I’m reading Millhauser as part of my exploration of short stories that seem to disobey the rules. My question–my thesis, perhaps–seems to hinge on the question, what is a short story? In “The Barnum Museum”, the narrator appears to be a 3rd person plural, ‘we’, but at times the closeness of the narration feels much more like first. Even though nothing about the narrator is ever revealed as a character, there is a strong sense of ‘voice’ about this narrator. I think Millhauser in particular does this really well…hides his narrators without making them characters. In reading James Wood’s chapter on narrating in How Fiction Works, I was struck by the idea of ‘free indirect’ narration, a concept akin (I think) to stream of consciousness. This topic came up in Jess Row’s lecture at residency. The thing is, I don’t think Millhauser is doing this even. He’s almost using ‘close-omniscience’ as a narrative voice. Speaking collectively for his village but not really allowing the reader access to this narrative presence. Of course that’s just one aspect of this story that shakes it free of the confines of traditional short story structure. I was also listening to a podcast of Jeffrey Eugenides reading the Harold Brodky story, “Spring Fugue,” in which Eugenides and Deborha Treisman discuss whether or not Brodky’s story is in fact a story, or a prose-poem. Eugenides says that he doesn’t think it matters that much (though he does think it is a story.) I wonder what others think about this. When does a story stop being a story? In the Millhauser story, there are no main characters, other than the invisible, plural narrator and the museum itself. Yet it does move like a story. There is tension, drama, movement through time. I’m not looking for anyone to write the thesis for me, but I am interested to know what others thing about the weird stories out there. I know these lines are getting blurrier with time, but is there still a line? By the way, the NewYorker fiction podcasts are great, and free, on Itunes if you haven’t been there before.