Read Little, Big by John Crowley Online


John Crowley's masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood—not found on any map—to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is aJohn Crowley's masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood—not found on any map—to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss; of impossible things and unshakable destinies; and of the great Tale that envelops us all. It is a wonder....

Title : Little, Big
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780061120053
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 538 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Little, Big Reviews

  • Oriana
    2019-04-11 21:45

    I've given a lot of thought to this review: how to begin, how to describe this story, how to explain my utter adoration for it, and most importantly, what words I might use to successfully make everyone read this book right now.As you can probably imagine, I've come up rather short on all counts. How do you talk about a book which seems to either redefine or cause to shrivel all the normal descriptors one attaches to works of fiction? I mean, strictly speaking, you'd have to call this an epic fantasy, I suppose. Wait! You didn't let me finish. Because that's not it, not really. I mean, it's not really just epic, because it actually seems to encompass the whole damn world, to cover all of time, kind of. And it's more of an occult novel than a fantasy novel, if anything, I guess. I mean, it's a real story, set in real-life New York, partly upstate and partly in our big bad city. It just sort of so happens that, well, everyone in the story is part of the Tale, which only some of them can understand, an no one can predict, not really. See, now wait again! Because now you'll think it's some big silly meta thing, which it is not not not. Look. Little, Big is a novel about a family. For real this time. It's about Smoky Barnable, our earnest, humble, erstwhile sometimes-hero. Smoky meets and falls in love with one of the most beautiful characters I have ever had the pleasure of traveling five-hundred-odd pages with, Daily Alice. Daily Alice lives in Edgewood, which is in upstate New York, and the book opens with Smoky making the trek upstate for his wedding. He has been given a series of inexplicable instructions (walk don't ride, wear clothing borrowed not bought, etc.), which he is doing his best to follow, though he doesn't understand why he must. He must because it is part of the Tale. He has been promised to Daily Alice, kind of, maybe, or well, someone has been promised to her anyway, and she hopes it's him, but she has already decided that she will have him anyway, she loves him that much, even if he is not the one promised.This is a taste of the world you step into in Little, Big, which goes on to follow Smoky and Alice and their families and their neighbors and their children and some of those children's children too, for four generations, backwards and forwards. It may well be a fantasy, but it is done with such a light touch, with such subtle mentions of fairies and talking fish and worlds within worlds, that you could easily miss or dismiss them, you could write them off as the magic-belief of children, or the ramblings of old women who have spent too long abed. And I haven't even told you this yet, as this review draws longer and appallingly longer: John Crowley could have spent all five hundred pages just describing a single tree, and I would have followed him along every goddamn branch. Which is to say, this book is suffused, constantly and shockingly, with some of the most astonishingly beautiful prose I have ever read – equally as stunning when describing twilight falling over the City or the endless quest for love.Here are some other wonderful things about this book: * In the City, the true oracles are the bums who lurk on the subway in broken shoes muttering to themselves. * At one point a maybe-fake, maybe-evil baby (who eats live coals) is blown up.* The only tie to the world of 'them' – the creatures who may or may not know how the Tale will come out – is a deck of pseudo-Tarot cards, the reading of which takes at least an entire lifetime to begin to understand. * Included are some of the most powerful, most potent descriptions of taking hallucinogenic drugs that I have ever read (and that's not even what's happening in the story).* Did I mention the dialogue? It is so good, so true, so utterly believable. * This book made me – a sworn cynic, a jaded literary snob, a snarky bitch who doesn't even know what 'sentiment' means any longer – cry, several times. * Everyone in the book is named for nature: Violet Bramble, John Drinkwater, Marge Juniper, Mrs. Underhill, George Mouse, Lilac, the Rooks, the Dales, and on and on. And now look. Because I know that I have done a woefully inadequate job of making you see, I am going to here transcribe a long-ish passage from the book. This takes place very early on, when Smoky and Daily Alice are still just falling in love. She is telling him about a time when she was walking in the woods just after a storm and saw a rainbow off in the distance. "It was a rainbow, but bright, and it looked like it came down just – there, you know, not far; I could see the grass, all sparkling and stained every color there. The sky had got big, you know, the way it does when it clears at last after a long rainy time, and everything looked near; the place the rainbow came down was near; and I wanted more than anything to go and stand in it – and look up – and be covered with colors." Smoky laughed. "That's hard," he said. She laughed too, dipping her head and raising the back of her hand to her mouth in a way that already seemed heartstirringly familiar to him. "It sure is," she said. "It seemed to take forever." "You mean you – " "Every time you thought you were coming close, it would be just as far off, in a different place; and if you came to that place, it would be in the place you came from; and my throat was sore with running, and not getting any closer. But you know what you do then – " "Walk away from it," he said, surprised at his own voice but Somehow sure this was the answer. "Sure. That isn't as easy as it sounds, but – " "No, I don't suppose." He had stopped laughing. " – but if you do it right – " "No, wait," he said. " – just right, then . . . " "They don't really come down, now," Smoky said. "They don't, not really." "They don't here," she said. "Now listen, I followed my dog Spark; I let him choose, because he didn't care, and I did. It took just one step, and turn around, and guess what." "I can't guess. You were covered in colors." "No. It's not like that. Outside, you see colors inside it; so, inside it – " "You see colors outside it." "Yes. The whole world colored, as though it were made of candy – no, like it was made of a rainbow. A whole colored world as soft as light all around as far as you can see. You want to run and explore it. But you don't dare take a step, because it might be the wrong step – so you only look, and look. And you think: Here I am at last." She had fallen into thought. "At last," she said again softly. See? See? They're just ordinary people, to whom (maybe? maybe not?) extraordinary events are always happening.Well anyway there you are. If I can't convert you, and Mr. Crowley himself can't convert you, then you are just unconvertable and I'm done trying. But if you are even the tiniest bit intrigued by my very long, rambling, adulatory speech here, please, I beseech you, go get this amazing, astonishing, riveting, spectacular book. It really will blow your mind. It did mine.

  • Michael
    2019-04-13 23:01

    This book astounded me. Not in a good way. I expected to like "Little, Big" quite a bit from what I'd heard about it. But, like the Drinkwater house, it looks smaller on the outside than it feels from inside. Not in a good way. I mean the book feels like it's a thousand pages.Some people like it, as you can tell by other reviews: the language is often quite clever, it ends on a semi-strong note, and it plays with myth in some interesting ways. These are all good things. Bad things? Well, the characters aren't compelling, the clever language is often stilted and ponderously slow, and almost nothing happens. On top of that, the fantastical aspects of this book were never surprising or especially interesting.When it comes to the characters, we run through four generations in about 600 pages. This gives us slightly more than a hundred pages per generation to get to know the characters, and Crowley clearly needs more pages than that to make them interesting. Only in the last of the four generations did I like any of them (Auberon and Sylvie). Before that, the motives of the characters were sketchy at best, and it didn't feel like any of the characters were DOING anything; they were waiting for something to happen. As a reader, I was doing the same thing. Okay, here's the plot. A man marries into a family that lives in a gigantic, mysterious house in Edgewood. For generations, this family has been interacting in various strange ways with the Faerie folk that live in the forest around them. The family is part of a great Story, and they don't know quite what this story is going to be. Some members of the family come into direct contact with the fae, while others yearn to see them and are never able to. A few live lives of tragedy as a result of this proximity with the mythic side of reality, while others live semi-normal lives. Being part of a grand Story? Having a Destiny? These are meaningless designations unless it ends up BEING a grand story. Or unless it feels like a destiny is reached. You can't entertain me by assuring me these people are Living Some Grand Story, when I can see clearly that Nothing is Happening. They're all hanging out at a house in the woods, going through the process of forgetting about their connection to the faerie realm because they believe this is the only safe thing for the family. Then, finally on page 450 or so, it looks like there's GONNA be a plot. The kind of plot where stuff is going to happen. But don't worry: it's a false alarm. Things DO happen, but they're safely off-screen and vague. Then the end pops up predictably and....well, bleck. How else could it have ended? I mean, did anyone NOT know it would end this way? And is the ending crafted in a way that's especially insightful?Let me be honest about something, though: I don't like generation-spanning fiction. Pick the generation that is interesting and focus in, don't give me 400 pages of background about the people who won't be involved in whatever climax you've cooked up. If someone isn't even alive during your story's climax, then why do you think it's a good idea to tell me about them?But if these characters had come to life for me, I would've probably still enjoyed the book. Unfortunately, at all of the most dramatic moments of the story, characters did things that seemed to come out of the blue. Why did this married guy and this woman suddenly have an affair? No idea. Why did his wife react the way she did? No idea. I was supposed to be intrigued by all of this I suppose, but it felt flat to me because of my lack of interest in the characters. Crowley reimagines myth in a way that is often vivid but never surprising, and that's unfortunately the strongest part of this book. In sum, I don't recommend it.

  • mark monday
    2019-04-15 18:07

    sometimes, when dreaming, i am aware of a complex and mysterious history to the at times strange but often mundane narrative of the dream itsef. i'll be running away from something, against some dark background, a house or castle or a school, who knows... although the drama of running is clear, there's often a feeling that so many things have already happened before i started running, things of which i'm only dimly aware, a whole story has happened or is happening in which i'm only getting bits & pieces or what feels like the end. i guess it's what makes some dreams so hard to explain - simple or inexplicable events occurring that have an emotional depth and meaning that is near impossible to describe in passionless terms. other times, passing by my work's drop-in center, i'll exchange words with a visitor, a person usually dealing with life changes or the possibility of life ending (that's the nature of my workplace). they'll say some simple pleasantry or even give a brief phrase to show how they're doing... and there's a whole world in what they say, an entire journey expressed, nearly intangible emotions conveyed. but of the details of that history, the why and how of it, and the place they seek or the place they fear to go... inexpressible.that's what reading Little, Big was like for me. so many little moments in a family's life, in the lives of people connected to that family, in the city in where the family lives. and all these moments live in a world with a background and a future that is vast, mystical, dreamlike, one that cannot be expressed with any kind of logical or linear description. sometimes the moments are so personal and delicate... other times they are whimsical and brimming with magic, or strange and full of some kind of barely understandable threat... sad moments, and tragic ones, and moments filled with delight... and in the end, they become grand and they sweep the characters and the reader towards what almost feels like an understanding of the purpose and destination of it all. almost!the novel is about an enchanted family, their loves & lives & history. it is also about the end of an age, the beginning of another, witches & changelings & fairies & enchantments, loneliness & forgetfulness & sorrow, love, the past and the future, and new york city. there are no real villains, there are no traditional heroes. the writing has a dense but fragile beauty. there are layers upon layers. there are mythical beings that come alive and realistic characters that become as myths. i sighed in amazement, many times, at the wonder of it all; it is like a dream made half-real. it is a unique book.

  • Camille Stein
    2019-04-02 16:53

    Illustration: Peter Milton | En un momento de silencio se miraron simplemente el uno al otro y la verdad zumbó, tronó dentro de él cuando comprendió de pronto lo que había sucedido: no sólo él se había enamorado de ella, y a primera vista, sino que ella a primera vista se había enamorado de él, y las dos circunstancias producían ese efecto: el de empezar a curar su anonimato. No a disfrazarlo, que era lo que George Ratón había tratado de hacer, sino a curarlo, de dentro hacia fuera. Ésa era la sensación. Era como si ella le estuviese añadiendo fécula de maíz. Había empezado a adquirir consistencia. En los años por venir se preguntaría, algunas veces despreocupadamente, otras con verdadera angustia, si después de haber entrado allí esa primera vez, había en verdad vuelto a salir; pero en aquel momento subió, simplemente hasta donde ella estaba, delirante de felicidad por el mero hecho de haber llegado al fin, al cabo de una larga y extraña travesía, y de que ella le diese la bienvenida con los ojos castaños cargados de promesas (y acaso fuera esa la única finalidad del viaje, su felicidad de ese momento, y de ser así, una felicidad maravillosa y perfecta para él), y que, cogiendo su mochila y tomándolo de la mano, lo condujera a las regiones altas y frescas de la casa. La vida, sin embargo, es un sinfín de despertares, todos inesperados, todos sorprendentes.—La arquitectura —dijo ella— no es otra cosa que memoria petrificada. El mundo, ahora lo sabemos, es como es y no de otra manera; si hubo alguna vez un tiempo en el que existieron pasillos y puertas, y fronteras abiertas y encrucijadas numerosas, ese tiempo no es el ahora. El mundo se ha vuelto más viejo. Ni siquiera el clima es hoy como el que recordamos de otras épocas: nunca en los nuevos tiempos hay un día de estío como los que rememoramos, nunca nubes tan blancas, nunca hierbas tan fragantes ni sombra tan frondosa y tan llena de promesas como recordamos que pueden estarlo, como lo fueron en aquellos tiempos. ... Teoría y práctica de escritura alquímica, aquella que narra no lo que sucede, sino el latido secreto que respira bajo los hechos, John Crowley transcribe un tejido de espejismos superpuestos y entrelazados, un sistema de enigmas colosal que nunca será resuelto. Puesto que la verdad es impronunciable, el autor se abraza a la certeza de los contrarios: una espiral de mundos que contienen otros mundos concéntricos que se extienden hasta el infinito. Una intrincada profusión de evidencias ambiguas, en palabras del propio autor. Que nadie busque tramas feéricas en esta historia, ni fantásticas o lógicas respuestas: Pequeño, Grande es, ante todo, una obra poética inmensa y original, arquitectura preciosista del tiempo y la memoria, filosofía aplicada del encantamiento.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-29 20:51

    Little, Big is the greatest book I have ever read. It is living magic in text form, and it has a truly transformative effect on the reader. I understand that it meanders a bit in the middle section and goes off on a strange-ish quasi-political tangent toward the end, but everything is purposeful and comes together to achieve a singular effect - literally every single sentence is essential and purposeful to the grand narrative. When I finished it, I immediately felt like re-reading it to catch everything that I might have missed. It's one of the saddest books I've ever read and is simultaneously one of the most uplifting. Reading this book feels like falling in love.

  • Phrynne
    2019-04-02 22:45

    What a terrible shame. I was so set to love this book. The blurb was good, magical realism is one of my favourite things, the book cover is so pretty, I was so sure I was in for a five star read. And for about 100 pages everything went well. Then I realised that despite the beautiful writing style there was nothing for me to like. The story was thin, the characters barely existed , much of the writing became incomprehensible. I didn't give up and trudged on to the bitter end. And I still do not understand any of it. This is definitely a book you either love or hate. I did not love it.

  • Pantelis
    2019-03-28 23:06

    Trusting Ηarold Bloom's recommendation, I met this book last winter and it was love at first sight just like when Smoky Βarnable first set his eyes on Daily Alice Drinkwater. I was enchanted from the very first page (a psychogeographical delight) and on the second page I witnessed the most romantic of meetings and on the third page Ι discovered a marvel of compressed biography and right after that a passage of bureaucratic beauty leading to the beginning of a wonderful friendship and so on and so on until elves and talking animals and mnemonic investigators and Barbarossa unbound made their welcome appearance and the whole Tale ended with a majestic, transcendental apotheosis.... I spent a month reading in a state of ecstatic trance, I became a resident of Edgewood and Old Law Farm, feeling happier and wiser with each new page... My favourite passages? Actually, I could underline the whole book but still I find myself returning again and again to that part about Smoky's pedagogical methods ( The Only Game Going) or the Drinkwaters' Christmas customs or that golden sweet page where Daily Alice awoke in her bedroom "when the sun broke in at her eastward windows with a noise like music" (Synesthesia! Bliss! ) or the urban lovers' game with spanish nouns, separating boys from girls... And of course all those literary allusions...Crowley is a very well read writer and that gives extra depth to his art... A magical book, a magic book... Truly sublime. Professor Bloom was right...

  • Angie
    2019-04-18 21:47

    I'm someone who always finishes a book, but this one was impossible. Could the author have made the female characters more apathetic, more passive, more dull, more flat and stereotypical? One is completely fine that her husband cheats on her with her own sister. The sister sleeps through her almost-rape by a cousin. They never leave the house, never do anything. And the men are no better - you've got the brother who has sex with a 14 year old (and anyone else who'll have him until he kills himself), the adulterer husband, the cousin who likes to have sex with sleeping women, and the other brother who likes to take pictures of his naked little sisters when they're children. Really? And to top it off, there's no plot to speak of. I'll give Crowley credit for his beautiful writing style, setting details, and ability to create the vivid and fully-realized world these characters inhabit. But character building doesn't seem to be his strong suit. Or plot building either because by the time I read to page 260-something, there was still nothing to pull the reader along except for the style of writing. For me, that's not enough.Normally, I wouldn't even bother writing a review because I hate to potentially influence people's opinion of a book (as if I have that kind of ability!), but man, I couldn't not say something about how unreadable I thought this book was.

