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The Barnum Museum: Stories

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  649 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
The Barnum Museum is a combination waxworks, masked ball, and circus sideshow masquerading as a collection of short stories. Within its pages, note such sights as: a study of the motives and strategies used by the participants in the game of Clue, including the seduction of Miss Scarlet by Colonel Mustard; the Barnum Museum, a fantastic, monstrous landmark so compelling th ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Poseidon Press
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(showing 1-30 of 1,393)
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Krok Zero
The driest and most difficult of Millhauser's collections, with only maybe a 50-60% success rate, but more richly varied than the others and full of alluring ideas even in the stories that don't work. It's hard to talk about Millhauser in general terms -- you can say things like, "he's interested in imagination and creation and the mysteries of art and narrative, and the relationship between reality and artifice, and he loves to overload the reader with physical details," and that would be true, ...more
Nov 28, 2007 Daniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
Mostly these stories are forgettable and in many cases, a struggle to read and enjoy. In fact, I felt that most of these weren't even stories, but rather, long treatise on subject, or location, or mood.

Only the last story, "Eisenheim the Illusionist" struck any chord in me. It was as if all the other pieces were working up to putting the various elements together and producing "Eisenheim" -- though even the story of "Eisenheim" is not worthy of such a long preamble.

I love the short story as a li
Steven Millhauser sure has a flair for detail. I don't think I'll ever approach the game of Clue again without imagining the personalities of each of the characters in rich detail.

Also, I really want one of those little pink rubber balls. You know the ones that have the little line of flashing all the way around? About 3 inches in diameter?

But I don't think I would even call these stories. Some are. I don't even know how to characterize the other ones.

The reason I read this was for the story
Millhauser is one of my favorite authors. His stories are incredible, imaginative, fresh, and unique, and his writing style makes me swoon. The Barnum Museum includes the short story that the movie, The Illusionist, was loosely based upon. Millhauser is a literary rock star.
Aug 16, 2015 Usuyitik rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dünya_öykü

Edward Norton’lu İllüzyonist’i bilirsiniz. Filmin hikayesinin uyarlandığı
“Sihirbaz Eisenheim” ise, Steven Millhauser’ın Barnum Müzesi’ndeki öykülerinden biri. İsterseniz önce “Yeni Başlayanlar İçin Steven Millhauser” turuna çıkalım, ardından da “Barnum Müzesi”ni gezeriz! Millhauser 1943 doğumlu ABD’li meşhur bir öykücü ve romancı. Akademiyi terk edip dört elle yazmaya sarılanlardan. Uluslararası tanınırlığını İllüzyonist filmine borçlu olduğunu söyleyebil
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Very well-written almost-classic short stories defy classification. Millhauser writes descriptively but sparingly, a seemingly contradictory characterization that makes his bare-bones stories deeper and more complex than their length would otherwise allow.

Interestingly, the story that spurred me to read this collection, :Eisenheim the Illusionist" that was the basis for the recent movie The Illusionist, wasn't the best story of the lot. While the movie did a good job of capturing the aura of mat
Feb 04, 2015 Godlarvae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As I had viewed Edward Norton's "The Impressionist", I sought out the short story from which the movie was adapted. I was amazed. I couldn't decide what the author's intent is. He obviously is a master wordsmith, an excellent writer of descriptive prose, one whose imagination would find few equals, but, I didn't get him. It wasn't until I was beginning his last short story that it became clear to me as I'd had similar experience while dreaming! We may all have dreams that seem eminently logical ...more
Apr 06, 2014 Tara rated it it was ok
Arrrrgh! I really wanted to like this collection of stories. I am late to discovering Millhauser, but he has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary authors. I have really enjoyed his other works, and love getting lost in his quasi-fantasy worlds.

