cover image From the Realm of Morpheus

From the Realm of Morpheus

Steven Millhauser. William Morrow & Company, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-06501-0

The dream-world suggested in the title begins with an image of a remembered life in an unspecified time and place. During a baseball game on a sun-stunned day, Carl Hausman, the narrator-observer, enters a magical landscape in search of a lost baseball and descends into the fabulous kingdom of Morpheus. The bibulous, Falstaffian Morph, self-portrayed as a ""rolypoly dimpled dumpling of a sweethearted cherub,'' conducts his visitor on a guided tour of this very curious wonderland. Here, Emma Bovary chats amiably with Leopold Bloom, and figures from history, literature, legend, myth and fable disport themselves in settings that are transfigured versions of Olympus, Camelot, Dante's Inferno, Atlantis, Lewis Carroll's and T. H. White's fantastic universes. A carnival atmosphere prevails: special effects done by mirrors and sleight of hand, and staged in a mock-Elizabethan lingo that is generally amusing but sometimes misfires; at times, too, the elaborate enterprise is excessive to a fault. But the festival air is disarming, and the ebullient author/impresario, whose previous works were the well-received Edwin Mullhouse and In the Penny Arcade, is equal to the formidable task he has set himself. (September 18)