Steven Millhauser (born 3 August 1943 in New York City) is perhaps one of modern American fiction's most elusive characters. When his novel, Martin Dressler, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1997, Millhauser told an interviewer that it would not change his life one bit - "I dare it to," he was quoted as saying. The prize brought many of his older books back into print. As the patina of the prize faded however, they slowly retreated from the shelves and back into the hands of the small but devoted following he has always enjoyed.
Millhauser was born in 1943 in New York City, and grew up in Connecticut. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1965, and went on to pursue a doctorate in English at Brown University. He never completed his dissertation but wrote parts of "Edwin Mullhouse" and a little of "From the Realm of Morpheus" at Brown in two distinct stays. In between, he wrote "Portrait of a Romantic," at his parents' house in Connecticut. For his stay there for many years, see the story "The Invention of Robert Herendeen" in the collection "Barnum Museum."
Until the Pulitzer, Millhauser was best known for Edwin Mullhouse (Knopf, 1972). This remarkable novel, in which the fictional Cartwright plays Boswell to Edwin's Johnson, a writer whose career ends abruptly with his death at the tender age of 11, brought wide critical acclaim. Millhauser continued to ply his craft, following Edwin Mullhouse with Portrait of a Romantic (1977), and his first collection of short stories, In The Penny Arcade, in 1986. It was for his stories that Millhauser became most admired; immaculately written, curiously vivid, they trod on fantastic boards in a manner reminiscent of Poe or Borges, but with a distinctively American voice. In them, mechanical cowboys at penny arcades came to life; curious amusement parks, museums, or catacombs beckoned with secret passageways and walking automata; dreamers dreamed dreams and children flew out their windows at night on magic carpets.
Millhauser's collections 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 Millhauser to the attention of a new generation of readers. In 2006, the film The Illusionist, based on Millhauser's short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist", is to be released. It is directed by Neil Burger and stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton.
Steven Millhauser lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, and teaches at Skidmore College.
Published works Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972) ISBN 0679766529 Portrait of a Romantic (1977) ISBN 067163089X In the Penny Arcade (1986) ISBN 1564781828 From the Realm of Morpheus (1986) ISBN 0688065015 The Barnum Museum (1990) ISBN 1564781798 Little Kingdoms (1993) ISBN 0375701435 Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (1996) ISBN 051770319X The Knife Thrower (1998) ISBN 0679781633 Enchanted Night (1999) ISBN 0375706968 The King in the Tree (2003) ISBN 0375415408