  • KatHooper
    2019-04-13 20:47

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature."Don't be sad. It's all so much larger than you think."Smoky Barnable lives in the City and thinks of himself as anonymous. His father is dead and his step-siblings have forgotten him. He has no friends at all until he meets George Mouse who introduces him to his strange family. Smoky falls in love with one of George's cousins, Daily Alice Drinkwater, and he moves upcountry to the Drinkwater estate called Edgewood. At his wedding he meets the Drinkwater family -- a clan of eccentric characters who live in or near a huge pentagram-shaped house that Smoky is still getting lost in decades after he moves in (it's bigger inside than outside). More strangely, the Drinkwaters also have some sort of "religion" that Smoky never quite understands until the end of the story when he realizes that maybe he was not as anonymous as he thought he was. Or maybe he was... And perhaps it's not really the end of the story, but the beginning instead. Or maybe it really is the end...During the course of the story, we jump backward and forward in time and meet past and future Drinkwaters, such as John Drinkwater who built the house as a model of five different architectural styles; his wife Violet Bramble who could see fairies; her illegitimate son Auberon who took up photography so he could capture the beings he thought he saw in his peripheral vision; Daily Alice's sister Sophie, who spends much of her life asleep; Sophie's illegitimate daughter Lilac who is stolen by the fairies and replaced with a changeling; George Mouse who uses hallucinogenic drugs and doesn't really care if his bed partners happen to be relatives.Most of the family's stories are told in the past tense, after they've happened. Thus, there's not much action or excitement in Little, Big -- there's little exploration of the house or woods or any interaction with the fairies. It's a slowly meandering family history, somewhat like a soap opera. It's full of "little" intimate details and doesn't open up so that we can see the "big" picture until the very end.Most of the characters are passive; some (mainly the women) believe they are in a fairy tale and are waiting to see how it ends. Those who don't believe spend their time wondering what they're not being told, or thinking that the rest of the family is crazy. Nobody talks much about the family's relationship with faerie because nobody really knows. Is the family being protected? Are the fairies benevolent or malevolent? This aspect of an elusive, plotting, behind-the-scenes race of magical beings reminded me of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.Little, Big has a dreamy, often bleak, fatalistic feel. When bad things happen, such as disappearances, adultery, incest, teenage pregnancy and illegitimate birth, the family says "oh, dear," forgives each other, and considers it all part of the Story, as if nobody is in control of their own actions. Many readers are sure to be enchanted with the wistfulness, but I did not feel as forgiving toward some of the characters as their family members did, and at one point I got so angry and disillusioned with Smoky that I wanted to give up on him. Not only was I mad at the characters who behaved badly, but I was mad at the rest of them for being so passively philosophical about it all.What kept me reading this long meandering often depressing story was the magnificence of John Crowley's prose, which was beautifully read by the author himself in Blackstone Audio's recent production. Truly, I know few authors who compare and I often found myself sighing with delight at a metaphor or turn of phrase:"While the moon smoothly shifted the shadows from one side of Edgewood to the other, Daily Alice dreamed that she stood in a flower-starred field where on a hill there grew an oak tree and a thorn in deep embrace, their branches intertwined like fingers. Far down the hall, Sophie dreamed that there was a tiny door in her elbow, open a crack, through which the wind blew, blowing on her heart. Dr. Drinkwater dreamed he sat before his typewriter and wrote this: "There is an aged, aged insect who lives in a hole in the ground. One June he puts on his summer straw, and takes his pipe and his staff and his lamp in half his hands, and follows the worm and the root to the stair that leads up to the door into blue summer." This seemed immensely significant to him, but when he awoke he wouldn't be able to remember a word of it, try as he might. Mother beside him dreamed her husband wasn't in his study at all, but with her in the kitchen, where she drew tin cookie-sheets endlessly out of the oven; the baked things on them were brown and round, and when he asked her what they were, she said 'Years.'"The audio production of Little, Big was superb and my only complaint is that there is no accompanying family tree like there is in the print version of the book. Fortunately, I was able to find this with the "Look Inside" feature at Amazon.Little, Big: or, The Fairies' Parliament was nominated for all the major awards in 1982 and won the World Fantasy Award. Indeed, it's a remarkable achievement and is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. Little, Big will not appeal to all readers, and I'm not sure I'll read Little, Big again, but I will always remember it with awe. Fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Neil Gaiman, and Patricia McKillip will be totally charmed by John Crowley's writing style and should put Little, Big on the top of their TBR stacks right now.

  • Miss_otis
    2019-04-10 21:10

    I tried to read this but just couldn't slog my way through it. The jacket copy sounded really intriguing, but I didn't get halfway through it. The biggest problem I had with this book was that I felt tried far too hard to be Airy and Phantasmagorical and Mystically Vague and forgot that a plot was actually necessary. It wanders and doesn't actually get anywhere, the prose was overstuffed, and not a single character actually caught my attention. I was disappointed, beause it was a very interesting premise, but the author just didn't pull it off, IMO.

  • Bobby
    2019-04-06 18:13

    Reading "Little, Big" you find every last detail infused with magic, wonder and mystery. When you encounter a talking stork, you think "Of course, why wouldn't the stork talk?". A lot of the Gnostic and Hermetic concepts that Crowley explores in the Aegypt tetraology are also here in some form. They're given a less complete treatment, but nonetheless permeate the novel, including the "Art of Memory" as practiced by Giordano Bruno in Aegypt, and by Ariel Hawskquill and Auberon Drinkwater here. Also similar to Aegypt is the use of a hidden archontic war which is waged in the background by unknown supernatural forces. Humans are only pawns, sometimes agents in this war; never privy to the complete picture,or the true nature of their purpose in the larger scheme. The Drinkwaters, the family which the novel revolves around, refer to this larger story which they are just a part of as "The Tale". Crowley has a love of the self-referential. I thought it most cleverly on display in his novella "Indian Summer", but it is no less well done here. The Drinkwaters have some knowledge of The Tale, partly because of a genetic trait - a gene predisposing the clan to magical affinities, perhaps - within the family that allows them to talk to fairies, animals and for some of them to augur the future through a singular Tarot card deck. But their "chosen" status also seems to be due to their location - their house, "Edgewood" seems to be built at the edges of a magical forest, The Wild Wood, which appears to be a door of sorts to another world. The house, Edgewood, is described as "infundibular" - seeming to grow larger the further inside you go - which echoes the novel's ontology as expounded by Violet's Father and theosophist Theodore Bramble, which to summarize and very roughly paraphrase: their world is just the outer layer of a series of worlds which can be thought of as concentric, each one containing a smaller door to the next world (the Edgewood house itself being a door of sorts), until finally the door to the center world, the infinite world of Faerie, is so small it cannot be found. The narrative of Little,Big also seems infundibular - the deeper into the story you get, the more its world is revealed to you.Another Gnostic echo from the Aegypt series is the story of Sophia - which resonates with the characters of both Rose Ryder and Samantha Rasmussen in the Aegypt books and then with Sylvie and the (always sleeping and dreaming) Sophie in Little, Big. I'm sure there are tons more and I could go on endlessly - this book is rich with detail and suffused with so many ideas it could be pondered for a lifetime, it seems to me. It moves slowly, meditatively exploring the lives and thoughts of various members of the Drinkwater clan through several generations (non-chronologically, too - the book includes a family tree, thankfully). Despite it's somnolent pacing I found it endlessly fascinating, and ends beautifully if sadly too, in what I can only think to call a Shakespearean reverie (the similarity of Auberon's given name to the Oberon of A Midsummer's Night Dream is no accident, and a comparison halfway through the book of Silvie to Titania is an early foreshadowing of their destinies).

  • Dan Schwent
    2019-04-06 00:03

    Little, Big is the story fo a family that lives in a house called Edgewood, far to the north of The City. It follows the family from generation to generation. Let's just say fairies play a part in the lives of the Drinkwaters and their relatives.The only book I can compare it to at the moment is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but that's more of a subject matter thing. The writing is very rich and detailed. While I was reading it, I thought it would be the best book I read that year. Whatever year that was. I felt like it all fell apart at the end.I'll have to re-read it again once the pile gets down to a manageable level.

