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Dangerous laughter : thirteen stories
Steven Millhauser
Adult Fiction MILLHAU

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From Publishers' Weekly:

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

A sense of mystery and strangeness pervades these 13 stories by Pulitzer Prize winner Millhauser. Divided into three sections, the stories explore themes of excess and obsession. "Vanishing Acts," the first section, is the most realistic. "The Disappearance of Elaine Coleman" pins the guilt for the unexplained disappearance of an individual no one really knows on the narrator, along with all those who've rendered her invisible. "Dangerous Laughter" is the story of a suburban, teenage hysteria with fatal consequences. The "Impossible Architectures" section explores bizarre, fantastical worlds, such as the community in "The Other Town" that is an exact, unlived-in replica of another, and the ultimately invisible miniatures created by the master modeler of "In the Reign of Harad IV." The stories in the final section, "Heretical Histories," are set in seemingly parallel universes, including that of "The Wizard of West Orange," about an inventor resembling Thomas Edison who attempts to create a machine to replicate human touch. While not everything works, Millhauser's intelligence and originality shine through on every page. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/07.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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