- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 23, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307595900
- ISBN-13: 978-0307595904
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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We Others: New and Selected Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 23, 2011
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“Powerful . . . A book of astonishingly beautiful and moving stories by one of America’s finest and most original writers. . . . Faulkner said that short stories were harder to write than novels . . . Stories tend to see life on a smaller scale [than novels] and confine themselves to a short span to time and a small number of characters. Their most admirable quality is associated with what Steven Millhauser calls ‘artful exclusions.’ Like poems, good stories never overexplain. They only hint that a second, slower, and more careful reading will deepen our understanding. Millhauser’s stories have that effect on me. They are never far from my mind and they return for a visit from time to time. . . . What they have in common is that most of them may be said to take place in what Hawthorne called ‘neutral territory’ between the real world and fairy land, where the actual and imaginary meet and each imbues itself with the nature of the other. Millhauser has a fascination with moments in our lives when something inexplicable happens, when our reality collides with some other reality, while the world we had taken for granted up to that moment turns strange, and even familiar things cease to be themselves, stripping us in the process of our identities, and leaving in their place something that has no name. . . . The shock of the real, along with the shock of something that transcends it, is what he wants us to experience. Millhauser is one of the most imaginative writers we have, capable of pure invention. . . . Sublime.” —Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books
“Millhauser’s capstone collection of strange fables, written over the past 30 years, don’t evoke life; they provoke thought.” —San Francisco Chronicle, Best of 2011
“Millhauser is a writer whose work partakes both of the dream logic strangeness of the post-Borgesian fictional tradition and the calm virtuosity of mass magazine American story writing. . . . Illusionism is an apt metaphor for the fiction writer’s art, which depends on making something revelatory happen while maintain the audience’s belief that what they are seeing is, at least in some way, real. Many of the characters and themes in Millhauser’s earlier stories allegorize this aspect of writing. . . . The new stories in the volume move away from Millhauser’s previous obsessions: the magic tricks and postmodern metatextuality for the most part recede in favour of an eerie realism. Steven Millhauser is at his best when he is mysterious but explicable—which is the case more now than ever.” —Michael Sayeu, Times Literary Supplement
“Mesmerizing . . . magical. We Others comprehends three decades of work, and it’s remarkable not only for the consistent delight it provides but also for the unwavering intensity of the vision that animates it. For all the wonder and fluency of these stories, they’re constructed on formal lines. . . . Millhauser’s fiction has always seemed larger than the space it fills; these stories cover as much ground, paragraph to paragraph, as any fiction I know. They are concerned with a cultural, political, moral or physical boundary that they approach and then overstep. They move inevitably toward the extreme expression of an idea or possibility. . . . Millhauser, like all the great fabulists, is first of all a great writer and a great stylist. His prose, which might seem restrained and often appears stripped of adornment, is doing considerable stylistic work. It’s often said that one feature of great writing is economy; but this is true only if we understand economy to mean the judicious use of language in every sense, not just the telegraphic prose one associates with the young Hemingway. There’s another kind of economy—the deliberate or apparent lack of economy—that’s harder to identify and harder still to do well, and this is the kind of writing for which Millhauser has an almost unrivaled genius. . . . The selected older stories are a joy to return to or to encounter for the first time. . . . Clear and precise and carefully ordered . . . Great stories are larger than the ideas that animate them. The best of these retreat to the edge of comprehension, they stand apart, they remain irreducible.”
—Aaron Thier, The Nation
“Outstanding . . . [In We Others], readers will find an extensive cast of characters, including a knife-thrower, adolescent boys on flying carpets, ghosts and a cartoon cat and mouse in addition to a previously unpublished novella-length title story in which a deceased man returns and reaches out to two lonely women. Each selection invites the reader to enter into the strangeness of a mysterious and fascinating place. Don’t miss these new and selected stories.”
—Jeanne Nicholson, The Providence Journal
“A Steven Millhauser story is meticulously worded, often off-kilter at heart, and deserving of comparisons to Borges and Kafka. He has built a reputation on producing a consistently mystifying and provocative product. In this volume of new and selected works written over 30 years, he offers us numerous tales from four volumes whose storylines have been creative loci for him for decades. These yarns, with their idyllic American backdrops, their driven geniuses entrenched in fin-de-siècle Europe, their wondrous, inexplicable occurrences, from flying carpets to frog wives, make demands on our imaginations, but definitely give back in return. And what’s more, the new stories in the volume display an unfamiliar restlessness, possibly a sign of stylistic changes afoot. . . . Millhauser’s recurring storylines are much like forms—we care less about the stories than about the emotions they produce. Some of his stories are intensely imagined biographies, or parts thereof, that ultimately turn inwards. . . . One of Millhauser’s most arresting stylistic quirks is to tell a story in the first person plural. Millhauser’s ‘we’ both invites and distances; it asks us to be part of a group, witnessing the bizarre events occurring before ‘our’ eyes, but it also gives a passive tone to the work, perpetually separating the teller of the story from the story itself. Naming the book We Others, then, raises the question: Are we part of ‘us’ or ‘them’? Are we witnesses, participants, outcasts? It is that kind of quiet unsettlement that makes We Others essential reading for anyone who might have ever doubted their assumptions.”
