Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser
Release date: 2008 / 244 pages
First Line: “The news of the disappearance disturbed and excited us.”
Review: I must start this review with a big “thank you” to my client who requested discussion questions for this work. Little did I know, Dangerous Laughter is on the Pulitzer short list and was considered one of the 10 Best Books of 2008, according to The New York Times Book Review. I had not heard of Dangerous Laughter — and after the first 2 stories I was recommending it like crazy!
Almost every story is a gem of story-telling, philosophy, and prose mastery. I truly savored each story and found I only wanted to read 2-3 at a time so that I could simply think about what I had read, before I moved into the next world.
Now, I do not care for fantasy — or science fiction. And I realize that some may feel Millhauser is treading perilously close to both of those genres. However, his characters and setting remained firmly rooted in reality, so even when his ideas become fanciful, the story remains realistically compelling and somehow believable.
One of my first thoughts after finishing this collection was — “how I wish I could teach these stories to high schoolers!” I was so convinced this deeply reluctant captive audience would enjoy these stories, I recommended them to a number of teacher friends. I think I may even give this work my nod of approval for the Pulitzer!
Lastly, in the spirit of full disclosure, the above first line is not from the first story, which was not representative of the collection as a whole. I would actually recommend reading the first story last — or you many not get past it to the delightful second story — and every one after that. So, for this review I chose the first sentence of the second story — which is an excellent example of Dangerous Laughter.
Has anyone else read this yet?