The melancholic narrator of this literary tour de force seems to speak for his creator, the author of the equally incantatory Edwin Mullhouse (1972) and Portrait of a Romantic (1977), when he states: ""Without hope of gain, without expectation of fame, and with an exhilarating sense of isolation. . .I offer. . .this natural history of the unnatural, this black mappamundi, this obsidian globe, this phantasmic encyclopedia."" Clearly not for everyone, this dense and allusive fantasy begins innocently enough when Carl Hausman, a self-described ""wanderer in the dark,"" chases a foul ball into the woods and stumbles into a cave that opens to another world--a fully imagined imaginary world through which this rollicking narrative cascades. A celebration of the world's great dreamers, Millhauser's hypnotic prose summons up the god of sleep as Hausman's guide. Morpheus himself, ""a charming rogue,"" given to ""an idiom most affected and unnatural""--it's mock Elizabethan-steers his yawning charge through a landscape unforgettable in design, and introduces him to a realm where illusion and reality collide. Epic in scope, the tour includes the lost kingdom of Atlantis, where artifice ""out-natures' Nature (everything is made from stone). They stop in the library to end all libraries, a collection of the conclusions to all the great unfinished books, the books that are mentioned only in books, all the lost books of antiquity, books we wish had been written, books that consume themselves, books to be eaten. Along the way, they listen to the tale of Ignotus, which forms a high-romantic novella within the novel, and concerns ""the terrible secret of his inhuman origins"" (this Byronic fop can step in and out of the painting in which he was first brought to life). A fable of giants and mermaids, flying islands and mirrors with memories, Millhauser's elegantly erotic, sinuous narrative promises to baffle as many readers as it enchants.