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[Reading Room] The Dome by Steven Millhauser

I’m not sure when this story was written so I’m not sure if it predates or post-dates other stories about cities within domes, but when a story is this well-written it hardly matters.

This story is fascinating in several ways. Firstly, the writing is just great. If you like language, and like a little humor in your stories, get a copy of this (you can find it at Selected Shorts, read by Alec Baldwin, who does a great job).

Second, it breaks rules — or at least bends them. I’m always reading that stories have to have a character and the character has to want something. This story does not seem (at first) to have a character. And it’s not at all clear who wants what. But it turns out that the ‘character’ could be said to be ‘humanity’. Later in the story it becomes clear that if there is a protagonist, it is the contemporary group of dome-dwelling humans of which the narrator is one.

But it’s refreshing to read something so engaging that breaks from expected patterns and still manages to hold the reader’s attention all the way through.

Steven Millhauser won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his novel Martin Dressler, which prompted publishers to bring some of his older story collections back into print. I’m off to see if I can get hold of some of them…

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