years on the novella and short fiction. The author culls his latest collection from stories published in The New Yorker
, and other venues over the last decade. Any collection drawn from such diverse sources and compiled over a period of time will strike some readers as disconnected. All critics welcome Millhauserâs return and compare the best of these stories (âHere at the Historical Society,â for example) to the work of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. Less popular are âThe Tower,â about a literal Tower of Babel that struggles to rise, and other stories that embrace Big Ideas. Overall, Dangerous Laughter
is a strong effortâ"ânot just brilliant but prescientâ (New York Times Book Review
)â"and reading these stories is like picking up the âbest ofâ collection of your favorite band: good memories, catchy hooks, and always something new in the familiar.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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