Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of An American Writer 1943-1954, by Jeffrey Cartwriight
Author: Steven Millhauser
This novel accomplishes many things and works on many levels. It’s a mediation on the art of biography; a love affair with the English Language; a study of how we acquire language; a look at narcissim; and a song to the days of growing up in the 50s when innoncence abounded and life was good.
It’s not necessary to be critically engaged in the issues I note above. Mainly, the novel is one of the funniest books
I’ve ever read. The main conceit of the book is that it’s “written” by an 11-year old!
This book was originally published in 1972 and has achieved a kind of cult status over the years. It was Milhauser’s first published novel. Years later, while working on my doctorate, I used the novel in a Theory of Language
course to explore how we acquire language.
For example, a study of the young author as he acquires langauge (as written by Jeffrey Cartwright), would go something like this:
"ffftttttt, zzzzzffffff, afrrrmrmrm"
= undiluted happiness
= often used to imitate digestive discomfort
= A sound accompanied by drooling and a clapping of hands, signifying total and complete agreement with what is being discussed.
Of course, the young writer eventually graudates to working on his magnum opus: a coloring book!
Correction: Not written BY an 11-year old; rather, written ABOUT an 11-year old.