  • Lauren
    2019-04-02 19:00

    I said it best for NPR! You must read this book:

  • Sandi
    2019-04-18 19:53

    There is no way one could ever adequately describe “Little, Big” by John Crowley. It is an epic of minute proportions. Its 500+ pages skip back and forth through several generations and between the “real” world and the fairy world. The reason I put the word “real” in quotes is because the real world of “Little, Big” bears no more resemblance to our world. While this novel has a lot of characters, they are more like sketches than sculptures. You never get a sense of any solidness to them. They float through their lives, controlled by powers they don’t understand. The entire book has a dream-like quality to it, and dreams are indeed an important part of the story. There is a passage in Book 6, Chapter I that pretty much sums up the whole book. It’s part of young Auberon’s mental process as he’s working on scripts for a popular soap opera.“Why hadn’t anyone before caught the secret of it? A simple plot was required, a single enterprise which concerned all the characters deeply, and which had a grand sweet simple single resolution: a resolution, however, that would never be reached. Always approached, keeping hopes high, making disappointments bitter, shaping lives and loves by its inexorable slow progress toward the present: but never, never reached.”“Little, Big” isn’t exactly the kind of book you can read in one sitting or a few. It needs to be nibbled at, not devoured. Fortunately, the format is very conducive to reading small bits at a time. I have to confess that I found myself sneaking peeks at what was happening ahead. Since the book meanders back and forth through time, reading ahead really made no difference whatsoever. It actually helped quite a lot to read the ending about halfway through the book because the events made much more sense in context of the ending. Because this book meanders and because it really doesn’t have much of a plot, I don’t even know if you could consider knowing the ending as really spoiling it. (Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending.) The one thing that really struck me about “Little, Big” is that I really had no concept of where I was in time while reading this book. It seemed like both the city and the country were frozen in time and the only way to determine the “when” was by observing which characters were around and/or picking up on subtle clues, like a Model T or a Buick station wagon with wood trim.

  • M
    2019-03-30 22:04

    I really didn't think I was going to give this one five stars, not even 400 pages in. I respected its craft, definitely. I was calling Crowley "maniacally subtle" to try to explain the inching, sometimes painfully slow unfolding of dramatic motion--and the sense that this whole book was an elaborate blind for a very clear and simple storyline hidden underneath. Crowley as much as tells you so in one of his many little metafictional asides about the Tale. But even as I latched onto fascinating moments with particular characters, and some fantastically crafted sentences, I had a looming fear that all this buildup wasn't going to pay off--much like this book sometimes suggests about life.But when the elaborate clockwork of this book finally, finally, FINALLY starts to hum to life (more literally than you suspect!) the payoff is pretty miraculous. I'm still buzzing with the end of this book.That isn't to say it's a slam-bang, kapow fireworks ending (fireworks figure in a far more bizarre way earlier on, actually...). Crowley goes for the wide grin at a life pregnant with possibilities rather than the "wowee!" and derring-do of what "The Princess Bride" might call "the good parts." But this is a book that spends much of its 538 pages subtly telling you why you should like it and what it's doing, and FINALLY showing you that everything you have been looking for has been there the whole time. I have a particular love of works where a single setting or situation is utterly transfigured by a new context, and I have to say this one absolutely GLOWS with it by the end.A bit like another very good book I've read recently, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, this is a book about the passing strange, the deeply disordinary, and the incredibly sneaky incursions it makes on the world. And like that book, it has a sense of how, as someone once put it about politics, "everything eventually turns into the way things are." There's an inertia to the fantastic, a sense that getting out of the ordinary is HARD and elusive and maybe more trouble than it's worth and maybe makes your whole LIFE more trouble than it's worth, but it's still hanging out just past the edge of your vision, beckoning.

  • tim
    2019-03-27 00:12

    A slow-burner, this one. Not in the traditional sense of a story with a gradual build-up and overflowing end. The events within what little plot there is are evenly spread out. Rather, as this tale languidly unfolds, its wonders seep deeper and deeper into the reader’s subconscious well.The dreamlike and otherworldly logic that saturates nearly every passage in Little, Big often lulled me into a pleasant hypnagocic stupor. Normally when sleep creeps up on me while reading I end up later having to reread the pages that fell between the cracks. Not so with this book. Nothing I read in it with a heavy drowsiness fell through the cracks because through the cracks is where this book comes from. Emanating from its core, a slippery, pervasive vagueness ripples evenly outward in all directions. This lack of concrete mechanics was often frustrating, especially when by midway nothing seemed like it would ever be explained. But by the end, this ever-present vagueness reveals itself to be the essential function of the book’s magic. It is the hidden key lodged in the heart of this long, meandering tale, unlocking its mysteries, without revealing its secrets.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-04-06 16:47

    One thing is for sure, if Little,Big is ever filmed, Quentin Tarantino won’t be directing it. From what I could tell this book is the daytime TV version of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and that was itself the janeaustinized version of Dracula with a few knobs on. I did get through all 2,599 pages of that epic of narcolepsy, so when I figured how Little, Big was going to pan out, when I could keep my eyes open long enough, I said to myself hey, Mr Once Bitten, stop this nonsense now!For a rhapsodic appreciation of this faery frolick see Mark Monday’s review for a disembowelment by one who courageously made it to the end, see Michael’s review'm probably not John Crowley's target audience. If I see any of them faery folk round here, I squish em.

  • Simon
    2019-04-10 20:15

    This is one of those books that is hard to talk about. Maybe best to describe by analogy. So imagine a tangled ball of wool with which you are following a strand as it winds its way in around the other strands, in and out of the tangle until eventually you find the other end of the thread, somewhere not too far from where you started.The narrative flows a bit like that. It nips back and forwards in time, hops from one character to another, spanning several generations of a sprawling family as we gradually find out about their tale, the purpose to which the seemingly random and insignificant events, both happy and tragic, turn out to be all part of some grand plan for the future.An ambitious and often confusing work that requires the reader to take the hints and fill in the gaps in order to make more sense of the story. The lazy, meandering narrative requires a strong prose style to carry it off, to engage the reader whilst the tension slackens and, for the most part, Crowley is up to the job. But only just; he's not quite one of the prose greats in who's writing you can lose yourself no matter what the subject matter. At times I found it slightly hard work, could only read short sections in one sitting, which is why it took me so long to finish. But my respect for the novel grew as it became apparent what the author was trying to do and how cleverly the themes recurred throughout the story as well as in the narrative structure itself. If you read this, in the right frame of mind, with patience and are willing to submerge yourself in Crowley's world, you will likely enjoy this book very much.

  • Pavle
    2019-04-10 22:59

    "The further in you go, the bigger it gets." Citat iz knjige: o knjizi, o porodici Drinkvoter, o vilama i raznim svetovima u svetovima, veći u manjem, o životu. Nešto kao Markesovih Sto godina samoće, obrnuto u ogledalu. Ako je Markes pisao o porodici u običnom svetu sa notom magijskog, Krouli piše o porodici u magijskom svetu sa notom običnog. Ipak, nije ovo tradicionalna fantastika, nego nešto izmedju. Potpuno jedinstvena, zaslepljujuća knjiga, zahtevna, jedna koja uvlači u sebe (jer što dalje ideš, to više i vidiš) svojom inteligencijom i ambicijom i emocijom. Krouli je napisao remek delo i ja to nisam shvatao sve dok, potpuno nasumično, nisam stekao uvid u širu sliku, kada sam se toliko navikao na roman da se on "samopreveo", odnosno da su se reči romana prevele na jezik sveta koje one i opisuju. Stvarno, stvarno, stvarno neverovatno dobro i svaka preporuka, svima.5+

