Editorial Reviews for this title:
Best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, Steven Millhauser has always been most at home with the short story. This new collection of twelve stories puts his rich and varied talents on dazzling display, demonstrating why this singular writer is acclaimed as one of the most subtle, magical, and penetrating explorers of the American imagination.
Whether chronicling the phastasmagoric excesses of an amusement park entrepreneur in "Paradise Park," or the dangerously addictive delights of the largest department store ever conceived in "The Dream of the Consortium," Millhauser's fictions explore not only the magnificent obsessions of the unfettered imagination, but also the darker, subterranean desires that fuel them. From the odd corners of life that persist below the sunlit world in "Beneath the Cellars of Our Town," to views from the heavens in "Flying Carpets" and "Balloon Flight, 1870," he takes us on a tour beyond the everyday, to realms we recognize only in dreams.
In "The Way Out," an illicit affair leads an exhausted lover into a sunrise appointment with death. In "Claire de Lune" and "The Sisterhood of Night," he magically evokes the enigmatic otherness of the adolescent soul. Like the knife thrower in the title story, Millhauser's fictions beguile and beckon us into hitherto unexplored realms, where spectral truths, enchanting vistas, and the mysteries of art await us.
The Knife Thrower introduces a series of distinctively Millhauserian worlds: tiny, fabulous, self-enclosed, like Fabergé eggs or like the short-story genre itself. Flying carpets; subterranean amusement parks; a band of teenage girls who meet secretly in the night in order to do "nothing at all"; a store with departments of Moorish courtyards, volcanoes, and Aztec temples: these are Millhauser's stock-in-trade as a storyteller, and he employs them to characteristically magical effect. As in Millhauser's other books, including Edwin Mullhouse and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, his subject is nothing less than the faculty of imagination itself. Here, however, the flights of fancy are unencumbered by Martin Dressler's wealth of period detail, and the result is fun-house prose whose pleasures and terrors are equally gossamer. Millhauser possesses the unique ability to render the quotidian strange, so that, emerging from his stories, the reader often feels the world itself an unfamiliar place--as do the shoppers at his department store, that marketplace of skillful illusion: "As we hurry along the sidewalk, we have the absurd sensation that we have entered still another department, composed of ingeniously lifelike streets with artful shadows and reflections--that our destinations lie in a far corner of the same department--that we are condemned to hurry forever through these artificial halls, bright with late afternoon light, in search of the way out."
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