The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Steven Millhauser Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972) *

* (restored)


‘Whether the point of this novel is to show us the adult that lies latent in the child or to reveal to us the child that the adult never manages to quite fully outgrow is a question that is difficult if not fruitless to answer. What is certain, however, is that the novel Edwin Mullhouse is brilliantly conceived. It is also shockingly well written, replete with uncannily accurate descriptions of childhood perceptions that can at times be overwhelmingly sympathetic. It is at turns funny, sad, insightful, and even profound; but above all else, it is deeply creepy: It reveals — almost imperceptibly at first, but then slowly, incrementally, the inertia builds, like a snowball rolling down the hill of your neighborhood cemetery — the dark, lurking, unconscious desires that shadow what we might otherwise simply take to be our bright, waking, thoughtful acts.

‘Originally published in 1972 by a then twenty-nine year old Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse is not the sort of novel that you would expect to be produced at that time by someone of that age. It is a novel out of synch with its time, but also ahead of it as well. It prefigures, albeit in a unique — and most likely inimitable — fashion, much of contemorary criticism’s obsession with positing the inseparability of act and artifact, and capturing creativity in mid stride. And by exposing a connection between adult obsessions and nostalgic recollections of childhood behaviors it provided and continues to provide a bounty of insight into contemporary adult psychology.

‘A single conceit enables this amazing feat: We are to believe that this book is the work of twelve year old Jeffrey Cartwright. During the course of this novel the perceptions, conceptions, recollections and general over-all mind-set of a young boy left fatherless by WW II are conveyed with all the skill and adeptness that only an experienced and highly practiced adult writer could possibly accomplish, yet we are to believe that it is the work of a sixth grader. And, implausible as it may sound, we do. While the language used in the writing of this book is clearly that of an adult, it somehow manages to seem– at the actual moments of its reading– that it is that of a child. How exactly Millhauser manages to pull this off it is extremely difficult if not impossible to know. Suffice it to say that Edwin Mullhouse constitutes a classic example of taking something which is in fact an arduous nerve-wracking task and making it seem as though it were mere child’s play.

‘The single most pronounced aspect of the prose that constitutes this work is the pyrotechnic language of its descriptive passages. In capturing the visual perceptions of children– or at least boys– it is simply unsurpassed.

‘It is at times hard to resist– during and after the reading of this work– the thought that Edwin Mullhouse is the secret font of a stream that has been irrigating and nourishing some distant and obscure fenced off field of popular culture about which we think we might have heard tell a tale or two but are never quite sure as to the veracity or accuracy of the reports. In the literature, film and– perhaps especially– the comics of the last few decades, we can’t help but notice faint hints of flavor, subtle aromas, and distant echoes which seem, now, after becoming familiar with it, to have somehow emanated from this work.

‘The inescapable conclusion one reaches after completing Edwin Mullhouse is that it has earned the right to be considered as a fixture in the firmament of 20th Century American literature. It may not shine as brightly as some others, but it is there nonetheless, its light traveling to us on a unique wavelength, neither replicated nor even approximated by any other.’ — The Copacetic Comics Company



Steven Millhauser @ The New Yorker
SM @ Harpers Magazine
Steven Millhauser @ Facebook
Steven Millhauser @ goodreads
‘Is Steven Millhauser America’s Best Short Story Writer?’
‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’, by SM
SM interviewed @ Transatlantica
‘The Fantastic Realist’
‘A Daydreamer in the Night: An Introduction to Steven Millhauser’
‘Understanding Steven Millhauser’
‘Steven Millhauser’s 6 favorite story collections’
‘The Fascination of the Miniature’
‘Steven Millhauser the Illusionist’
‘What Can We Steal From Steven Millhauser’
‘Steven Millhauser’s stories of everyday wonder’
‘The Edge of Comprehension: On Steven Millhauser’
‘Recycling in Steven Millhauser’s Fiction’
‘A Master of the In-Between World’
Buy ‘Edwin Mulhouse’



Steven Millhauser: 2012 National Book Festival

“Home Run” by Steven Millhauser – An Electric Literature Single Sentence Animation

Mary Caponegro and Steven Millhauser Read From Their Work

The Story Prize 2011 at The New School


from BOMB


Jim Shepard: Perhaps as much as any American writer I can think of, you’ve been drawn to the novella. Are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the form? Does it even have a form?

