AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
There's a new collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Steven Millhauser. It's called "Voices In The Night." Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says each work is a delight and a revelation.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Beautifully-made fantastic tales such as Steven Millhauser writes don't begin from nothing. Most of them come out of mostly everyday incidents and lead us right up to the line between the ordinary and the magical. And sometimes they help us to cross over, as in the lead story in this volume, titled "Miracle Polish," in which a door-to-door salesman sells to the narrator a small bottle of mirror polish that leads him to see his reflection and his girlfriend's in a positively different way full of expectancy and new light. Small towns in Millhauser's geography take on new meaning too, as in the beach town where an apparent mermaid washes up on shore and kicks-off a local craze for baring breasts and wearing costumes suggesting fish tails. That's in "Mermaid Fever." There's another town, in the story called "A Report On Our Recent Troubles," that suffers a plague of suicides affecting both teenagers and adults. In these subtly-made stories about the other side of normal life, Millhauser revises the fairytale of Rapunzel and her golden hair. He re-imagines the rich but unsatisfying life of the young Buddha, and in the final story, "A Voice In The Night," presents a triptych made-up out of a biblical narrative, a modern psychological study and autobiography. All of these pieces are, let's call them borderline stories, easily described as magical realism. Or perhaps, turned on their heads, tales of realistic magic.
CORNISH: The book is "Voices In The Night" by Steven Millhauser. Alan Cheuse had our review. His latest book is "Prayers For The Living."
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