  • colleen the convivial curmudgeon
    2019-04-21 17:04

    I had pretty decent hopes for this book, and maybe that's lent itself, a bit, to the air of disappointment I was left with... but let's start at the beginning.The prose style is lyrical and others have described it as 'dream-like' - something with which I can agree. At first I had a hard time getting into it, but once I sort of settled into the style I rather enjoyed it as it set up the story of the Bramble-Drinkwaters ('cause, really, even though the cover say it's Smoky's tale it's not, really, imo). The story of Violet and the first Drinkwater, and then Daily Alice and Smoky, and their children and extended family, all touched in some strange way by the fae, and the crazy House, half-real and half-imagined, all a part of the Tale, as we're told over and over, and I went along for the ride as we go back and forth in time and place and character, parts feeling in some antiquated past and parts in some ill-defined future.But a large part of the problem, for me, is that I never really connected with the characters. Perhaps it's because of the generational spanning story and the constant backing and forthing, but I never really 'got' most of the characters - and those ones that I did like spending time with the most, like Smoky and Alice, we sort of abandon for a huge chunk of the meandering middle-portion. (And, oh gods, but how it did meander.)And because I didn't connect with them I couldn't quite care all that much about some of the dramas. I couldn't grok why, for instance, when (view spoiler)[Alice found out about Smoky, her husband, having a brief affair with Sophie, her sister, she was just "well, it's not the first time it's happened in the world."(hide spoiler)]And some parts were just squicky. I mean, I sort of turned a blind-eye when (view spoiler)[George slept with his cousin Sophie, but, later, when he admits to sleeping with Sylvie whom he suspects is his daughter? WTF?! (hide spoiler)]And yet none of these things are treated with anything except a sort of off-handed acceptance.And maybe that's one thing that bothered me about the characters - their passivity. Because they're part of the Tale they sort of just accept things as happening for a reason, and aren't very proactive. And even Auberon, in his attempt to be proactive, ends up being pretty passive and then just (view spoiler)[falling apart (hide spoiler)].So there's that. And then there's the glimpses of plot-line we get that I never really felt like I got a full grasp on. I mean, what was the deal with Eigenblick, or whatever, in the end? Going back to the meandering middle part - we spent pages and chapters and aeons with Auberon and Sylvie in the City, when most of the stuff I was most interested in - concerning Ariel on one end and Smoky on the other - seemed mentioned and sort of glossed over.Like Ariel's first trip to the House. And what in the hell happened between Auberon's going home the first time and then being back in the City?I just kept feeling like certain parts were belabored beyond all reckoning and the parts I wanted to know more about were just skipped.And I don't know how I feel about the ending. On one hand it's kind of bitter-sweet and fitting for the story, but, on the other hand, I couldn't help but feeling "That's it? But what about this other thing over here, and that thing over there, and... and... what?"I don't know. It's a book I sort of feel bad for not liking more. It had it's moments and it had a certain haunting beauty, but it also had, like, 250 too many pages. Maybe it's one of those stories that a discussion (since I read it for a group read) will change my perspective on. Maybe I just need more time and distance... but, often, I end up disliking things more after time and distance, not less.But, then, I suppose all things are possible... so who knows?

  • Mosca
    2019-04-01 17:48

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------The most readily evident characteristic of this book is the beautiful, almost musical prose that weaves throughout the telling of this “Tale”. The world created is seductive and at times dreamlike. The characters are so well introduced and sustained that you feel that they are good friends, even as you know their weaknesses.For these reasons only, this book is worth the effort. But other reasons also abound.Please, read this book slowly. This work feels Romantic, in the artistic sense. And the pace that may feel somnambulent to some, felt, to me, to be like a Chopin piano etude—a slow relaxing homage to the existence of the moment. Patient attention is required; but it is also rewarded. The reader's attention to the miracles of the moment sets the stage for the lifting of the veil. To say anything else about this book is more difficult for me. You may find blurbs concerning its plot and context by reading Goodreads book pages and the book backs. I do not want to further pigeon-hole this plot than it already has been because I feel that genre is usually irrelevant in quality literature.What I feel is important is the “Tale” that is repeatedly referenced in this work. I'll try to explain:This book assumes the existence of another traditional world (Faerie), perhaps another half to our single world. Because I live in the rural Southwestern US, I have at least a superficial understanding of the “other” worlds intimately alive to the living native cultures and peoples of my adopted home. The traditional animate, “magical” characteristics of the mountains, rivers, clouds, bears, trees, and all of creation is an accepted truth for many of my friends. My own long life has led me to similar experiences. This is not Fantasy. This is a global traditional worldview, shared by many traditional peoples on many continents today. In this book, the traditional European world of Faerie seems to best express that worldview.Back to the “Tale”. Many central characters in this book refer to a “Tale” that is being lived in common with the beings from the “other” world. This “Tale” may be a collaboration between beings “here” and beings “there” . Or this “Tale” may be a wholly manufactured process from the world of Faerie. Whatever is true, this “Tale” is central to the experience of this book.This “Tale” is also central to my own confusion. In Little, Big there is an apparent frisson between this world and the world of Faerie. The resolution of that frisson seems central to this “Tale” as well as to this book. However, as the book draws towards conclusion, there are many pieces connected; but many enigmas left as they are. Many resolutions reached; but many plot twists left untied. Herein lie my confusions. What are the conclusions? What now is known?But these inexpressible uncertainties (for me anyway) may well be the intended experience.Whatever is true, Little,Big is a masterful, complex, and lovingly beautiful work. I may reread it.

  • Alex
    2019-03-30 19:59

    This is the third time I've read this book. Why keep reading a book that I've only (begrudgingly) given two stars too? Because every time I've finished it I did so loathing it, but as time passed I always forgot why I loathed it and became slightly convinced that it was me, and not the book, that I hadn't read it carefully enough, or thought about it properly, that there was some thing that could easily be removed that once I figured it out would leave me honestly loving a book I'd only felt like I should love. As it turns out the above sentiments were totally delusional. I am never going to like this book. Ever. Why? Because while I think someone can make a case that in structure (maybe.... honestly I thought this book suffered from "Oh shit I'm running out of pages, better wrap this sucker up!") and language and theme this may actually be a very good book, the characters who inhabit it, in their inhumanity (and maybe that's because they're fey touched or maybe it's because Crowley paints them all as weird ideal types that you'd never actually want to be or be around) and solitude (no one in this book ever touches or knows another person. They're all terribly terribly alone. They might become obsessed, but there's always a million walls between people, even in "love" (which emotion is never believable, except, maybe at first, with Auberon and Sylvie)), slowly drove me to a state of such dislike that around book four I realized that I hated them and within book six I couldn't even try to read carefully and just sprinted for the (stupid) ending. Two random points:1) I felt that it was sort of gross that all of the non-white characters are painted as being sort of feral and homeless, or being these fierce sexual creatures (read: primitive), or in most every case servants. Just all these dumb stereotypes. 2) Man I am fucking tired of literary incest. What's the point? What's it supposed to say? Am I supposed to be shocked? Is it supposed to rattle my uber-bourgeoisie cage and get me to, like, really think about the conventional mores that entrap my small mind? Ugh.

  • Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*
    2019-04-20 20:48

    She had always lived her best life in dreams. She knew no greater pleasure than that moment of passage into the other place, when her limbs grew warm and heavy and the sparkling darkness behind her lids became ordered and doors opened; when conscious thought grew owl's wings and talons and became other than conscious."In upstate New York, in the wild and unpredictable countryside, there lies a house known as Edgewood. Like it's name implies, it lies near a large and mysterious wood. In this house lives generations of a certain family. A family that has strong and personal ties to the world of Faerie...Learning to decipher words had only added to the pleasures of holding spines and turning pages, measuring the journey to the end with a thumb-riffle, poring over frontispieces. Books! Opening with a crackle of old glue, releasing perfume; closing with a solid thump. a very difficult book to accurately describe. You can read the dust jacket, you can read a review, but none of those things really capture how beautiful this story really is. It's a long book, and the writing and descriptions are just gorgeous and so magical. There are passages that I would read over and over before turning the page because I wanted to relive the way it made me feel. It reminded me a lot of Mark Helprin's book, 'Winter's Tale', in terms of how moving an experience it was to read it. In any case, it's not exactly light reading, but don't let that stop you. This is one of those books that never quite leaves you."The things that make us happy make us wise.