Steven Millhauser: Is it possible not to be drawn to the novella? Everything about it is immensely seductive. It demands the rigor of treatment associated with the short story, while at the same time it offers a liberating sense of expansiveness, of widening spaces. And it strikes me as having real advantages over its jealous rivals, the short story and the novel. The challenge and glory of the short story lie exactly there, in its shortness. But shortness encourages certain effects and not others. It encourages, for instance, the close-up view, the revelatory detail, the single significant moment. In the little world of the story, many kinds of desirable effect are inherently impossible—say, the gradual elaboration of a psychology, the demonstration of change over time. Think of the slowly unfolding drama of self-delusion and self-discovery in Death in Venice—a short story would have to proceed very differently. As for novels: in their dark hearts, don’t they long to be exhaustive? Novels are hungry, monstrous. Their apparent delicacy is deceptive—they want to devour the world.

The novella wants nothing to do with the immense, the encyclopedic, the all-conquering all-devouring prose epic, which strikes it as an army moving relentlessly across the land. Its desires are more intimate, more selective. And when it looks at the short story, to which it’s secretly akin, it says, with a certain cruelty, No, not for me this admirably exquisite, elegant, refined—perhaps overrefined?—delicately nuanced, perfect little world, whose perfection depends so much on artful exclusions. It says, Let me breathe! The attraction of the novella is that it lets the short story breathe. It invites the possibility of certain elaborations and complexities forbidden by a very short form, while at the same time it holds out the promise of formal perfection. It’s enough to make a writer dizzy with exhilaration.

JS: And how do such characteristics impact the novella’s form? Is it worth trying to talk about the peculiar nature of that form, or does that simply head us into the land of “There are as many forms as there are…,” etc.?

SM: The novella isn’t really a form at all. It’s a length, and a very rough length at that (sixty to a hundred pages? Seventy-five to a hundred and twenty-five pages?). In this it’s no different from the short story or the novel, which are frequently called “forms” but are in fact nothing but rough lengths. A true literary form exists only in the fixed poetic forms: the sonnet, the villanelle, the sestina, and so on. But having said that, I don’t mean to suggest that nothing more can be said about the novella. Length invites certain kinds of treatment rather than others. Just as a very short length is likely to concentrate on a very short span of time (say, a crucial afternoon), in a tightly restricted space, with a very small number of characters, and an extensive length is likely to cover a great stretch of time, in a wide variety of settings, with many characters, so the novella length seems to me peculiarly well suited to following the curve of an action over a carefully restricted period of time, but one wider than that suited to the short story, in a small number of sharply defined spaces, with two, three or perhaps four characters. To be more precise than that is to risk insisting on proper behavior. But the novella is much too alive to be asked to behave properly. Compared to the short story, it’s a length that hasn’t even begun to be explored.

JS: Part of the revelation of Edwin Mullhouse for many readers was its ability to render the intensity of attention involved in childhood perception: how certain objects, especially for children, become luminous, if not numinous. Does what you’re doing—when it’s going well—feel like aesthetic problem solving, or more exalted than that?

SM: Hmmm: aesthetic problem solving. That sounds like the sort of thing a sly critic might wish to say about a book he particularly dislikes. Of course, there’s no getting around it—one thing you relentlessly do when you write is solve aesthetic problems. But to leave it at that! No, when things are going well, the feeling I have is much more extravagant. It’s the feeling that I’m at the absolute center of things, instead of off to one side—the feeling that the entire universe is streaming in on me. It’s a feeling of strength, of terrifying health, of much-more-aliveness. It’s the kind of feeling that probably should never be talked about, as if one were confessing to a shameful deed.

JS: And is that a feeling that seems important in terms of understanding childhood?

SM: Yes, so long as it’s clear that, for me, childhood is above all a metaphor for a way of perceiving the world.

JS: In that we’re all, if we keep our eyes open, in the position of confronting barely apprehensible wonders?

SM: Exactly.

JS: Don Juan in “An Adventure of Don Juan,” the second novella in The King in the Tree, longs for “a madness of desire, a journey into feeling so intense that he would ride through himself like a conqueror of unknown inner countries.” Is that what fiction should enable?

SM: I’m fanatically reluctant to say that fiction ought to do one thing rather than another. I do know what I want from fiction. I want it to exhilarate me, to unbind my eyes, to murder and resurrect me, to harm me in some fruitful way. But that said, yes, the journey into intense feeling and the conquest of unknown emotional territory is something fiction can make possible.

JS: Your Don Juan also says of his host that “the irrepressible squire had a way of making you feel like a 12-year-old boy following an adventurous 14-year-old brother.” Is that also an ambition of your fiction?

