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Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright
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Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  723 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Edwin Mullhouse, a novelist at 10, is mysteriously dead at 11. As a memorial, Edwin's bestfriend, Jeffrey Cartwright, decides that the life of this great American writer must be told. He follows Edwin's development from his preverbal first noises through his love for comic books to the fulfillment of his literary genius in the remarkable novel, Cartoons.
Paperback, 305 pages
Published April 16th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1972)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,573)
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Jan 01, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing
I originally read this book in my sophomore year of high school, and remember little about it except that I liked it. Reading it again, it turns out that Edwin Mullhouse is actually one of my favorite books; if I didn't know any better, I'd also venture that it's been a fairly significant influence on my own sporadic attempts at fiction. Huh.

There's a lot going on here: a parody of the impulse to biography (since the narrator is a sixth-grader and the subject is his next-door neighbor and playma
Jul 12, 2012 Angie rated it liked it
Shelves: for-a-rainy-day
I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The concept I found to be quite charming if a bit strange. It is the tale of young genius Jeffrey and of his obsession in detailing the life and relationships of his best friend, Edwin. This story chronicles their lives from toddlerhood up until Edwin's unfortunate demise during the last of their grade school years.

I found Jeffrey's attitude and style of writing to be humorous in a weird ironic way. It was more the fact that the precise,
A.J. Howard
Nov 16, 2010 A.J. Howard rated it it was amazing
A lot of times I feel like my preconceived notions of a novel plays a disproportionate role in my eventual reaction to the book. For instance, I'll read a book like Lolita and I go into it knowing that it's one of the major works of the 20th century, and that Nabokov is a master of English prose. The same is true with novels that I hear criticism of. If reviewers I tend to a agree with disparage a book, I'll find myself prone a somewhat hidden wish to confirm their opinion. I don't think this is ...more
Oct 02, 2007 George rated it it was amazing
the novel i keep recommending to my students and anyone who will listen - no one ever reads it - it is a marvel!

My best of the 20th century pick - i love this novel in every way possible - also read his other marvel - "portrait of a romantic"

p.s. if you saw the movie "The Illusionist" - this was based on a short story by Stehphen M.
Christian Schwoerke
Feb 16, 2014 Christian Schwoerke rated it liked it
I recall reading this book sometime in the late 70s; a recommendation of a college classmate addicted to novels. The subtitle sets up the novel’s premise: “The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943 – 1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright.” One notes that this American writer might be no more than 11 years old at his death, and I wonder, “Just what could this wunderkind write that might earn him the honor of a biography?”

The perception that Millhauser is presenting an elaborate farce is further support
Jan 17, 2009 Tony rated it it was amazing
Millhauser, Steven. EDWIN MULLHOUSE: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright. (1972). *****. This is probably one of the strangest books you will come across in a long, long time. It purports to be a biography of Edwin Mullhouse as written by Jeffrey Cartwright and discovered and republished by a Walter Logan White. It is, in fact, a novel by Millhauser cast in the form of a biography – a biography of Mullhouse as written by his childhood friend Cartwright. The b ...more
Nov 15, 2008 Fred rated it really liked it
On the one hand, I found this a wholly original and interesting novel, but on the other hand, I sometimes found the execution of its premise (the biography of an 11-year-old by the subject's next-door neighbor and obsessive admirer) wearying in its detail and layers of imagery. This the the kind of book that presents itself a particular challenge, which is to make its narrative true to its conceits while simultaneously engaging readers. It's on this point that I found the novel lacking at times, ...more
Mar 25, 2012 Sophie rated it liked it
Based on writing alone, this was undoubtedly a five. Really excellent, precise, vivid writing. And I enjoyed the book a lot and think it was an interesting premise but it felt very flat to me because at its heart it told such an ordinary story of childhood. I do love the premise: it's supposedly 11-year-old Jeffrey writing the biography of his genius best friend and neighbor, when in fact Jeffrey is the true genius and Edwin is a totally ordinary boy who Jeffrey becomes obsessed with. And I thin ...more
dead letter office
Jul 09, 2013 dead letter office rated it really liked it
The premise is that the book is a biography of the child writer Edwin Mullhouse (1943-1954) as written by his friend Jeffrey following Edwin's untimely death. Jeffrey must be an exceptionally precocious child, because he has an outstanding memory for detail and a very adult vocabulary. (You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.)

