Cover image for The Barnum Museum : stories
The Barnum Museum : stories
Millhauser, Steven.
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New York : Poseidon Press, 1990.
A game of clue -- Behind the blue curtain -- The Barnum Museum -- The sepia postcard -- The eighth voyage of Sinbad -- Klassik komix #1 -- Rain - - Alice, falling -- The invention of Robert Herendeen -- Eisenheim the illusionist.
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"A stunning paean to the power of imagination. . . . Certainly the work of one of our best writers at the top of his form. . . . So convincing that the most skeptical reader will be swept away." San Francisco Chronicle

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A game of Clue not only mirrors but magnifies the emotions of its players; T. S. Eliot is celebrated in a not-so-classic comic book; and Alice in Wonderland's dreams receive a poetic but inconclusive analysis. Welcome to the world of Steven Millhauser, in which the extraordinary is refracted by a series of dazzling but fatal occurrences. The author's touchstones--magicians, museums, and literary references and conceits galore--are all present and accounted for in these stories that confirm the writer's reputation as a brilliant entertainer and mesmerizing stylist. Millhauser is also the author of In the Penny Arcade [BKL Ja 1 86]. --John Brosnahan

Publisher's Weekly Review

The 10 stories in Millhauser's ( Edwin Mullhouse ) newest collection smartly conform to the dictates of literary fashion. ``A Game of Clue,'' which opens the volume, describes both the people playing the famous board game and the lives of the game's characters (pedantic Professor Plum, seductive Miss Scarlet), ultimately proposing reading as a kind of sleuthing, a piecing together of clues encoded in the author's language. The relationships among reader, writer and the written-about are similarly investigated throughout. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock becomes a cartoon hero in ``Klassic Komix #1,'' a witty inquiry into artistic appropriation (here, ``Panel 41'' has Alfred saying, ``Holy cow, mermaids . . . ! Guess they're not singing to me, though. . . . ''); Lewis Carroll's heroine is frozen in ``Alice, Falling.'' Elegant facades belie careless housekeeping within these works (each of two characters in ``Clue,'' for example, holds the identical game card). Alone, any of these pieces might seem novel or stimulating, but collectively their concerns, language and imagery become repetitious, oppressively belletristic. First serial to Esquire. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Imagine a funhouse gallery of fictive techniques and ideas, and you'll have some sense of these stories. ``A Game of Clue'' delineates the line between strategy and chance in a board game while plotting the relationships among the players. ``Klassik Komix #1'' is a riotous pop comic version of ``The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.'' Other stories recast classic tales in a counterpoint of scholarly satire and nostalgic reverence; one is a melancholy monolog in the manner of Poe. The gimcrackery and excess of the title piece echo in the fin de siecle charm and foreboding of ``Eisenheim the Illusionist.'' Both stories are about crossing the boundaries between art and life, appearance and reality. In this concern for the role of the artist as iconographer, artificer, conjurer, the author's work invites comparison with that of Robertson Davies. Millhauser's distinctive mix of stylistic dazzle and erudite wonder will intrigue admirers of his Edwin Mullhouse ( LJ 8/72), In the Penny Arcade ( LJ 1/86), and From the Realm of Morpheus ( LJ 9/1/86).-- Mary Soete, San Diego P.L., Cal. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.