Steven Millhauser

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Steven Millhauser
Born (1943-08-03) August 3, 1943 (age 80)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Brown University
Notable worksMartin Dressler
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Fiction (1997)
The Story Prize (2012)

Steven Millhauser (born August 3, 1943) is an American novelist and short story writer. He won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel Martin Dressler.

Life and career[edit]

Millhauser was born in New York City, grew up in Connecticut, and earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1965. He then pursued a doctorate in English at Brown University. He never completed his dissertation but wrote parts of Edwin Mullhouse and From the Realm of Morpheus in two separate stays at Brown. Between times at the university, he wrote Portrait of a Romantic at his parents' house in Connecticut. His story "The Invention of Robert Herendeen" (in The Barnum Museum) features a failed student who has moved back in with his parents; the story is loosely based on this period of Millhauser's life.[1]

Until the Pulitzer Prize, Millhauser was best known for his 1972 debut novel, Edwin Mullhouse. This novel, about a precocious writer whose career ends abruptly with his death at age eleven, features the fictional Jeffrey Cartwright playing Boswell to Edwin's Johnson. Edwin Mullhouse brought critical acclaim, and Millhauser followed with a second novel, Portrait of a Romantic, in 1977, and his first collection of short stories, In The Penny Arcade, in 1986.

Possibly the most well-known of his short stories is "Eisenheim the Illusionist" (published in "The Barnum Museum"), based on a pseudo-mythical tale of a magician who stunned audiences in Vienna in the latter part of the 19th century. It was made into the film The Illusionist (2006).[2]

Millhauser's stories often treat fantasy themes in a manner reminiscent of Poe or Borges, with a distinctively American voice. As critic Russell Potter has noted, "In (Millhauser's stories), mechanical cowboys at penny arcades come to life; curious amusement parks, museums, or catacombs beckon with secret passageways and walking automata; dreamers dream and children fly out their windows at night on magic carpets."[3]

Millhauser's collections of stories continued with The Barnum Museum (1990), Little Kingdoms (1993), and The Knife Thrower and Other Stories (1998). The unexpected success of Martin Dressler in 1997 brought him increased attention. Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories made the New York Times Book Review list of 10 Best Books of 2008.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Millhauser lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. He taught at Skidmore College for almost 30 years before retiring in 2017.[5] He was previously married to Cathy Allis, an occupational therapist and crossword constructor.[6][7]

Awards and honors[edit]



  • Edwin Mullhouse : the life and death of an American writer, 1943-1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright : a novel. New York: Knopf. 1972.
  • Portrait of a Romantic (1977) ISBN 0-671-63089-X
  • From the Realm of Morpheus (1986) ISBN 0-688-06501-5
  • Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (1996) ISBN 0-517-70319-X

Short fiction[edit]


Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
Miracle Polish 2011 "Miracle Polish". The New Yorker. 87 (36): 68–75. November 14, 2011.
Coming soon 2013 Millhauser, Steven (December 16, 2013). "Coming soon". The New Yorker. Vol. 89, no. 41. pp. 74–78.

Critical studies and reviews of Millhauser's work[edit]

  • Understanding Steven Millhauser (Understanding Contemporary American Fiction), by Earl G. Ingersoll. University of South Carolina Press, 2014 ISBN 1611173086
  • Steven Millhauser : la précision de l'impossible, by Marc Chénetier. Paris: Belin, 2013 ISSN 1275-0018


  1. ^ "Steven Millhauser". New York State Writers Institute, SUNY. Archived from the original on 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  2. ^ "The Illusionist: Movie Production Notes". Entertainment Magazine. 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  3. ^ Russell Potter (2006). "Steven Millhauser". Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  4. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2008". New York Times. 3 December 2008.
  5. ^ "Skidmore Faculty Meeting Notes" (PDF). Skidmore College. April 28, 2017. Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  6. ^ Smith, Dinitia (April 9, 1997). "Shy Author Likes to Live And Work In Obscurity". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Keyser, Tom (February 18, 2011). "Get inside the mind of puzzler Cathy Allis". Times Union. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  8. ^ Short stories unless otherwise noted.

External links[edit]