I read this after I read A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I *hated*), and couldn't help feeling that Owen Meany had been written with Edwin Mullhouse in m
Nils Samuels
May 11, 2007 Nils Samuels rated it really liked it
A truly strange read, best absorbed by those with a taste for the minutae of childhood -- toys, stray books, the ephemeral artifacts of long ago postWWII suburbia. Premise is consistent with Boswell's =Life of Johnson= and VN's =Pale Fire=. Form, though, is very different, with an all-knowing child biographer memorializing a life still in its preteen years. The relentless detail can sometimes be a bit much, but then again that is the point: cataloging the pieces may or may not capture the elusiv ...more
Aaron Jansen
Aug 09, 2016 Aaron Jansen rated it it was amazing
Edwin Mullhouse (insert as many ellipses as you'd like, for it is a long title indeed), Steven Millhauser's first novel, is, to my surprise, a far better novel than Portrait of a Romantic, his second—though I'm not sure I can explain why or how, exactly, since they are highly similar in style (elaborate), setting (mid-century small town Connecticut), subject matter (childhood), and plot (negligible).

Okay, technically this novel is about childhood, while Portrait is about adolescence; that is on
Nov 18, 2015 Kristen rated it really liked it
This one's a satire on biography. Young Jeffrey Cartwright writes the life story of his best friend next door, Edwin, who lives all the way to the ripe age of 11. Jeffrey presents Edwin as "an American writer" because he created a book of cartoons. Jeffrey may be imitating the classic Life of Johnson by Boswell. He affects a brainy, academic tone as he describes the small stuff of childhood. On Edwin in kindergarten: "Later he was fascinated by the yellow paper with its alternately dark blue and ...more
A undici anni esatti Edwin Mullhouse muore. E Jeffrey Cartwright, migliore amico, compagno di scuola e vicino di casa, si mette subito al lavoro sulla sua biografia. Edwin infatti è l'autore di Cartoons oltre che di qualche opera minore apparsa nel giornalino di famiglia da lui gestito, e Jeffrey non può che documentarne la grandezza in ogni suo aspetto, dai versi che produceva da bebè fino alle influenze letterarie dei libri per bambini.
È una parodia del genere biografico, e fin qui ci siamo. Q
Distress Strauss
Jan 04, 2009 Distress Strauss rated it it was amazing
Along with JR, this is father and the God of the superkid smart-beyond-their-years trend, and it drives a skewer through its infantile heart before it even gets a chance to be born. Also part Boswell parody and part Pale Fire (which is also a parody, of course). So ahead of its time that it exists out-of-time.
Sep 24, 2007 Megan rated it did not like it
I tried, and tried, and tried some more, to finish this book. (I'm stubborn like that.) I never got through this. From what I remember, it chronicles the life of an extremely gifted, and boring child. I'm guessing by the title that he died somewhere in there, but I didn't get that far.
John Pappas
Jul 27, 2011 John Pappas rated it it was amazing
Millhauser mines familiar ground as he blurs the borders between fiction and reality, calling into question historical veracity, memoir "truth" and possibility of objectivity. Jeffrey Cartwright is my new favorite unreliable narrator.
Apr 25, 2016 Seth rated it liked it
I've been a big fan of Martin Dressler and of many of his one-element-is-fantastical short stories, and in this one, his first, I think we can see pretty well where the later stuff comes from. Published in 1972, when Millhauser was in his late 20s, it's a pretty remarkable book, studied, careful, precise, if a little slow. The one fantastical element in this one is that a 12-year-old has total memory recall essentially from birth and that he can write like a very talented adult. But once you acc ...more
Oct 02, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Among many other pleasures, retrieves details of forgotten childhood experience that produce a smile and shock of recognition for those of us of a certain age. For you young 'uns, conveys something of what life was like for your grandparents or parents when they were half your age or less -- and offers a measuring stick for gauging how much the same and how different childhood and life are or were for you.

