Sunday, August 05, 2007

Steven Millhauser wrote a short story, "A Precursor To The Cinema," that appeared in issue 15 of McSweeney's and freaked me out. It read like Borges, if Borges was interested in art history and film rather than just books. It described in really realistic language the fantastic, and summoned up a thing that felt huge to me.

So yesterday I went to the library to actually pick up a book of his, The Knife Thrower and other stories. Partly because I'm acquainted with the style and had a certain set of expectations, nothing startled me like that first piece. Maybe these stories just aren't as good, and the McSweeney's piece was later, so maybe he's just more developed. I don't know, though, he won a Pulitzer in the seventies, and his author photo makes him look like an old man. The book's not bad though.

Millhauser's stories, that I've read at least, all have this theme or point-of-view to them that I fully support. Although my metaphor for it is awful- Did anyone hear about that study that found out that pedophiles were really into Star Trek? And the reasoning postulated wasn't just "haha nerds," but rather that what appealed was this world of aliens and fantasy where more things were allowed?

Millhauser's stuff is like that, in this interest of larger and bolder entertainments, but that leads to some kind of transgression. He creates a world where there are mysteries and craziness, but then sees bad things as the conclusion of this. "Paradise Park" is about an impossible amusement park, "The Sisterhood Of Night" about a secret society of teenage girls, "The New Automaton Theater" about an imagined art tradition of miniature clockwork robots that act out dramas. The more traditional short stories, "A Visit" and "The Way Out" have eccentrics as the catalysts for the action. This a book of short stories- There are a few novels he's written, and a couple books that contain three longer stories apiece, and I don't know what those are like. I imagine they're all kind of similar- He wrote a book that postulated it was written by an eight-year-old.

Basically it's imagining a cooler world than the one we live in, but not a utopia. It gets a little repetitive, but always in the interest of opening things up.

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