Saturday, April 11, 2015

Voices in the Night: Stories

Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser
Knopf Doubleday: 4/14/2015
eBook review copy, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385351591

From the Pulitzer and Story Prize winner: sixteen new stories - €”provocative, funny, disturbing, enchanting - €”that delve into the secret lives and desires of ordinary people, alongside retellings of myths and legends that highlight the aspirations of the human spirit.
Beloved for the lens of the strange he places on small town life, Steven Millhauser further reveals in Voices in the Night the darkest parts of our inner selves to brilliant and dazzling effect. Here are stories of wondrously imaginative hyperrealism, stories that pose unforgettably unsettling what-ifs, or that find barely perceivable evils within the safe boundaries of our towns, homes, and even within our bodies.
Here, too, are stories culled from religion and fables: Samuel, who hears the voice of God calling him in the night; a young, pre-enlightenment Buddha, who searches for his purpose in life; Rapunzel and her Prince, who struggle to fit the real world to their dream.
Heightened by magic, the divine, and the uncanny, shot through with sly and winning humor, Voices in the Night seamlessly combines the whimsy and surprise of the familiar with intoxicating fantasies that take us beyond our daily lives, all done with the hallmark sleight of hand and astonishing virtuosity of one of our greatest contemporary storytellers.

My Thoughts:

Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser is a very highly recommended collection of 16 short stories. Get this collection! I enjoyed every story, although, naturally, I do have several favorites. Millhauser is a master at the art of writing short stories. He toyed with my emotions and created an almost unbearable tension in some stories or retold well known stories or fables in others.

Miracle Polish: A man buys a bottle of Miracle Polish from a door to door salesman and discovers that when used his mirrors give his image a fresh glow, "like a man who believed in things."

Phantoms: Explanations and case studies of phantoms that are being seen in a town. The presences can look like anyone and always look at people before swiftly turning away.

Sons and Mothers: A man visits his mother after a long delay.

Mermaid Fever: "The mermaid washed up on our public beach in the early morning of June 19, at approximately 4:30 a.m., according to the most reliable estimates. At 5:06 a.m. the body was discovered by George Caldwell, a forty-year-old postal worker who lived two blocks from the water and was fond of his early-morning swim."

The Wife and the Thief: "She is the wife whose husband sleeps. She is the wife who lies awake, listening to the footsteps below."

A Report on Our Recent Troubles: A report on the recent rash of suicides in a town. "We can nevertheless agree that something began to reveal itself in March of this year, about six months ago. At that time three incidents occurred, apparently unrelated, which made a strong impression on the town without seeming to point in a direction."

Coming Soon:  A man moves to a small town, but change continues. "The city was a lost cause, what with the jammed-up traffic, the filthy subways, the decaying neighborhoods and crumbling buildings. The future lay in towns - in small, well-managed towns."

Rapunzel: The fairy tale is retold "...she dislikes the perpetual tugging at her scalp. She wishes they could find another way. But the tower has no door, there is no stairway..."

Elsewhere: "That summer a restlessness came over our town. You could feel it on Main Street, you could feel it at the beach." "At times it seemed to us that another place, an unknown place, was trying to emerge from within our town. It burrowed in the earth below our cellars, rose up silently in the corners of living rooms, trembled in the air above our rooftops."

Thirteen Wives: A man recounts the differences between his thirteen wives.

Arcadia: "Are you tired of life's burdens? Welcome to Arcadia, a peaceful woodland retreat founded over one hundred years ago to meet the needs of a very special clientele. Located on more than 2,000 acres of gently rolling spruce and pine forest, Arcadia offers a variety of comfortable and affordable accommodations suited to every taste." "Here in Arcadia we will show you the way. The way is hard for some and easy for others, but it is the only way and you will know it when you see it."

The Pleasures and Sufferings of Young Gautama: A tale of Buddha  when he was a young man.

The Place: "It was always known as the Place. Even as children we knew there was something wrong with a name like that you couldn't get a grip on it, the way you could get a grip on JoAnn's Diner, or Indian Lake, or the Palace Cinema out on South Main. It was as if whoever had named it hadn't thought very much about it, or hadn't been able to make up his mind. Later, as we grew older, we thought the very wrongness of the name was what was right about it. It was like an empty room you could put things in. Still later, we no longer thought about the name at all. It was part of what was, like summer and night."

Home Run: A satire of sports announcer language

American Tall Tale: The story of Paul Bunyan and his lazy brother, James.

A Voice in the Night: The story of the Biblical Samuel and a young boy in 1950 who is taken with the story and waits for the Lord to call him.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

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