—Max Winter, The Boston Globe
“[We Others] is all the things a person wants a Steven Millhauser book to be: lapidary, disturbing, mandarin, brilliant, perverse, and funny. As befits a book whose very title is given in the collective first person, it contains a teeming multitude of strange voices. There's not a dog in the bunch. A new-and-selected-stories collection is an invitation to look at a writer's career, and Millhauser's has been a long, strange trip. It's not his biography that's been weird, but his work—and weird in the old-fashioned sense. Millhauser has refused pure realism from the start, but he's not a formal gamesman like Donald Barthelme. His narrative structures are usually old-fashioned. It's what he does with them that's surprising. He uses comfortable story, novella, and novel forms to take us into the realms of the fantastic and the absurd. For many writers this would be—has been—enough. But Millhauser goes a further step. As strange as his characters' experiences may be—watching a friend fall in love with a giant frog; telling us what it's like to live as a ghost; flying around the backyard on a carpet—he always delivers us eventually to felt human experience. He uses these odd situations to try to get at subtle, hard to pin down, and very real human feelings. . . . Millhauser also specializes in stories that try to get below the surface of ordinary life. He probes hard at tiny moments—such as a character's anticipatory approach to the first summer dip in the lake in the story "Getting Closer." At the opposite end of the spectrum, Millhauser is a master of the purely fantastical—stories that feel witty and contemporary but also make gemlike little fairy tales. His astounding novella collection, The King in the Tree, falls into this category. Millhauser shows in this work that he can write with a hard, glittering beauty. But he is probably most famous for his rarified and unusual historical fiction. He repeatedly explores the technologies and art forms that were new in the 19th century, wondering and worrying over the birth of the modern. This obsession—a word I think it is fair to use—informed his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Martin Dressler (1996). . . . A longtime master of the short form, Millhauser shows in [the seven] new pieces that he has somehow managed to improve what was already very good, writing with increased clarity, power, and emotional heft. The opening story, ‘The Slap,’ is told from the collective point of view of the townspeople of a smug commuter town where an unknown assailant has taken to slapping random victims. The story manages to indict elite complacency without slipping into sophomoric American Beauty-type clichés. The slaps force the townspeople to reassess their comfortable lives . . . Millhauser makes us sympathize with the outsider, the slapper, through the words of his victims. This displacement of sympathy is typical of his stories; you as a reader often find yourself on the wrong end of the stick, or, if not the wrong end exactly, then at least the poky, awkward one. . . . The book is full of gorgeous writing about seriously entertaining characters. . . . There's something moving about the idea of this man, now growing older, returning over and ove...
About the Author
Steven Millhauser is the author of numerous works of fiction, including Martin Dressler, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, and, most recently, Dangerous Laughter, a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. His work has been translated into fifteen languages, and his story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” was the basis of the 2006 film The Illusionist. He teaches at Skidmore College and lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
The "New Stories" half of "We Others: New and Selected Stories" by Steven Millhauser occupies just 144 pages. Does the publisher view us readers of Millhauser as an impatient lot, unable to wait the few years it would take this methodically productive author's backlog of unpublished stories to grow from the seven found here to a total of, say, a dozen? Why not wait for enough material to satisfy our expectation for a hearty, stand-alone book of new stories? And what about the back half of the book -- the "Selected Stories" compilation? Does this indicate Knopf considers Millhauser undeserving of a "Collected Stories" compilation (the treatment respectfully accorded Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel, Grace Paley, Deborah Eisenberg and others)?
The "Selected Stories" half of this book consists of 14 stories from Millhauser's four previous volumes of short stories (all of which are still in print).
From In the Penny Arcade: Stories (American Literature Series):
- A Protest Against the Sun
- August Eschenburg
From The Barnum Museum (American Literature Series):
- The Barnum Museum
- The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad
- Eisenheim the Illusionist
From The Knife Thrower: and Other Stories (Vintage Contemporaries):
- The Knife Thrower
- A Visit
- Flying Carpets
- Clair de Lune
And from Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories:
- Cat 'n' Mouse
- The Disappearance of Elaine Coleman
- History of a Disturbance
- The Wizard of West Orange
Millhauser explains in his "Author's Note" how he worked past initial trepidation to pick these pieces: "I chose stories that seized my attention as if they'd been written by someone whose work I had never seen before." Millhauser fans may object to the omission a favorite or two from his inventory, but I think he generally made good choices. This compilation will allow a new reader to get an accurate perspective on Millhauser's work. So: the book may be an excellent gift idea.
While Millhauser is not breaking any new ground in the seven new stories, I perceived a heightened emphasis on what in one story he calls "a savage loneliness of which you can know nothing." Opening with "The Slap" in which a quiet suburban community tries to fathom the meaning of a stealthy stranger who randomly approaches residents to delivery a slap to their face ("we had been violated in some definite though enigmatic way") and ending with "We Others" narrated by the ghost of a recently-deceased doctor who self-examines his attraction to a couple of lonely women ("our desire is infused with a darker, more ferocious longing: the desire for all that we have ceased to be"), these new tales are a continuation of Millhauser's hallmark obsessions played out within solidly crafted surreal worlds -- worlds which mirror what we understand, perhaps mistakenly, to be our real world.
Millhauser seems fixated on his schooldays. Dare one suggest that's because he can't 'do' grown-ups? Also worth pointing out is that this hefty tome contains just 21 stories. They're distended, elephantine, hollow. (This is thinking big?) Unless one's stuck on a four-hour flight with only one book, less is always more. And even then. I liked the second para of the first story, headed Our Town, by the way. That is writing - it put me in mind of Christopher Priest, whose recommendation led me to this. The Barnum Museum is also passably Priestly (though there's one of Millhauser's generic 'plain, quiet' girls - yawn); but if planes had windows..