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Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser
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Jun 21, 08

Read in June, 2008

I first encountered Millhauser in Harper's and The New Yorker. Encountering his work in a magazine is like unexpectedly finding a portal into an alternate universe. A man writes a letter to his wife in which he explains why he's elected to stop speaking because of the inadequacy of language. A miniaturist pursues his art past the threshold of the visible. Suicide becomes a popular fad in a suburban town.

Reading an entire book of MIllhauser's eerie stories in some way dampens the pleasure of his weirdness. The tricks are different (at least somewhat) in each story, but you're more expectant, prepared to read about worlds where women's clothing designers liberate themselves from attention to the human form, or domes are constructed over entire houses, neighborhoods, and finally countries; where a tower is constructed that at last reaches heaven, but it takes longer than a human life to ascend it.

Millhauser's best work ignores the conventions of contemporary fiction, causing us to look differently at our world and our perceptions of it. But it's best if consumed in small doses, like a delicate liqueur.
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Michael Rymer This is right on.


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