Commonplace Book: Steven Millhauser

I seem allergic to the fiction in the New Yorker (not the pieces, but somehow its place at the kids’ table in the back of the magazine never works for me maybe.) But the name Steven Millhauser makes me drop everything and read whatever it is he’s written wherever I come across it. (He had me at Martin Dressler 15 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. “The New Automaton Theater,” too, part of that anthology of great short stories I curate in my head.)

From his story in the 12/10 NYker, which I started my morning with:

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Steven Millhauser

“His grave father bent over the Scrooge McDuck comic, praising the diving board in the money bin. Reading “Tootle” to him, telling him how good the first sentence is. “Far, far to the west of everywhere is the village of Lower Trainswitch.” Far, far to the west of everywhere. His father said, “There are three great opening sentences in all of literature. The first is ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ The second is ‘Call me Ishmael.’ The third is ‘Far, far to the west of everywhere is the village of Lower Trainswitch.'”

The story is called “A Voice in the Night.” God, childhood, insomnia and Judaism. Plus metafiction. What’s not to love?

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