SM: Fiction is an adventure or it’s nothing—nothing at all. What’s an adventure? An invitation to wonder and danger. If what I write doesn’t lead a reader into the woods, away from the main path, then it’s a failure. Somebody else wrote it. I disown it.

JS: Does that mean that your fiction is always in some ways a fiction of initiation?

SM: I would never myself put it in those words. That is, I would never say to myself: Now I am writing a story about initiation, or Now I have written a story about initiation. But if you define “initiation” to mean more or less what I mean by adventure and the wayward path, then it must be true that in some ways my fiction is a fiction of initiation.

JS: The narrator of “Revenge,” the first novella, in her opening paragraph compares houses where doors open right into living rooms to “being introduced to some man at a party who right away throws his arm around your shoulders,” and says she prefers instead “a little distance, thank you, a little formality.” Do you find yourself making aesthetic choices with the same sort of preferences in mind?

SM: Yes, I do. But words like “distance” and “formality” are easily misunderstood. To say I prefer distance isn’t to say I prefer coldness, haughtiness, lack of feeling, deadness. In my view, it’s precisely that “little distance” that permits genuine feeling to be expressed. My dislike of warm, cozy, chummy writing is that it always strikes me as fraudulent—a failure of feeling. Passion, beauty, intensity—everything I care about in art—is made possible through the discipline of distance. Or to say it another way: Powerful feeling in art takes place only through the particular kind of distance known as form.

JS: Many of your works play off literary antecedents in affectionate and complicated ways. Does that mean you’ll reread The Romance of the Rose or “The Cask of Amontillado” half thinking it might engender a story of your own? Or do you continually tell yourself you’re just reading?

SM: It may be that I’m deluding myself, but I never have the sense of looking for inspiration in my lustful, wildly irresponsible reading. What I’m looking for, I think, is pleasure so extreme that it ought to be forbidden by law. As for the engendering of stories: that, for me, is a mystery I don’t pretend to understand. I not only don’t know what gives me the idea for a story, I don’t even know whether it’s proper to say that what comes to me is something that might be described as an “idea.” It’s more like a feeling, vague at first, that becomes sharper over time and expresses itself after a while in images and then in oppositions that might develop into protodramas. A murky business, at best. But once a story starts taking shape in my mind, if that’s where it takes place—I think it takes place all over my body—then it’s fed by everything in my experience that can feed it. And part of my experience is a mile-high mass of books, which I sometimes draw on deliberately to create certain effects. I’m reluctant to talk directly about my work, for fear of harming it with deadly explanations that I’m bound to regret, but let me try just a little. When I wrote Edwin Mullhouse, I made use of a number of models, such as Leon Edel’s five-volume biography of Henry James, Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Mann’s Doctor Faustus. But to say that any of those books somehow engendered my own would be, I think, false. My book came from something deeper, more personal, more intimate, more ungraspable, more obscure than other people’s books, though at the same time it was pleased to make use of those books in order to become itself, in order to give birth to itself. Books as midwives—maybe that’s what I mean.

JS: Books as midwives makes sense. But when asking about how much your reading engendered in you, I didn’t so much mean ideas as feelings: so much of your fiction seems to come from deeply personal responses to already-created worlds, to previous stories: Tristan and Isolde’s, or Don Juan’s, to cite the most recent examples. Is that another way of maintaining what you called that discipline of distance?

SM: It’s true that I sometimes make deliberate use of existing stories, though it’s also true that I very often don’t. Insofar as I do, it is, yes, one way of maintaining a necessary distance, for the paradoxical sake of closeness. But I think something else is also at work. When I make use of an existing story, I take pleasure in participating in something beyond myself that is much greater than myself, and equal pleasure in striking a variation. I take pleasure, you might say, in acknowledging the past and then sharply departing from it. And there is something to be said for releasing oneself from the obligations of relentless novelty; a certain kind of insistent originality is nothing but the attempt of mediocrity to appear interesting to itself.

JS: Given your delight in wonders and your interest in the forbidden, does it surprise you that you haven’t taken an even greater interest in monsters? The Lernean Hydra shows up in Don Juan, for example, but it’s a special effect in a theme park.

SM: Legitimate, bona fide monsters do in fact make occasional appearances in my work, but what interests me is something quite different. What interests me—not exclusively, but in relation to the monstrous—is the place where the familiar begins to turn strange. When things cease to be themselves, when they begin to turn into something else, which has no name—that is a region I’m always drawn to. This, I think, accounts for my interest in night scenes, in childhood, in bands of prowling adolescent girls, in underground and attic places, in obsession, in heightened states of awareness. In this sense, it might easily be argued that the wondrous and the monstrous are very much the same. My plan for Mr. Juan was to estrange him from his familiar world of loveless conquest and lead him toward the terrifying world of genuine feeling.