  • Το Άσχημο Ρύζι Καρολίνα
    2019-03-24 23:53

    Η βαθμολογία δεν είναι ενδεικτική, αλλά κατά παραχώρηση. Στην αρχή υπήρχε ένα πράγμα που με ενοχλούσε (μετά έγιναν περισσότερα). Ήταν αυτός ο μαγικός ντετερμινισμός που κρύβεται πίσω από μια φράση, του μότο όλων όσων ζουν μέσα στον καταπιεστικό κύκλο της «Ίστορίας» (Tale, την ονομάζει ο συγγραφέας, κάτι ανάμεσα στην Διήγηση και Παραμύθι), μια ρήση όπου όλοι φαίνεται πως ασπάζονται με την μέγιστη παραίτηση, με ένα μοιρολατρικό ανασήκωμα των ώμων, χωρίς ποτέ να επαναστατούν (ή όταν το κάνουν, το κάνουν με μεγάλη αποτυχία, δέσμιοι ενός πεπρωμένου που δεν ελέγχουν, σαν μαριονέτες –θύματα ενός αόρατου κουκλοπαίχτη που προγραμματίζει κάθε τους κίνηση) και η φράση αυτή είναι: «Ε, λοιπόν δεν είναι δα και η πρώτη φορά που κάτι σαν κι αυτό, συνέβη στον κόσμο». Έτσι δικαιολογούν, έτσι αποδέχονται και έτσι υποτάσσονται. Και αυτό με δυσκόλεψε να συμπαθήσω στην αρχή τους χαρακτήρες, μέχρι που θυμήθηκα πόσο μου άρεσε παλιότερα να ακούω την ιστορία του Πέερ Γκυντ, γιατί ο Ίψεν είχε καταπιαστεί κι αυτός με το ίδιο θέμα και μάλιστα η δική του φιλοσοφία περί των μαγικών πραγμάτων, αυτών που επιβιώνουν ακόμα και σήμερα στην Σκανδιναβική λαογραφική παράδοση, είναι πληρέστερη από αυτήν του Crowley, γιατί συνοψίζεται σε μία λέξη η οποία διαχωρίζει τα πάσης φύσεως μαγικά πλάσματα από τους ανθρώπους: Αυτάρκεια. Οι άνθρωποι δεν μπορούν και δεν πρέπει να είναι αυτάρκεις. Και δεν εννοούσε ο Ίψεν φυσικά την πραγματιστική αυτάρκεια, τους στοιχειώδεις συμβιβασμούς της καθημερινότητας, φυσικά όχι αυτό. Εννοούσε μια αυτάρκεια σε επίπεδο οντολογικό. Ο άνθρωπος είναι ένα ον υπό κατασκευή η τελείωσή του είναι μια αδιάκοπη πορεία με χαρακτήρα εκπλήρωσης σε ένα μελλοντολογικό επίπεδο, συνεχώς οφείλει να εξελίσσεται, να προοδεύει, να αναπτύσσεται. Τα βασανισμένα ανθρώπινα πλάσματα του Crowley είναι σκιές ανθρώπων, είναι δεμένα χειροπόδαρα και δεν έχουν καν την διάθεση να ξεφύγουν, ακόμα κι όταν την έχουν δεν απαλλάσσονται από τις λεπτές κλωστές που υφαίνουν οι μοίρες, γιατί τους λείπει η διάθεση να παλέψουν, να αντιταχθούν και να διεκδικήσουν την «ανθρωπινότητά» τους. Έτσι αποδέχονται την παιδεραστία, τον βιασμό, την εξαπάτηση, την προδοσία, την αιμομιξία γιατί όλα αυτά: «Ε, λοιπόν δεν είναι δα και η πρώτη φορά που κάτι σαν κι αυτό, συνέβη στον κόσμο». Ξεχνούν δηλαδή, αγνοούν πως ο άνθρωπος υπάρχει ώστε να ξημερώσει κάποτε η μέρα που «κάτι σαν κι αυτό δεν θα ξανασυμβεί στο κόσμο». Ωστόσο αν κάποιος ξεπεράσει την ναυτία που του προκαλεί αυτή η καθήλωση, μπορεί να απολαύσει μια ενδιαφέρουσα ιστορία, με συμπαθητικούς χαρακτήρες, των οποίων βέβαια η σκιαγράφηση της ψυχολογίας, θυσιάζεται μέσα στον μαγικό ντετερμινισμό που υπερισχύει όλων των άλλων. Γιατί το έκανε αυτό; Γιατί ένα πουλί που μιλάει του το είπε. Γιατί φέρθηκε έτσι; Γιατί ένα ξωτικό του χάρισε ένα σακούλι. Γιατί βλέπει αυτά τα πράγματα; Γιατί κάποιος του έριξε νεραϊδόσκονη στα μάτια. Η πλήρης αποποίηση ευθυνών, η φτηνότερη των δικαιολογιών, υπάρχει σε όλες τις πολιτισμικές παραδόσεις, ας θυμηθούμε για παράδειγμα, το πανάρχαιο ισχυρισμό που διασώζεται ως σήμερα «το φίδι μου έδωσε να το φάω». Ωστόσο οι άνθρωποι σε αυτήν την ιστορία δεν είναι λιγότερο βασανισμένοι από εκείνους που περιγράφει, για παράδειγμα, ο Ζολά μέσα από τον δικό του νατουραλιστικό ντετερμινισμό της κληρονομικής προδιάθεσης, που και από εκεί βγαίνουν άνθρωποι προγραμματισμένοι να καταλήξουν σε αυτό για το οποίο σχεδιάστηκαν, μέσα από έναν συνδυασμό γενετικών υλικών. Μπορεί με έναν τρόπο λοιπόν όλα να είναι διαφορετικές θεωρήσεις την μίας και αυτής πραγματικότητας. Αν και πιστεύω πως υπάρχει μια σχετική διαφοροποίηση, ωστόσο δεν υπάρχει λόγος να το αναλύσω περισσότερο. Το πρώτο μέρος του βιβλίου είναι μια παραμυθένια εκδοχή κλασικών αμερικάνικων ιστοριών, τέτοιων όπως έχουν αποτυπωθεί σε έργα όπως πχ το «Ah, Wilderness!» του Eugene O'Neill και το «Our Town» του Thornton Wilder και σε τόσες άλλες τυπικές αμερικάνικες ιστορίες, όπου κυριαρχούν, οι αγροικίες χτισμένες επάνω στα κόκαλα των ινδιάνων, τα θαμμένα ερείπια των πρώτων αποίκων, οι λίμνες και τα ποτάμια, τα δάση, τα καλάμια του ψαρέματος και τα χωράφια της σίκαλης, το πέρασμα των εποχών, με άλλα λόγια η ήσυχη και μελαγχολική ζωή μιας τυπικής –στερεοτυπικής – αμερικανικής επαρχιακής πόλης. Πρόκειται συγκεκριμένα για ένα σύμπλεγμα μικρών πόλεων και των προαστίων τους που σχηματίζουν ένα είδος πεντάκτινου αστεριού και στο κέντρο βρίσκεται η ιδιοκτησία του Έτζγουντ, που ανήκει στην ιδιόρρυθμη οικογένεια Ντρινκγουότερ, το σπίτι τους, ένα οικιστικό σύμπλεγμα από πολλούς και διαφορετικούς αρχιτεκτονικούς τύπους, ένα σπίτι που αποτελεί μια πιο διακριτική εκδοχή του σπιτιού που έχει περιγράψει ο Μίχαελ Έντε, όταν κυκλοφόρησε στα 1979 την «Ιστορία Χωρίς Τέλος», το σπίτι της «Κοκόνα Αγιουόλα» που μπορεί να αλλάζει, να μεταμορφώνεται, να μετασχηματίζεται ακολουθώντας την –κατά τα φαινόμενα ιδιαίτερα προσφιλή στους συγγραφείς φαντασίας – συνταγή ενός λαβυρίνθου που (βλέπε και «House of Leaves», «Rose Red» κτλ), εκφράζει μια υλική υποστασιοποίηση του ανθρώπινου υποσυνειδήτου, ενός χώρου, όπου το πραγματικό υποτάσσεται στις ανάγκες μιας ονειρικής απορρύθμισης, η οποία καταργεί (ή επαναπροσδιορίζει) τα μεγέθη, τις διαστάσεις, τις αποστάσεις και την ευρύτερη έννοια του χώρου και του χρόνου. Εκεί λοιπόν, σε ένα πιο ραφιναρισμένο και λιγότερο σκονισμένο «Μακόντο» (το ματσίσμο, παραμένει ματσίσμο ωστόσο) εκεί λοιπόν έρχεται να ζήσει, εγκαταλείποντας μια για πάντα την Μεγάλη Πόλη, ο Σμόκυ Μπάρναμπλ, στο αλλόκοτο πατρογονικό