You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.
This was published a while ago, but still Millhauser was older than most of the characters he creates, and it shows in the point of view, particularly in regards to all the young women. They think like old women gazing back nostalgically at the wilder days, more romantic nights of their youths (and forgetting the angst and heartbreak that accompanied them).
Oh god, she's having wild thoughts, dream thoughts under the summer moon . She can feel the night working through her, she is a daughter of the night and the moon and her hair is streaming in the branches of the trees and her breath is the night sky.
I am not as young as Janet, but closer than the author is, and I can tell you no one thinks like this when they are twenty and making out with a hot guy in a thicket. Likewise I don't think most teen boys sit around thinking abstractly about how they would feel grateful and deeply moved if any girl let them have a feel.
Perhaps the his tone of elderly backward-looking is deliberate and I am missing the point of why it is employed, but it contrasts oddly with the sense of immediacy that the descriptions otherwise arouse, the restless young people and the dissatisfied loners (loners are all dissatisfied and lacking here, there is no possibility that one might be happy alone) wandering out into the night looking for -- what? Called by something, the moon stirring their blood, the panpipes which only the children hear.
I thought that was one of the weakest sections, by the way, the kids all at once going out to play in the dark and meeting Pan. It was so brief, nothing was done with it, even less than the moving toys section. And the mannequin... In fact, I think the book might have been better without any of the whimsical supernatural elements. The pervs and drunks and eccentric old ladies felt a lot more real than Columbine and that fucking twee unloved teddy bear.
However, I did in many places think the prose was very fine, especially when Millhauser is not trying to talk from anyone's point of view. He definitely has a strong rhythmic quality. My favorite sections were the recurring Chorus of Night Voices, which are strongly allusive of classical literature.
Hail, goddess, bright one, shining one: release him from confusion. Lighten his burden, banish his darkness: teach the sleeping heart to wake. Hail, goddess, night-enchantress: show the lost one the way.
I might try Millhauser again. I might not. I'm not very interested in reading fiction without characters. Anyone have a recommendation of a book of his that has character development?