But these stories were such drudgery. Long on description and details of minutia, short on story/narrative, few of the tales in this collection held my attention. Reading them felt more like viewing mystical vignettes through one of Millhauser's
Neale Osborne
Jun 07, 2016 Neale Osborne rated it really liked it
While doing a little research on ‘The Arabian Nights’ (for a novel of my own) I read, on Wikipedia, that this collection boasted an ‘Eighth Voyage of Sinbad’. Intrigued, I bought a copy and found a fascinating variety of stories (ten in all).
The shortest of these fictional vignettes were the least successful for me (‘Beyond the Blue Curtain’ and ‘Rain’; also ‘The Sepia Postcard’ which was whimsically promising - the postcard of the title reminding me of Montague James' ghost story 'The Mezzotint
Jan 07, 2016 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
I would like to only write a review for the last short story (Eisenheim, the Illusionist) within this book, but i can't. The 10 short stories in this book are very descriptive, are word heavy, and with little to no dialogue. This combined to make for a dreary read. I found most of the short stories to be lacking in finish - they merely started then finished with no point (or one that I failed to discover). But I kept reading anxious to get to the Illusionist mainly because I really enjoyed the m ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Very interesting. The "Clue" story was fascinating, and the title story was enthralling. Millhauser creates a great atmosphere with his words, and really puts the reader into the location. However, many of the stories lacked sufficient plot or motivation or resolution to really feel satisfying. Definitely worth a read, though.
Emily Brown
Mar 31, 2014 Emily Brown rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could not get into this book at all. The characters were shallow, the writing was dull. I have no idea why he won a Pulitzer prize. To be fair, I didn't actually finish any of the stories, but I did read six pages of Alice, Falling before I got bored. I also tried to read two pages of A Game of Clue, but was put off by the lack of ANYTHING INTERESTING HAPPENING AT ALL. I'd be interested in the description of something as mundane as a Clue board game if it had any life or beauty, but this was l ...more
Nov 20, 2007 Alexandra marked it as to-read-dont-own  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avail-on-kindle
Contains the story "Eisenheim the Illusionist" on which the move "The Illusionist" was based.
Jan 18, 2012 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I only read the short story of Eisenheim The Illusionist in this book.
Mar 08, 2014 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first short story in this collection, "A Game of Clue," brings the rooms and characters of the popular board game to life. It is a clever tale, but somewhat disappointing. However the next two stories -- "Behind the Blue Curtain" and "The Sepia Postcard" are exceptional. Millhauser's gift is in his descriptions of vivid and magical settings. In "Behind the Blue Curtain," the young narrator discovers endless, ornate rooms, long winding halls, and richly costumed film characters hidden in the ...more
Mar 18, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I don't think I knew anything about the author before grabbing this book off the shelf. I'm very happy that I did and would be willing to rate this collection a "4.5".

While Millhauser writes in great, perhaps excruciating, detail his themes like those of Shakespeare are universal. Since I have not read anything else that he has written, I can only guess that most of his work shares the deep point-of-view and motivational aspects of these stories. Several of the tales strongly resonated with me,
Jan 31, 2016 Krzysztof rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very uneven collection, but the best pieces here (the title one, "The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad", "Eisenheim the Illusionist" and "A Game of Clue") deserve more than 5 stars and easily make up for the filler. Plus there's always something interesting going on in a Millhauser story, even one that never quite gets off the ground.
Dec 17, 2012 Sam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, shorts, mystery
This is a strange collection of tales some of which I enjoyed, some of which I didn't. I loved The Sepia Postcard and Eisenheim the Illusionist, both of which I found very well written and inventive with just enough hints at reality to suck the reader in and keep you thoroughly engrossed from start to finish. The remaining tales were a little odd and I found I just couldn't get into them that much, particularly the first story, A Game of Clue, I just didn't see the purpose of that at all. Rain I ...more
John Porter
A three and half star book. Just reread it and was surprised (and a little pleased) to find I felt the same way about it as when I originally read it. I'm a fan of Millhauser and I enjoyed both the story and movie of "Eisenheim." That being said, I think this collection trips over its format. Without a unifying theme (or, perhaps, with a more subtly used one), I think Millhauser's writing and maybe even story choices would have been freer. This is quite good--he's a terrific writer--but you can ...more
Alison Smith
Dec 07, 2014 Alison Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can quite see why he won the Pulitzer Prize (for a novel). This collection of short stories in the Magical Realism genre is rich, rare and marvelous. Not to be missed.
Jan 23, 2013 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I struggled with whether to give this book three or four stars. If you're a creative writer, then I would give this book 4 stars because there is much to learn from Millhauser's technique. If you're looking for something strictly for pleasure I'd give this a 3. Pleasure readers will likely skip over a few of the stories, but the ones you don't want to miss are "Eisenheim the Illusionist" (which the movie The Illusionist is based on), "The Invention of Robert Herendeen," "Rain," and "The Sepia Po ...more
Leah Lucci
The fantasy stories in here, most notably the title story and the final story about the magician, are astoundingly good. Wow. There are also a few others in here that are nice, which also have fantasy/magical realism elements. But there are quite a few that feel like filler. He has this old-fashioned style of writing that goes really well with fantasy, but when applied to more realistic fare, becomes tedious. Overall, though, if you can, say, check it out of the library, it's worth it, just to r ...more
For best effect, proceed directly to the eponymous short story, then to Eisenheim the Illusionist, and round things out with The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. (The first shares a kinship with Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus; the second with Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, and the third has nothing to do with circuses although its attachment to A Thousand and One Arabian Nights fulfills the nocturnal requirement.)

The rest of the short stories may be read if you are perhaps waiting in a docto
Jul 06, 2015 Gülce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Benim favorim Sihirbaz Eisenheim oldu. Sihirbaz fiminin senaryosunu da bu oyku olusturmus. Eger ince detaylar ve uzun betimlemelerden keyif aliyorsaniz tavsiye ederim.
Jun 02, 2014 Ann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Actually I liked the first and the last story. The rest was a bit tiresome.
Drew Perron
These stories are less narratives and more tone poems, weaving words to evoke an emotional response. Unfortunately, for me, most of the tones involved aren't especially enjoyable or interesting (though there were one or two that I really enjoyed). This is a book where reactions will be idiosyncratic and subjective.
Aug 24, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't review the entire book as I only read Eisenheim the Illusionist, the last short story in this collection. The Illusionist is one of my favourite films and I wnated to read the short story that inspired it. I really liked the story, even though it lacked the romance seen in the film. I loved the way Millhauser described the magic tricks and how they all worked, and how all the magicians couldn't figure out how Eisenheim's tricks worked. Might end up reading the entire collection after all ...more
Jul 11, 2013 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leftovers
Of course, I have the idea in my head that I'm "not being clever enough" or "not understanding" what is being told to me through this book. But, ultimately, I read what I read and I found it boring and tedious. Positively, the metaphors and description in this book are good and sometimes lovely, but the narrative is appalling and non-existent in most places. The whole book feels completely pointless, except for "Eisenheim The Illusionist" which is the only worthwhile story in the book and recomm ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Gladys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book overall is a good read, but the short story about which the movie The illusionist is based is outstanding!!!
Feb 21, 2014 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some stories in this were better than others. The ones I recommend are Alice, Falling, Eisenheim the Illusionist, and Rain.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #137 The Barnum Museum by Stephen Millhauser 1 1 Dec 02, 2014 10:43PM  
  • Stained Glass Elegies
  • Maybe This Time
  • Tail of the Blue Bird
  • A Night at the Movies, Or, You Must Remember This: Fictions
  • The Complete Butcher's Tales
  • The Age of Wire and String
  • Magic: 1400s–1950s
  • Love in a Dead Language
  • Overnight to Many Distant Cities
  • Gryphon: New and Selected Stories
  • Boswell: A Modern Comedy
  • Thirst
  • Otogizoshi: The Fairy Tale Book of Dazai Osamu
  • The Loved Dead and Other Revisions
  • Singular Pleasures
  • Partial List of People to Bleach
  • You have never been here: New and Selected Stories
  • The Spirit Cabinet

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