JS: So is the stress on “terrifying” intended to crucially complicate the novella’s overall design as a moral fable? Or would you claim that it has only the shape and not the intent of a moral fable?

SM: If I hear a piece of writing described as a moral fable, my instinct is to head for the hills. I’ll never admit to having written one myself. But let’s say that, by some oversight on my part, a moral fable did slip out. In that case, then yes, the design is crucially complicated through the new discovery of feeling. Don Juan’s fate isn’t to be punished for sin, but to be led—or shall we say initiated?—into human feeling. To put it somewhat differently: In traditional Don Juan stories, the hero is punished by hellfire. Here, his fiery punishment is unrequited love. Meanwhile the underworld becomes, as you wittily put it, only a theme park.



Steven Millhauser Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright

‘Edwin Mullhouse, a novelist at 10, is mysteriously dead at 11. As a memorial, Edwin’s bestfriend, Jeffrey Cartwright, decides that the life of this great American writer must be told. He follows Edwin’s development from his preverbal first noises through his love for comic books to the fulfillment of his literary genius in the remarkable novel, Cartoons.’ — Vintage



Behind the rich blue luminous curtain, rippling, the pale blue luminous letters ripple, mingling with bright blue luminous melodies jingling with jujubes, in the black-crow licorice dark. In light, caught, the letters, transfixed, stiffen. Brighter than licked lollipops, livelier than soda in sunlight, lovelier than sunshine on cellophane the colors shine: popsicle orange and lemon-ice white, cotton-candy pink and mint-jelly green, cherry-soda red and raspberry-jello red. Cellophane crackles in the green-and-red-tinted dark. Thick with purple shadows, a dim room appears. In the center stands a vertical ladder, from the top of which a narrow shaft of yellow light falls diagonally down, cutting across one end of a bed and illuminating two round white feet sticking up at the bottom of a blue blanket. A white rabbit, wearing one red nightcap on each tall ear, lies on his back, asleep. As he exhales, with a whistling sound, the blanket under his chin rolls down to his feet. As he inhales, with a snoring sound, the blanket over his feet rolls up to his chin. Over his head a dream appears: he is sawing a log in half. As the saw cuts through the log a piece falls out of the dream and hits him on the head. He sits up, rubbing his head. A red throbbing bump grows higher and higher, pushing up his hand, and then grows lower and disappears. The rabbit yawns and stretches and removes both nightcaps. Putting on a pair of large round black eyeglasses he walks over to a little stove and begins to fry an egg, flipping it up in the air and catching it in his pan. He changes hands, flips it up in the air, and holds out the pan waiting. The egg does not return. Sighing, the rabbit walks over to the ladder and begins to climb.He pokes his head out of his hole into a bright green clearing. In the near distance stand several thin black trees, each with three or four leaves. Beside the hole lies the fried egg. The rabbit picks it up and disappears into his hole. From behind one tree an orange snout with a black nose pops out, followed by a V-shaped frown. In long white eyes, little black pupils move to the left and right. The fox tiptoes quickly to another tree, no thicker than one of his eyebrows, and disappears entirely behind it. His foot peeps out and tiptoes across the grass, followed by his leg, which stretches to twice its length and stops behind another tree; the rest of the fox shoots across to the new tree in an orange blur and disappears behind it. His frowning head peeps out. He looks to the left and right. With hunched shoulders he tiptoes over to the hole. He is orange except for his white toes, his white fingers, and the broad white patch that stretches from the top of his chest to the bottom of his belly. Reaching behind his back, he brings forward a huge red firecracker. He lights the firecracker, pushes it upside down into the hole, and tiptoes a few paces away. With his back to the hole he squeezes his eyes shut and blocks his ears with his fingers. The rabbit flips his egg and holds out the pan. The egg does not return. Frowning. He looks up and sees the firecracker. The egg is speared on the sizzling wick. He climbs the ladder, removes the egg, and pushes the firecracker up out of the hole. The firecracker rolls along the grass and stops behind the fox, who stands with his fingers in his ears. After a while he opens his eyes, removes his fingers from his ears, and turns around. When he sees the sizzling firecracker at his feet his eyes spring out of head an the ends of springs. He dives headfirst onto the grass, landing with a crash and covering his head with his arms. The sizzling wick goes out. The fox looks up. He rises to his feet, walks to the firecracker, picks it up, and smiles. The firecracker explodes. When the smoke clears. The fox is still standing. He is entirely black, except for his white eyes and his white smile. The rabbit sits in a rocking chair by the stove, reading a newspaper. The frying pan is attached to one foot. As he rocks back the egg flips into the air. As he rocks forward the egg falls into the pan. The fox approaches the rabbit hole, pulling a rope attached to a shiny black cannon. He places a shiny black cannonball into the shiny black cannon, tips the front of the cannon into the hole, and lights a wick at the cannon’s back. He turns around, shuts his eyes, and blocks his ears. The front of the cannon swings up, followed