Joseph's Reviews > Dangerous Laughter

Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser
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's review
Dec 14, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: fict
Recommended to Joseph by: nytimes top 10 list; BC3
Recommended for: enemies
Read in February, 2009

I had heard quite a bit about Millhauser being this great modern practitioner of the modern short story and then I read his essay about "The Ambition of the Short Story" in the New York Times Book Review and wanted to give him a shot, but ultimately I found this collection wanting.

The stories seem to make their point and then stretch themselves and then overstretch themselves and then beat you over the head with their message.

The first story, a story that people seem to be tripping oversleves to praise, is nothing more than a deftly annotated Tom and Jerry cartoon with nothing much in the way of insight. The last story is written in a style that I found utterly maddening (how can a series of journal entries both capture a rushed excitement with its clipped sentences and a deliberate act of writing down the day's events complete with dialogue and details?!)

Maybe that's the point though... Most of the stories here deal with the shortcomings of language and art to capture life's experiences. In that goal, Millhauser has succeeded - the short stories collected here fail to affect. In fact, the stories are most painful when they try to create emotion; it's a faux-emotion, a faux-mote.

Each story had its individual moment(s) of interest, but "The Tower" was the only story that held my attention throughout because the nuance and twists seemed the least cloying.

I think this review comes off as more brutal than I intended, but I think its accurate in my estimation of the book. I didn't hate it, but I won't be seeking out Millhauser in the near future.
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Reading Progress

02/18/2009 page 133

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