Understanding Steven Millhauser
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
Series Editor’s Preface
Chapter 1: Understanding Steven Millhauser
If ever there was a contemporary author who needed a book in the Understanding Contemporary American Literature series, Steven Millhauser is that writer. With the publication of his first novel, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972)...
Chapter 2: Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright
From the full title of Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright, readers expect a literary biography, complete with an apparent biographer, turning Millhauser into someone who “edited” the work for publication. Millhauser was well aware of the similarities...
Chapter 3: Portrait of a Romantic
The success of Millhauser’s first novel, Edwin Mullhouse, contributed measurably to the favorable response to Portrait of a Romantic (1977).1 The novel begins fittingly in an unnamed Connecticut town,2 as did the first novel, and clearly this second novel is exploring another part of Millhauser country. The...
Chapter 4: From the Realm of Morpheus
Steven Millhauser’s third novel appeared almost a decade after Portrait of a Romantic (1986). As Danielle Alexander notes, Knopf offered to publish From the Realm of Morpheus, but only if the author was willing to make cuts in the manuscript, and Millhauser was unwilling. Although his dedication to...
Chapter 5: In the Penny Arcade
After the high expectations generated by his first novel, Edwin Mullhouse, the second novel, Portrait of a Romantic (1977), was less well received. Although it might be understandable if he had some doubts about continuing in that genre, Millhauser spent almost a decade working on his third novel, In the...
Chapter 6: The Barnum Museum
Like In the Penny Arcade, The Barnum Museum (1990) brings together fiction of varying lengths and raises the issue of form. Although length is obviously no reliable gauge of a story’s significance, the longer stories in The Barnum Museum are likely to impress readers the most. The collection begins, for example...
Chapter 7: Little Kingdoms
Little Kingdoms (1993) once again raises issues of form in Steven Millhauser’s fiction. This first of two collections of novellas is a reminder that he has published twice as many novellas as novels and published many more stories than novels and novellas combined. Despite the customary misconception that a...
Chapter 8: Martin Dressler
Steven Millhauser’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Martin Dressler (1996), will remind readers of his earlier novels such as Edwin Mullhouse and shorter fiction such as “August Eschenburg” and “Eisenheim the Illusionist.” Martin Dressler is a bildungsroman, following the development of yet another self-immersed...
Chapter 9: The Knife Thrower and Other Stories
In the range of its subjects and its approaches to fiction, The Knife Thrower and Other Stories (1999) offers a collection of stories that the author’s readers will identify as “classic Millhauser.” The collection brings together a dozen stories providing a cornucopia of what Millhauser had been publishing in magazines...
Chapter 10: Enchanted Night: A Novella
Enchanted Night is unique among Steven Millhauser’s novellas. Unlike the three in Little Kingdoms or in The King in the Tree, Enchanted Night is the only novella Millhauser has published by itself. At one hundred pages Enchanted Night is about the size of “The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne,”...
Chapter 11: The King in the Tree
The combination of the three novellas in The King in the Tree is likely to pique the reader’s curiosity, just as the organization of short stories in a collection such as In the Penny Arcade raises questions of how the stories fit together. Reviewers generally agreed the three novellas were dark renditions of...
Chapter 12: Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories
Readers may be surprised to begin Dangerous Laughter (2008) with “Cat ’n’ Mouse,” under the rubric “Opening Cartoon.” Some may wonder: If the first selection is the “Opening Cartoon,” will the stories to follow also be “cartoons”? Is Millhauser himself playing “cat ’n’ mouse” with his readers by beginning...
Chapter 13: We Others: New and Selected Stories
We Others: New and Selected Stories (2011) marks a milestone in Steven Millhauser’s career. Like Dangerous Laughter, this collection was published by Knopf, the publisher of Edwin Mullhouse, and long respected for the fiction the press publishes. Additionally the “New and Selected” organization...