by a fried egg, and turns all the way around until it is pointing at the fox. The fried egg goes back into the hole. The fox turns around, sees the cannon, and looks at the audience. The cannon goes off. When the smoke clears, the fox is standing with a hole in his stomach, through which a tree is visible. He reaches down and zips up the hole. Then he collapses onto the grass. A new scene begins on the left, traveling to the right and erasing the old scene. The fox enters pulling a rope tied to the top of a bending tree. He hammers a peg into the ground , ties the rope to a trigger attached to the peg, lays the rope in a circle near the hole, and places inside the circle a bright orange carrot that rests at the end of the trigger. The fox sits down against a nearby tree, crosses his legs, crosses his hands behind his head, closes his eyes, and begins to snore. Above his head a dream appears: he is seated at a table with a napkin tied under his chin and the rabbit bound hand and foot on a plate before him. The rabbit’s head pops out of the hole. He sniffs, adjusts his eyeglasses, and sees the carrot. He climbs out of the hole, steps into the rope-circle, and removes the carrot. Reaching into a pocket in his skin, he removes a leg of roast chicken and places it on the trigger. Crunching on the carrot he steps out of the circle and sees the fox asleep against a tree with a dream over his head. He walks over to the fox, unties the dream-rabbit, who runs away, and puts in its place a huge red firecracker. Then he goes back into his hole. The dream-fox bites into the firecracker, which explodes. The real fox wakes up. He spits out a mouthful of teeth.. In the circle of rope he sees the chicken leg. He walks over to the rim of the circle and frowns down, tapping his foot. As he stares, lines of odor twist from the chicken leg to his twitching black nose. He bends over, reaches toward the chicken leg, and suddenly straightens up. He looks at the audience and shakes his head slyly. Reaching into a pocket he removes a cane. Gently he prods the chicken leg until rolls from the trigger. He flinches, but nothing happens. Shrugging, he picks up the chicken leg. Thrusts it deep into his mouth, and removes a clean white bone. He licks his chops, rubs his belly, and tosses the bone away. It lands on the trigger. The fox’s hair stands on end but nothing happens. Frowning, he pokes the trigger with his cane. Nothing happens. He takes out a sledge hammer and slams the trigger. Nothing happens. He steps inside the rope and kicks the trigger. Nothing happens. As he wipes his forehead with a red handkerchief, a small blue bird flies overhead. A tiny blue feather flutters down. The fox watches the feather as it slowly falls, rocking back and forth, descending past his eyes, his neck, his stomach, his knees. It lands gently on the trigger. The rope yanks the fox into the air and out of sight, accompanied by the sound of a whistling rocket. A distant explosion rocks the forest. The fox enters on the left, leaning on a crutch. One leg is bound in a cast and white bandages cover his head. He sits down beside the rabbit hole and thinks. A lightbulb appears above his head. He reaches up and turns it off. Tearing off his bandages and throwing away the crutch, he removes from his pocket a hammer, nails, and pieces of wood. He begins building furiously, working up a cloud of dust that conceals him completely. When the dust clears a vast blue chute is visible. Beginning in front of the rabbit hole, it rises slowly toward the right on taller and taller posts, passing through the forest where small deer gaze up in wonder, passing over the treetops as an old owl frowns and scratches his head, passing beneath a rainbow into the sky, passing clouds and jagged mountaintops until at last it reaches a tall brown cliff on which a vast boulder rests atop a tiny pebble. Beside the boulder, reclining in a yellow and red lawn chair, wearing green sunglasses and sipping lemonade, is the fox. He picks up a straw, tears one end, and blows the paper wrapper at the boulder. The boulder tips onto the blue chute and starts to roll down. It rolls past clouds and jagged peaks, it frightens a buzzard, it flattens a passing airplane, it snaps apart the rainbow, it roars over treetops past the startled owl, and terrified deer take cover as it thunders past. The rabbit’s head pops out of the hole. Grasping the end of the chute, with a quick motion he bends it upward slightly. Then he ducks out of sight. The boulder follows the curve of the chute and sails into the air, hitting a distant treetop that catches it, bends backwards, and springs forward, flinging the boulder back. The fox is standing on the cliff with his head to one side and one hand cupped over an ear. He removes a watch from his pocket and frowns. As he turns his head to look down, the boulder slams into him, rolling over him and flattening him like dough. For a few moments the fox lies like a colorful shadow. Then one end peels up and he rolls into a tube. His eyes move back and forth in the tube. One leg emerges, one arm, a bushy tail. The fox stands up. Cracks appear in his body and he falls apart with a tinkling sound. The rabbit is lying on his back on the floor, doing sit-ups. He stands up and begins to do quick knee-bends. He lifts a dumbbell over his head. As he begins to skip rope, a sudden crash shakes his house. Frowning, he looks up. The fox, eyes bulging and teeth gnashing, is trapped in the hole at his waist. His arms are pinned to his sides. The rabbit breaks into a smile. Pushing over a small yellow stool, he puts on a pair of boxing gloves and begins to punch the fox’s head as the circle slowly closes.