της συζύγου του, της Άλις Ντρινκγουότερ κι εκεί, μέσα από ξεχωριστά και σύντομα επεισόδια μαθαίνουμε για τις ζωές τους, τα μικρά και μεγάλα τους δράματα, την εξέλιξη του δεσμού τους (καθώς από υποκινούμενος έρωτας εξελίσσεται σε μια ιδιόρρυθμη αγάπη, η οποία κατά τα φαινόμενα είναι αρκετά μεγάλη ώστε να περιλάβει ποικιλοτρόπως και άλλα μέλη της οικογένειας). Η γηραιά θεία Κλάουντ συνεχίζοντας της οικογενειακή παράδοση, κάνει προγνώσεις ρίχνοντας τα χαρτιά, ο παππούς της οικογένειας συνομιλεί με μικρά ζωάκια και καταγράφει τις ιστορίες τους, η Σοφία, η αδερφή της Άλις, περνάει τον καιρό της ταξιδεύοντας μέσα σε μια άλλη διάσταση, εκείνη των ονείρων κτλ. Στην Μεγάλη Πόλη παραμένει ο ξάδερφος Τζόρτζ Μάους, ένας πληθωρικός τύπος που θυμίζει νοτιοευρωπαίο μετανάστη στην Νέα Υόρκη των αρχών του 20ου αιώνα, ο οποίος κατά τα φαινόμενα έχει και μια ιδιαίτερη αδυναμία στα ναρκωτικά. Σε μια παράλληλη διάσταση υπάρχει το μαγικό σπίτι της γηραιάς κυρίας Άντερχιλ και διάφορα άλλα (αόρατα στους περισσότερους, ορατά κυρίως στα μονόφρυδα μέλη της οικογένεια, καθώς αυτό αποτελεί ένα επαναλαμβανόμενο γενετικό χαρακτηριστικό) όντα, οι προθέσεις των οποίων παραμένουν αξεδιάλυτες και το συναπάντημα μαζί τους, οδηγεί συνήθως σε απόκοσμες περιπέτειες. Η θεωρία πίσω από αυτήν την εξωπραγματική διάσταση είναι η εξής:«Η εξήγηση είναι πως ο κόσμος που κατοικείται από αυτά τα πλάσματα δεν είναι ο κόσμος που ζούμε εμείς. Είναι ένας Παντελώς διαφορετικός κόσμος που περιβάλλει τον δικό μας. Είναι, κατά μία έννοια ένα συμπαντικό, απομονωμένο, αντικαθρέφτισμα του δικού μας με μια αλλόκοτη γεωγραφία, την οποία μπορώ μονάχα να περιγράψω ως χοανοειδή [...] Με αυτό εννοώ πως ο άλλος κόσμος αποτελείται από μια σειρά από ομόκεντρους δακτυλίους, τους οποίους καθώς κάποιος εισχωρεί βαθύτερα μέσα στον άλλο κόσμο, αυτοί μεγαλώνουν. Όσο περισσότερο προχωράς προς τα μέσα, τόσο πιο πολύ μεγαλώνουν. Κάθε περίμετρος από αυτά τα ομόκεντρα εμπεριέχει έναν μεγαλύτερο κόσμο, ώσπου στο κέντρο υπάρχει το Άπειρο. Ή έστω ένα μέγεθος τεραστίων διαστάσεων[....] Εμείς οι άνθρωποι κατοικούμε αυτό που στην ουσία είναι ο μεγαλύτερος εξωτερικός κύκλος στην αντεστραμμένη χοάνη, η οποία αποτελεί τον άλλο κόσμο. Και ο Παράκελσος έχει δίκιο. Η κάθε μας κίνηση συνοδεύεται από αυτά τα όντα, αλλά αδυνατούμε να τα αντιληφθούμε, όχι επειδή είναι άυλα, αλλά γιατί εδώ, είναι πολύ μικρά για να γίνουν ορατά».Και όλα αυτά τα επίγεια σύμπαντα τα σκεπάζει ένας ουράνιος θόλος, την χαρτογράφηση του οποίου κατέχει καλά ο κεντρικός ήρωας, και μια κατασκευή (εφεύρεση του παππού της Άλις και ιδρυτή της οικογένειάς της), μια ατελής απομίμηση του ουρανoύ, το λεγόμενο «Κοσμο-οπτικόν» (Cosmo – Opticon), από χρωματιστό γυαλί και κατεργασμένο σίδηρο, που αναπαριστά την κίνηση του ζωδιακού κύκλου και την κίνηση των πλανητών και είναι –καίτοι μικρογραφικός – ωστόσο τεραστίων διαστάσεων. Κάπου στη μέση η ιστορία απομακρύνεται από την επαρχία και το κεντρικό ζευγάρι αλλάζει, έχουμε πλέον μια νέα ερωτική ιστορία, πιο συμπαθητική και προσγειωμένη, μέσα σε μια πόλη, που θυμίζει μια παρακμιακή, ελαφρώς δυστοπική Νέα Υόρκη. Κάπου ανάμεσα στα ρουστίκ φλασμπάκ, ανάμεσα σε διάφορα επεισόδια από τον μαγικό κόσμο των πλασμάτων όπου κυριαρχεί η κυρία Άντερχιλ, υπάρχει η πόλη και ένα νέο ζευγάρι που παλεύει να επιβιώσει καθώς και κάποια καινούργια πρόσωπα όπως η Άριελ Χώκσκουιλ που είναι ένα είδος μέντιουμ με υπερανεπτυγμένες μνημοτεχνικές ικανότητες, η οποία δουλεύει για λογαριασμό μιας οργάνωσης μεγαλοεπιχειρηματιών, τραπεζιτών κτλ, που λέγεται «Noisy Bridge Rod and Gun Club» (γενικά κρότοι και οι βροντές είναι ένα από τα συνοδευτικά, ηχητικά ανεξήγητα στοιχεία αυτού του κομματιού της ιστορίας), ένας προφήτης και συνάμα ημιπαράφρονας μεταφορέας - κούριερ που λέγεται Φρεντ Σαβάζ και ένας ρήτορας που κουβαλάει σκιώδη μυστικά και ξέρει τον τρόπο να ξεσηκώνει τα πλήθη και να τα μετατρέπει σε άβουλα υποχείριά του, ο Ράσελ Άιγκενμπλικ. Εδώ η ιστορία κάνει κοιλιά, γιατί πλατειάζει και περιπλέκει τα πράγματα, αφήνοντας τα όλα να αιωρούνται μέσα σε ένα πέπλο αβεβαιότητας. Μοιάζει η ιστορία να μην αποφασίζει πώς θέλει να εξελιχθεί. Ως πολιτική σάτιρα; Ως φιλοσοφική αλληγορία; Ως ιστορία φαντασίας; Ως νοσταλγική αναπόληση; Ως ερωτική ιστορία; Ως κοινωνική κριτική; Είναι λίγο από όλα και τελικά τίποτα από όλα αυτά. Μισόλογα, νύξεις και ταλαιπωρία για τον αναγνώστη. Ορισμένως το πιο ενδιαφέρον σημείο, ένα σημείο καθαρά θεωρητικό, είναι ένα απόσπασμα, μια σύντομη πραγματεία που συμπεριλαμβάνει τις έννοιες του χώρου και του χρόνου ως μέσα πρόσληψης του Κόσμου:«Η διαφορά ανάμεσα στην αρχαία ιδέα περί της φύσεως του κόσμου και στην σύγχρονη, είναι πως στην αρχαία ο κόσμος λειτουργεί μέσα στο πλαίσιο του χρόνου ενώ στη νέα μέσα στο πλαίσιο του χώρου. Αν κάποιος κοιτάξει στην αρχαία ιδέα μέσα από πρίσμα της νέας δεν θα καταλάβει τίποτα: Θάλασσες που ποτέ δεν υπήρξαν, κόσμοι που υποτίθεται πως κατέρρευσαν και δημιουργήθηκαν εκ νέου, αρμαθιές από δέντρα, νησιά, βουνά και δίνες που δεν μπορούν να εντοπιστούν. Αλλά οι αρχαίοι δεν ήταν ούτε ανόητοι, ούτε δίχως αίσθηση προσανατολισμού. Απλώς δεν έβλεπαν μια γήινη σφαίρα. Όταν έκαναν λόγο για τα τέσσερα σημεία της γης, δεν εννοούσαν φυσικά τέσσερις απτές τοποθεσίες. Εννοούσαν τέσσερις επαναλαμβανόμενες καταστάσεις του κόσμου, με ίσες χρονικές αποστάσεις η μία από την άλλη. Εννοούσαν τα ηλιοστάσια και τις ισημερίες. Όταν έκαναν λόγο για τις επτά σφαίρες δεν εννοούσαν (μέχρι που ο Πτολεμαίος προσπάθησε ανόητα να τις απεικονίσει) επτά σφαίρες στο διάστημα. Εννοούσαν εκείνους τους