“The Illusionist,” it turns out, was reprinted in the 3rd Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. This is a good thing, because Millhauser’s original collection is hard to find, at least around here. Fortunately the library had this edition of the Year’s Best; it’s one of the few I don’t have yet.
I probably should not be surprised, knowing as much as I do about how Hollywood works, at how superficial the resemblance is between the short story and the film. The screenwriter invented a lot. I mean, a lot, as in, the entire plot involving the girl and the prince… which is to say, most of the movie. The setting and the character were mostly intact, along with most of the magic tricks, including the last one. The policeman is in the short story, but his motivations are different.
I like the story very much. It’s just not the same story as the movie. And that’s OK, because we get to have both.
An aside: this is why I collect the Year’s Best, and why I occasionally annoy my husband by calling from a bookstore to say, “Can you look on the shelf and see if I have the [umpteenth] edition yet?” Because I invariably find myself in urgent need of a short story at 1 in the freaking a.m. The last time this happened was about a month ago when I finished Swordspoint and The Fall of the Kings; I knew there were several related short stories, which are included in a newer edition of Swordspoint than the one I had. Two of the three were in Year’s Best… but I didn’t have those years. So I went in search of the newer edition. Later I discovered that one of them had originally appeared in Starlight 2, which had been sitting on my shelf the whole time… and I must have read it when the antho came out, because I read that thing cover to cover, but at the time I didn’t have the context to appreciate it.