p.s. RIP Pete Shelley. ** David Ehrenstein, Ah, okay, about Scott Timburg. Fingers very crossed. Might have to agree with you about Trintignant’s ultimate status. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Yeah, amazing work in amazing work. So sad about Pete Shelley. Such a great, great songwriter and figure. ‘A Different Kind of Tension’ is my favourite Buzzcocks stand-alone LP too. Although ‘Love Bites’ is a perfect record as well. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Yes, Pete Shelley, terrible loss. Ah, excellent about the class’s continuation! And the possible publication. Really excited to read your stuff when it’s time. ** WompKeatonAloumomb, Ha, hi. I started feeling like a grown up too at some point, but I don’t remember when, and it was undetectable when it happened, strange. Thank you for the joys. I might need them when Paris turns into a powder keg tomorrow. ** Nik, Hi, Nik. Yeah, either one of those Robbe-Grillet films are good first ‘ins’ to his film work. The way you describe your current writing project is kind of the ideal intuition, I think. Great! Oh, you share drafts before you share the more polished version? That’s interesting. I don’t think I could do that. I’m a super hoarder of my stuff until I’m absolutely sure about it, but that’s just weird emotional stuff going on, I think, so, yeah, very interesting. I think we’ll be done with the scrip by Xmas if the current rate of work holds. The first two episodes are pretty close. The third episode is being a nightmare, what with the pressure to ‘wrap it up’ and ‘give the payoff’ and all of that irksome, unnatural stuff, but I still think there’s time. I think it will be fine. Basically, it needs to be ready enough for ARTE to green light it, but there’s no doubt that we’ll need to fiddle with it a lot between then and production. And it turns out they want the show in French, so it’ll have to be translated and then reworked in French, which will be a pain given my bad French (although, obviously Zac is French and fluent). Also, each episode needs to be 50-58 minutes long, and our episodes are way longer than that. I fear this project will be a headache for a long time to come, but hopefully at least it’ll turn into a side-project by early next year because Zac and I need to concentrate on our next film. I haven’t heard the new Xiu Xiu. I’ll do that. Yeah, there’s bad blood between Jamie and Zac/me due to his having fucked us over re: a never released music video we made for Xiu Xiu’s last album, but I still think he’s an amazing artist. Thanks for the luck! Tons of it to you on your new piece! ** Alistair, Hey! I … don’t think the screening will be on the 5th because there’s an SF screening on the 3rd or 4th. But I’ll do my best to get around that date if it’s a possibility. I have a bead on ‘War and War’. Very happy to have helped institute new mining! Cool! Hugs from here. ** Okay. I decided to restore this post spotlighting one of my all-time favorite novels, which I obviously highly recommend to you if you don’t know it. See you tomorrow.


  1. Kai

    I read the Millhauser novel a couple years ago after you’d mentioned it in some conversation on the blog. It was much fun to read. I think I always had a bit of a problem with Nabokov’s getting so drunk by all the words and beautiful phrases that would come flowing out of his fingers, and the Millhauser experience was a little similar in one or the other chapter of the book. But the overflow makes total sense, of course, it’s kind of like meta-Nabokov. Great novel.

