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Little Kingdoms

Current Status:
In Season
Steven Millhauser

We gave it an A

LITTLE KINGDOMS Steven Millhauser (Poseidon, $21) Millhauser’s deceptive fables are funny and warm. But they’re dark as dungeons, too-unsettling, and possibly dangerous. He bewitches you into wondering whether you’ve read his bizarre tales or lived them. The first, about a cartoonist struggling to be an artist, is a delightful tour through the process of creation, ending with good chills. But ”The Princess, the Dwarf, and the Dungeon” twists fairy-tale fluff into a legend that will bother you for a long time. And ”Catalogue of the Exhibition” consists of 26 gallery notes for a dead painter’s work. The painter’s harrowing life emerges from the oblivious academic’s little essays like some shape lurching suddenly real out of nightmares. As gothic as Poe and as imaginative as Fantasia, Millhauser’s three novellas are so fine and so distinct that one wishes they had been published separately to be cherished as individual volumes. A -DAB