A sample (Chapter 21): "Did he learn anything in Kindergarten? Oh everything. He learned Si
Umberto Rossi
May 05, 2013 Umberto Rossi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vi affascina il mondo dei bambini? Avete letto Tu, sanguinosa infanzia di Michele Mari e vi sono venuti i lucciconi? Avete goduto avventurandovi in Io non ho paura di Ammaniti? E allora questo romanzo non ve lo dovete proprio perdere, perché è il libro che vi mancava… almeno da quando è uscito negli Stati Uniti, nel 1972, e ha inutilmente atteso un editore italiano che non dormisse. Dopo trentatré anni finalmente ci pensa la Fanucci a proporre nella magistrale traduzione di Bernardo Draghi l’ope ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Jim rated it liked it
I was first introduced to Millhauser by way of Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer. The book didn't impress me; I found the prose too loaded with unnecessary and distracting descriptions of dreams and objects and space. I didn't think I'd read him again. But then, just this year, I read a short story of his called "Phantoms", and it blew me away, so I went out and bought this novel, expecting that my older, more mature self would be better equipped to appreciate his prose. And indee ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing
This has everything I want in a novel: beautiful sentences, engaging characters, important themes, clever structure, and belly laughs!
Ostensibly this is the biography of an 11-year old boy written by another 11-year-old boy. The plot is simply following the two boys from their birth to Edwin's 11 birthday. While some unlikely things happen, it is really the ordinariness of their lives that make Millhauser's genius shine. He takes perfectly ordinary circumstances and, through specificity, insight
Vit Babenco
Jan 25, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
"Isn’t it true that the biographer performs a function nearly as great as, or precisely as great as, or actually greater by far than the function performed by the artist himself? For the artist creates the work of art, but the biographer, so to speak, creates the artist".
In the end every story becomes different from what its author wanted it to be. In the end our life turns out to be a different story than we wished it to.
May 02, 2013 Rosa rated it liked it
I was a little disappointed by this since I absolutely loved the first book I read by Millhauser, Little Kingdoms. Edwin Mullhouse has the same sort of meta-textual premise and the same rich, detailed, glowing writing. However, it's a bit of a slog to actually get through. The unreliability of the narrator (12-year-old Jeffrey Cartwright, the "author" of the "biography") combined with the frequently mundane details doesn't quite work, at least to this reader.

The ending, however--Edwin Mullhouse'
May 17, 2010 Chelsea rated it really liked it
Oh, my God, this book is taking me forever! I'm very much enjoying it, but I hadn't realized a book told by the POV of a twelve-year-old (right?) would be so dense. That already, in & of itself, says a lot.
Okay. So, I feel like I ought to give it five stars, because if you're being totally objective, it's a five star book. But this is my GoodReads account, and not like, a serious publication that matters, so I don't have to be objective, do I? It's incredibly well written and
David Markwell
Feb 08, 2016 David Markwell rated it really liked it
This moving biography "written" by a young boy about his genius friend Edwin is a fantastic read. We learn both about Edwin and our narrator and come to love them both despite their faults.
Paolo Gianoglio
Jan 22, 2013 Paolo Gianoglio rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Questo libro è rimasto sul comodino molti mesi, perchè non riuscivo a proseguire. La disponibilità forzata di alcuni giorni di pausa mi ha permesso di arrivare infine alla conclusione e...
Non so cosa dire. E' scritto bene, è originale, è un libro del 1972 che sembra scritto 30 anni dopo, per il linguaggio e l'ironia. Ma nello stesso tempo è un libro lungo, pesante da leggere, arriverei quasi a definirlo noioso. Scoperto il gioco del biografo decenne dello scrittore decenne, goduto del divertime
Sep 02, 2008 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
A list of some of the many long lists in Millhauser's novel: baby Edwin's utterances, all the books he read at age two, the holidays he celebrated in school and the ways they were observed, the gifts he gave a girlfriend and slang expressions he picked up from her, the contents of his play newspapers, his favorite candies, the thirty-one stories of his "Middle Years," all the titles of cartoons he'd ever seen, and the contents of Edwin's closet.

A truly singular novel with some brilliant moments
Jeff Jackson
Aug 03, 2010 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
The book's conceit is instantly intriguing: The biography of an 11-year-old writer. But where most authors would milk this for broad comic effect, Millhauser uses it to plumb the deepest mysteries and complexities of childhood. It's full of casually profound observations about genius, biography, and schoolyard friendships. There's also a series of doubles, books within books, and secret treacheries. The rich prose is a direct homage to Nabokov and the closest I've seen anyone come to capturing t ...more
Feb 06, 2016 Nagisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, 1950-1999
Boring. I don't understand why Jeffrey is so much attracted to Edwin. He seems like an ordinary kid to me, especially a selfish and grumpy one. I find Jeff's devotion to Edwin rather creepy.
I also find it weird that Jeff doesn't show grief and gets to work on a biography right after Edwin's death.
And why should other young characters die suddenly as well? Are their deaths necessary in the story?
This book is creepy.
Nov 06, 2010 Rudj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglosassone
Pubblicato nel '72 questo romanzo doveva già allora avere un sapore vintage. Di lettura scorrevolissima è una biografia che ironizza su tutte le biografie, ed è da quasi tutti considerato come un libro sull' Infanzia. Tesi che non mi trova del tutto d'accordo, ma probabilmente in ciò influisce la mia antipatia per i bambini in letteratura.
Romanzo veramente molto bello.
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Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser 1 18 May 03, 2009 09:41AM  
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“God pity the poor novelist.” 33 likes
“For what is genius, I ask you, but the capacity to be obsessed? ...We have all been geniuses, you and I; but sooner or later it is beaten out of us, the glory faded, and by the age of seven most of us are nothing but wretched little adults.” 6 likes
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