    Perhaps I posted comments just shortly before you (or the blog) published a new day and so they ended up in the past perfect. To imagine that they are looming there is kind of nice, actually, and please don’t waste your precious time on checking old comments sections – I will know how to make myself heard or read here if need be! Rather, please do spend a minute or two of said precious time on harrassing Ishmael if you can, as indeed it would be great to get the video before the 15th. Or you can just forward his email to me ( and I will annoy him in my most charming way.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Read the Millhauser when it came out and very much liked it. Closer to “Pale Fire” than “Doctor Faustus”

    Looking forward to PGL with enormous antici–


  3. Derek McCormack

    Good God, Millhauser is great. I’m going back to his books today! XOXO

  4. Sypha

    EDWIN MULLHOUSE was one of my favorite books that I discovered off your “top 50” novels list, I’ll need to reread it again some day… along with more Millhauser books in general.

    Oh, Dennis, I sent out my holiday greeting cards last week. I expect you should get yours soon, assuming you haven’t already.

    As you saw on Facebook, Snuggly revealed the cover art for HARLEM SMOKE earlier this week. I believe it will be available to pre-order as one of their bundles soon. I’m looking forward to getting my author copies, which I believe will be ten paperback copies and two hardcovers… that seems extravagant to me, ha ha (yes, there will be a limited hardcover release as well, as they sometimes do).

  5. Nik

    Hey Dennis,

    Oh, cool, I remember seeing this book on your top 50. This post makes me really wanna check it out, and the Pale Fire comparisons in the comments only expand my interest.
    Yeah, my intuition is pretty good right now with the project, I’m cracking down on it from now until Tuesday. Yes, I am really weirdly okay with sharing work I don’t feel is complete with others. In fact, a lot of the time when it’s something that I really care about, if I’m sharing it with trustworthy people, the feedback I get can really push me into making the work better. Some of the feedback is really stupid or just incongruous with my goals, but I know what of that to ignore. It might be a bad thing though, I feel like some people must think I’m stupid based on the drafts I’m comfortable sharing haha. Hopefully the stuff I actually share is good, but even with the XRAY story, even though I’m pretty happy with it, I feel like I should have cut out or adjusted a lot the sentences in there now. Ugh, whatever. Are you writing the TV script collaboratively though? Does that change the process at all?
    I totally get what you mean with the TV script, aiming for conventionally “wrapped up” endings are such a pain. Yeah, this whole process seems like a bunch of bureaucratic decisions are running the creative process, that’s a headache for sure. Will Zac be translating the script then? And do you know who’ll be funding the next film yet, or what that schedule will look like at all?
    Oh no! That’s such a bummer about the Xiu Xiu thing, it sounds like Jamie pulled a real bullshit move. That sucks. If you do end up checking the song out, tell me what you think.
    Hope you have a great weekend!

  6. Dominik


    Ah, yes, the first contestant of the beauty pageant looks absolutely delicious, it almost made my final list too. I’ll be very curious to hear if it met or even surpassed your expectations! And please let me know about the other finalists too, when the time comes! (It’s such a pity we don’t have this tradition here.)
    Yes, the whole thing, I mean Hatsune Miku’s “work”, somehow seems… innocent, even with the obvious obsession going on. Or innocent isn’t even the right word. Maybe safe would be better. It’s really interesting that the audience was so colorful. I mean, I used to go to these underground Japanese parties when I was in high school and though there were all kinds of crazy and crazy exciting people there, you could always tell that they belonged to this subculture just by looking at them. It’s surprising that those people going to the show obviously were serious fans (I guess nobody else could or would memorize all her songs) but they didn’t seem to create a largely homogenous scene.
    Hah, that’s really nice, now every time I think of my rapidly decreasing full-position days (now only 10!!!), I also think of your advent calendar. This year, I don’t have one.

    My week went by in kind of a blur. Some desperate Christmas shoppers, some stress about the shop moving to another location in January, etc. I went to see this new film “Girl” today – it’s a trans movie so it was a must. I’m still composing my full, detailed opinion but for now: I liked it, mostly because the characters and the situations were very realistic and because it’s not what I call an “activist movie”, forcing every single possible-trans-related stereotype and discrimination issue, etc. into a 100 minutes. It was worth a watch.

    How was your week? What happened? I hope it was the very best possible!
    Have a very fine weekend and see you on Monday, Dennis!!

  7. _Black_Acrylic

    Think I will have to get this. As a 10 year old I would obsessively draw cartoons and always asumed that would be my destiny, so I’m intrigued to learn the story of young Edwin Mullhouse here.

