cover image We Others: New and Selected Stories

We Others: New and Selected Stories

Steven Millhauser. Knopf, $27.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-307-70143-5

Millhauser's latest (after Dangerous Laughter), seven new stories and 14 taken from four previous collections, is an excellent primer for casual fans of the Pulitzer Prize%E2%80%93winning author, whose dreamy tales of Old World phantoms, All-American menace, and childhood mysteries reveal that some obsessions last a lifetime. However, Millhauser followers may be frustrated by the organizing principle: stories were selected that "seized my attention as if they'd been written by someone whose work I had never seen before," the author states. Yet there is a particular pleasure in seeing a new story, like "Tales of Darkness and the Unknown," remix the mood of adolescent longing mined 13 years ago in "Clare De Lune," or in recognizing the summertime idyll of the new "Getting Closer" in "A Protest Against the Sun," first published in 1981. "The Slap" and "The Next Thing," both new, are obvious critiques of modern life, but a deeper reading illuminates a lasting obsession with our need to impart meaning to the meaningless. New work shows the author eschewing the creaky wonder of classics like "August Eschenberg," but achieving an icy perfection with his prose. A conundrum, then: a gift for newcomers and a likely disappointment for fans, as it is neither a complete "collected works" nor a fresh collection. But diehards who want to trace the author's artistic development over a third of a century will be thrilled. (Aug.)