This collection is not for those who like their stories to go in straight lines. Though Millhauser is intersted in straight lines. In my experience with his work, he’s very much interested in the architecture of our lives. If I inferred anything from what he’s up to here, there seems to be a theme about happiness and place. It is not new to say we are forever discontent, but to say that we’d become more in love with a woman’s reflection in the mirror than the woman herself, well, that’s new. Or that there’s a place where they will help counsel you to commit suicide? That’s new as well. Or that there’s a place that will expel you when you no longer belong there? You get the idea.
I find Millhauser to be very much underrated, but maybe he’s just my kind of strange.
I’m glad Berlin has been (re)discovered, but I wonder about the decision to put quite so many stories in one collection. Why not just re-print the collections she published in her lifetime?
The stories are off-beat, honest, quirky. I most appreciated the ones where we see the same story from two points of view, not in any clever modernist way, but the story of the old couples watching the sisters on the beach and the story of those sisters – both in one story. A single story, however short, rarely contains just a single story.
Though I could have used a family tree, I also thought the collection picked up when it became apparent that so many of the stories were interconnected. The same characters at different ages, featuring here, having a bit part there. It was, at times, tempting to consider the stories Flannery O’Connor-esque, but I don’t think that does either writer justice.
Good stories. Honest. In interesting places with flawed and fantastic people. Real.