    Been doing some Xmas shopping and it’s going ok. Acting on Steve Erickson’s FB recommendation, I got my mum the new Bryan Ferry LP Bitter-Sweet which is 20s style jazz and swing versions of his hits and I think it all works remarkably well. Next week I’ll be doing that DCA advanced screenprinting course and I hope to provide my brother witht a framed print of Diamond Dust Camperdown Elms.

  8. Keayton

    its part of the course, it would be boring to be young forever. did i ever make mine pay. i think i did good with it. this is the one book from your favorites list i have not read. growing up in the woods, this kind of stuff was the stuff of summer day dreams. the easter bunny was sure to devour your soul one summer afternoon while you were picking the honeysuckle. haha this day strikes me as funny. tried to do something 3 x this morning and failed so i gave up. haha then i read some lady died from using her neti-pot she got the brain-eating amoeba. then the Germans are going broke. the ghost of Steve Jobs shows up with 3/4ths an apple. a giant omega symbol reflects on the bay. theres a bird outside that is talking like a child. Santa says everybodies getting dicks for Christmas. Anyway, stay stuff babe. I dont know whos worse Parisians or Pennsylvanians. I’m seeing the pelvic thrust from “Come to Daddy”. Bon weekend

  9. Steve Erickson

    I’ve read several Millhauser books. I think I have looked this one up in the NY public library, but since it was published before 2010, they don’t have a copy.

    I’m sure I dream every night, but I wake up with no recollection of dreaming and on the occasions I do, I forget within a few minutes of getting up. But the past 2 nights, I had banal but weirdly memorable dreams about celebrities I don’t like. Last night, I dreamed I interviewed Jordan Peterson about his taste in music and stereo system for High Times! (Only dream logic dictates why I didn’t ask him about drugs.) The night before, I dreamed that I directed Jim Caviezel in a film where he played a hitman.

    That new Bryan Ferry album is most inspired when it digs much further into the Brecht/Weill vibe Roxy Music sometimes touched on circa 1973-4. The Dixieland pastiches interest me a lot less.

    I’m hoping to be able to write about Pete Shelley for Gay City News, although their editor hasn’t responded to my pitch yet. I listened to HOMOSAPIEN all the way through for the first time last night, having only heard the title song before. Although it sounds basically like a synth-pop album of its time, there’s a lot more guitar than I expected, and several songs repeat the 16th-note keyboard pulse he used on “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” (which sounds very Krautrock played on a synthesizer.)

  10. Bill

    Edwin Mulhouse has been on my list for awhile, but I keep getting distracted by other Millhauser. Just re-read the intriguing “Phantoms” in an anthology.

    I was thinking I’d never seen any of Trintignant’s films. Then WHOA there was Amour.

    Hope things aren’t too intense in Paris over the weekend, Dennis. It’s another multi-event weekend, including another Fred Frith gig. Frith has been living here for awhile, and plays out somewhat regularly. I’ll probably end up at a different concert for various reasons.


  11. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I remember this one! 😀

    Well, there’s only one person who can fix France’s problems: George H. W. Bush. Oh, wait…

    I watched a bit of the coverage of his funeral the other day, and I came away with two things:

    1. He was the greatest man who ever walked the face of the earth.
    2. His wife really loved her Bush.

    People have gotten mad at me for saying the second one up above. 😛 Especially when I add, “No surprise to me, I always thought she was quite butch.”

    So…LPS was to start his in-school suspension Thursday…then refused to go to school. He said he was tired and would go the next day. Fucker. I was livid. He did go today, though, and he said it wasn’t that bad at all. Did all his work and shit. Actually kind of liked it.

    This fucking kid. We were talking about things generally tonight and something came up about cities expanding out and taking over more of the rural areas around them. He goes, “Yeah, herbal sprawl.” Kayla and I just looked at each other. The shit he comes up with. And yes, he was serious. Though that’s what it was.

    My favorite -and I’d never tell him this- is when he told me last week, very dead serious, “I try to do good at school, but they keep suspending me.” I just looked at him.

    The four of us went out for my mom’s bday dinner tonight. We had fun. There was one waiter there…anyway, you know what I mean, hahaha. Fucking perfect. Very gay too, which I don’t mind.

    I’m reading Andrew Holleran’s The Beauty of Men now. Talk about fucking depressing. I tell you, I’ve never read one of yours and felt this fucking bad, hahahaha. But yours aren’t about the same things, of course. Still, I mean, really, Andrew, is being gay THAT bad? 😉

    Oh, and I meant to say the other day with the photographer who shoots people having sex in the park and people watching people have sex in the park: I now never want to have sex in a park.

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