Voices in the Night
Vintage Book 2015
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser’s collection of disquieting short stories, “Voices in the Night,” are outlandish tales laced with jarring twists, reminiscent of the old “Twilight Zone” television series.
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“. . . outlandish tales . . . reminiscent of the old “Twilight Zone” television series.”
Here’s just one example, the most unusual story, “Mermaid Fever,” which features a teenage mermaid who floats ashore. She is preserved in a community display case, prompting girls to emulate her by wearing a “Mermaidini,” a “skintight scaly bottom with zip-off tail fin and bold bikini top complete with realistic breasts and nipples painted on each cup.” Some even have scales tattooed on their bodies.
In “The Wife and the Thief,” a woman hears the sound of a thief during the night but rather than disturb her sleeping husband she ventures downstairs. What she discovers has bizarre consequences, even more strange when the events continue to unfold every night because the thief returns repeatedly.
The tale, “Sons and Mothers,” involves a son who after many absent years decides to visit his aging mother who suffers from dementia. “Where did you come from?” she repeatedly asks him, as she disappears into different rooms in the house, their interaction like a foggy dance.
Millhauser’s revision of “Rapunzel” is also inventive. Here, the Prince is depicted as a thrill-seeker who thrives on conquering obstacles like climbing up Rapunzel’s braided hair to her tower. Tragedy befalls when the pregnant Rapunzel is discovered by the sorceress who banishes her into the wilderness. The Prince meanwhile is blinded with thorns on his fall from the tower.
The sixteen short stories reveal Millhauser’s distinctive voice, and he has an ability with his captivating prose to transform fantasies into real-life yearnings.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla