Enchanted Night: A Novella

Steven Millhauser, Author Crown Publishers $17 (112p) ISBN 978-0-609-60516-5
Compared to his ambitious, Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, Millhauser's new novella may seem slight, but it has a resonance and fairy tale allure that belie its slim page count. Set on a sultry summer night when an almost-full moon hovers over Southern Connecticut, the book follows a handful of small-town characters who yearn for anonymity, recognition, love or escape. Laura Engstrom, 14, seeks a solitary release from the deep restlessness that makes ""her bones itch."" Haverstraw, 39, lives with his mother while he works on a novel and despairs of ever achieving anything with his life. Janet Manning, 20, longs for the appearance of a ""heartbreaker"" she met on the beach that afternoon. A drunken romantic, William Cooper, 28, gazes into storefront displays, hoping for love and a lucky break. An old woman who lives alone yearns for company. He gracefully intertwines these lives and others with magical elements--a mannequin that comes alive, a chorus of ""night voices,"" a silent visit from a moon goddess--to create a trance world suffused with luminescence and longing, where each character verges on the brink of fulfillment or collapse. Millhauser sketches each person's plight in a few skillful lines and repeats gestures and thoughts so their variations resound on many levels. A set of abandoned dolls, for example, awaken and pantomime a sorrowful romance that echoes Janet's desire for her young lover, Haverstraw's long-standing friendship with a friend's mother and Coop's abstracted love for the mannequin. Only a scattering of facile nursery-rhyme type of songs echo hollowly in Millhauser's elegant, penetrating tale. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-0-375-70696-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-59040-148-4
Open Ebook - 90 pages - 978-0-307-42575-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-7426-1
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