9780307387479

Dangerous Laughter

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307387479

  • ISBN10:

    030738747X

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-02-10
  • Publisher: Vintage

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Summary

Thirteen darkly comic stories,Dangerous Laughteris a mesmerizing journey that stretches the boundaries of the ordinary world.

Author Biography

Steven Millhauser's first novel, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, was published in 1972 and several years later received the Prix Médicis Étranger in France. Since then he has published nine works of fiction, among them several collections of stories and novellas, as well as the novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. He is also a recipient of the Lannan Award and has been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," from The Barnum Museum, was the basis of the film The Illusionist (2006), starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti. Millhauser's work has been translated into fourteen languages. He is a Professor of English at Skidmore College, and lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Excerpts

Cat ’n’ mouse

The cat is chasing the mouse through the kitchen: between the blue chair legs, over the tabletop with its red-and-white-checkered tablecloth that is already sliding in great waves, past the sugar bowl falling to the left and the cream jug falling to the right, over the blue chair back, down the chair legs, across the waxed and butter-yellow floor. The cat and the mouse lean backward and try to stop on the slippery wax, which shows their flawless reflections. Sparks shoot from their heels, but it’s much too late: the big door looms. The mouse crashes through, leaving a mouse-shaped hole. The cat crashes through, replacing the mouse-shaped hole with a larger, cat-shaped hole. In the living room they race over the back of the couch, across the piano keys (delicate mouse tune, crash of cat chords), along the blue rug. The fleeing mouse snatches a glance over his shoulder, and when he looks forward again he sees the floor lamp coming closer and closer. Impossible to stop—at the last moment he splits in half and rejoins himself on the other side. Behind him the rushing cat fails to split in half and crashes into the lamp: his head and body push the brass pole into the shape of a trombone. For a moment the cat hangs sideways there, his stiff legs shaking like the clapper of a bell. Then he pulls free and rushes after the mouse, who turns and darts into a mousehole in the baseboard. The cat crashes into the wall and folds up like an accordion. Slowly he unfolds, emitting accordion music. He lies on the floor with his chin on his upraised paw, one eyebrow lifted high in disgust, the claws of his other forepaw tapping the floorboards. A small piece of plaster drops on his head. He raises an outraged eye. A framed painting falls heavily on his head, which plunges out of sight between his shoulders. The painting shows a green tree with bright red apples. The cat’s head struggles to rise, then pops up with the sound of a yanked cork, lifting the picture. Apples fall from the tree and land with a thump on the grass. The cat shudders, winces. A final apple falls. Slowly it rolls toward the frame, drops over the edge, and lands on the cat’s head. In the cat’s eyes, cash registers ring up NO SALE.



The mouse, dressed in a bathrobe and slippers, is sitting in his plump armchair, reading a book. He is tall and slim. His feet rest on a hassock, and a pair of spectacles rest on the end of his long, whiskered nose. Yellow light from a table lamp pours onto the book and dimly illuminates the cozy brown room. On the wall hang a tilted sampler bearing the words HOME SWEET HOME, an oval photograph of the mouse’s mother with her gray hair in a bun, and a reproduction of Seurat’sSunday Afternoonin which all the figures are mice. Near the armchair is a bookcase filled with books, with several titles visible:Martin Cheddarwit, Gouda’sFaust,The Memoirs of Anthony Edam,A History of the Medicheese, the sonnets of Shakespaw. As the mouse reads his book, he reaches without looking toward a dish on the table. The dish is empty: his fingers tap about inside it. The mouse rises and goes over to the cupboard, which is empty except for a tin box with the word CHEESE on it. He opens the box and turns it upside down. Into his palm drops a single toothpick. He gives it a melancholy look. Shaking his head, he returns to his chair and takes up his book. In a bubble above his head a picture appears: he is seated at a long table covered with a white tablecloth. He is holding a fork upright in one fist and a knife upright in the other. A mouse butler dressed in tails sets before him a piece of cheese the size of a wedding cake.



From the mousehole emerges a red telescope. The lens looks to the left, then to the right. A hand issues from the end of the telescope and beckons the mouse forward. The mouse steps from the mousehole

Excerpted from Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories by Steven Millhauser
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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