cover image Little Kingdoms: Three Novellas

Little Kingdoms: Three Novellas

Steven Millhauser. Poseidon Press, $20.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-86890-1

Overlappings of imagination and reality cast magic through these three vividly conceived novellas exploring the ramifications of artistic creation. In ``The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne,'' the eponymous hero, a cartoonist for a New York City newspaper in the 1920s, labors in the study of his Mount Hebron home on a ``secret, exhilarating project'': thousands of numbered ink drawings that will constitute moments of an elaborate animated film. As the world of his art becomes more splendid, the day-to-day reality of his life becomes progressively less rewarding. ``The Princess, the Dwarf, and the Dungeon'' juggles familiar motifs of legend--a beautiful, virtuous princess; a jealous prince; a scheming dwarf; a towering castle and subterranean dungeon--in its tale of a town's self-conscious effort to attach a fanciful, folkloric past to its utilitarian present. ``Catalogue of the Exhibition'' fashions a biography of fictional 19th-century painter Edmund Moorash and his intimates from a sequential discussion of his exhibited works. Millhauser ( The Barnum Museum ) evokes the impact of non-verbal art with uncommon ease. He develops each of these stories with such narrative precision and well-chosen detail that even his most fanciful and abstract conceits fully engage the reader. (Sept.)