κύκλους που διαγράφονται στον χρόνο από την κίνηση των αστεριών. Ο χρόνος, αυτό το ευρύχωρο επταώροφο βουνό, όπου οι αμαρτωλοί του Δάντη περιμένουν αιωνίως. Όταν ο Πλάτωνας μιλάει για ένα ποτάμι που περιβάλλει τη γη που βρίσκεται κάπου ανάμεσα (όπως το αντιλήφθηκε η νέα ιδέα περί κόσμου) κάπου στον αέρα και κάπου, επίσης, στο μέσο της γης εννοεί το ίδιο ποτάμι στο οποίο ο Ηράκλειτος δεν μπορούσε να πατήσει μέσα δύο φορές. Ακριβώς σαν μια λάμπα που κινούμενη στο σκοτάδι σχηματίζει μια φιγούρα φωτός στον αέρα, η οποία παραμένει για όσα ακριβώς διαρκεί η κίνηση, έτσι και το σύμπαν διατηρεί το σχήμα του μέσα από την επανάληψη: Το σύμπαν είναι το σώμα του χρόνου. Και πώς προσλαμβάνουμε αυτό το σώμα και πώς το χειριζόμαστε; Όχι με τα μέσα που αντιλαμβανόμαστε την έκταση, τον συσχέτιση, το χρώμα, το σχήμα – αυτά είναι ιδιότητες του χώρου. Όχι μέσα από μετρήσεις ή εξερεύνηση. Όχι. Αλλά με τα μέσα που προσλαμβάνουμε την έννοια της διάρκειας, της επανάληψης και της αλλαγής. Μέσα από την Μνήμη». Αυτός ο λίγο –πολύ αυθαίρετος διαχωρισμός, είναι το φιλοσοφικό (περισσότερο θεοσοφικό μάλλον και σαφέστατα ψευδοεπιστημονικό – αποκρυφιστικές παρλαπίπες με μια κατ’ επίφαση δόση αληθοφάνειας-) υπόβαθρο όπου προετοιμάζεται μια σύγκρουση: Ανάμεσα σε μια χωρική – τοπογραφική Γεωγραφία και σε μια χρονική, ασαφή ή ακόμα και επινοημένη Μνήμη. Στη συνέχεια η ιστορία ξεφεύγει ακόμα περισσότερο και επιβαρύνεται με ημιτελείς και ανολοκλήρωτες πλοκές που έρχονται να μπλεχτούν μέσα στην κεντρική ιστορία, και δημιουργούν κόμπους σε ένα ήδη μπερδεμένο κουβάρι. Ένας μύθος ανάλογος με εκείνον του μαρμαρωμένου βασιλιά, μια φαιδρή εκδοχή του ανθρώπινου Αγαθαγγελισμού που επιζητεί πάντα την σωτηρία μέσα από κάποιον άλλο, ως εύκολη λύση, και καταλήγει στην καταστρατήγηση της ανθρώπινης ευτυχίας, δεν κατορθώνει να οδηγήσει σε κάποια σύγκρουση, έτσι μεταμορφώνεται ένα βολικά εφιαλτικό και μακρόσυρτο χειμώνα και τελειώνει όπως κάθε χειμώνας: με τον ερχομό της άνοιξης και του καλοκαιριού.Το έργο αυτό, το βιβλίο αυτό, τελικά αποκαλύπτει την ταυτότητά του, ο ίδιος ο συγγραφέας, έχοντας ενδεχομένως συνειδητοποιήσει πως το δέσιμο των ιστοριών του τον έχει οδηγήσει σε αδιέξοδο, αναπτύσσει την κεντρική θεωρία, αυτό δηλαδή που συνιστά την λογοτεχνική κατηγοριοποίηση του έργου: Δεν είναι επική φαντασία, δεν έχει αρκετό αίμα και ατσάλι. Δεν είναι κάποιου είδους αλληγορία, οι ψευδοεπιστημονικές θεωρίες του χάσκουν από παντού (και το γνωρίζει). Δεν είναι καν μαγικός ρεαλισμός, όπως θα ήταν αν το συντόμευε σε μια αξιοπρεπή νουβέλα και το έκλεινε στο πρώτο μέρος. Είναι ωστόσο, μέσα στην μαγευτική πεζότητά του, μέσα στην προνομιακή συρραφή των σκόρπιων ιστοριών που ενδεχομένως είχε μαζέψει στο συρτάρι και σκονίζονταν αχρησιμοποίητες, είναι μια «σαπουνόπερα του φανταστικού». Αν φανταστούμε τις ιστορίες ως μακρόσυρτα επεισόδιο του ενός και ίδιου έργου, ιδού έχουμε το νεραϊδένιο ανάλογο της «Τόλμης και Γοητείας». Έτσι με απόλυτη ειλικρίνεια παραδίδει στους αναγνώστες του το παρακάτω απόσπασμα:«Τί φόρμα! Γιατί κανένας ως τώρα δεν αντιλήφθηκε το μυστικό της; Χρειαζόταν μονάχα μια απλή πλοκή, μια μοναδική ενασχόληση που απασχολούσε βαθύτατα όλους τους χαρακτήρες και η οποία είχε μια μεγαλειώδη, γλυκειά και μοναδική έκβαση η οποία ωστόσο δεν θα ερχόταν ποτέ. Πάντα θα πλησίαζε, έτσι ώστε να παραμένουν ζωντανές οι ελπίδες, να γίνονται πικρότερες οι απογοητεύσεις, να διαμορφώνονται ζωές και αγάπες μέσα από την βασανιστικά αργή εξέλιξη που κινείται προς το Παρόν αλλά ποτέ δεν καταλήγει κάπου. Τον παλιό καλό καιρό, όταν οι σφυγμομετρήσεις ήταν τόσο συχνές, όπως σήμερα οι έρευνες από πόρτα σε πόρτα, οι ερευνητές ρωτούσαν του τηλεθεατές, γιατί αρέσκονταν τόσο στα αλλόκοτα βάσανα μιας σαπουνόπερας, τις τους έκανε να επιμένουν να τις παρακολουθούν. Η πιο συνηθισμένη απάντηση ήταν πως τους άρεσαν οι σαπουνόπερες γιατί ήταν βγαλμένες μέσα από τη ζωή». Το ότι δίνεται θετικό πρόσημο σε πράγματα όπως η απουσία του ουδέτερου γένους – πέρα από τον γλωσσικό γραμματικό προσδιορισμό – που συναντάται σε ορισμένες γλώσσες, ως κάτι που απεικάζει την ουσία και την ταυτότητα της ανθρωπότητας, είναι κάτι που δεν ξέρω πώς να το χαρακτηρίσω. Σε αυτόν το κόσμο, πέρα από την γραμματική και την ορθογραφία, υπάρχει μια πολυπλοκότερη γραμματική που συνιστά σε ένα μεταφορικό επίπεδο το θέμα του ανθρώπινου αυτοπροσδιορισμού και οφείλει να εμπεριέχει το ουδέτερο, το άφυλο, το ανδρόγυνο, το βιολογικό «Μονοκατάληκτο με δύο γένη» (βλέπε για παράδειγμα το Ορλάντο, της Βιρτζίνια Γουλφ ή και το κατοπινότερο Middlesex του Τζέφρι Ευγενίδη κα). Αλλά αυτά μπορεί να ανήκουν στη δική μου σφαίρα υπερευαισθησιών, καθώς αυτό βιβλίο δεν διστάζει να αναπαράγει στερεοτυπικές εικόνες, υπερσεξουαλικών λατίνων και δουλοπρεπών αφροαμερικάνων. Τώρα κάτι έμμεσες διακειμενικές αναφορές σε Μπάροουζ, Λιούις Κάρολ, Σαίξπηρ κτλ είναι πολύ ψιλές και σκόρπιες και δεν βλέπω με ποιον τρόπο εμπλουτίζουν την ιστορία αυτά τα ατάκτως ερριμμένα Easter eggs. Υπάρχουν ωστόσο δύο λόγοι που με κάνουν να μην μετανιώνω που διάβασα αυτό το βιβλίο. Δύο ιστορίες, οι οποίες είναι τόσο αριστοτεχνικά δοσμένες που με ξάφνιασαν ευχάριστα. Η μία μοιάζει βγαλμένη από ταινία του σινεμά, ήταν τόσο συγκλονιστικά συγκινητική, που... (πρέπει να είμαι πολύ σκύλα τελικά, γιατί ενώ όταν έχω να πω κάτι αρνητικό γράφω σεντόνια, όταν έχω να μιλήσω θετικά για κάτι δεν βρίσκω λέξεις).Είναι η ιστορία ενός αγοριού, του Όμπερον, που μια μέρα επιστρέφει στο σπίτι και βλέπει τα πράγματα της κοπέλας του, της Σιλβί να λείπουν. Δεν έχουν μαλώσει, δεν έχει προηγηθεί κανένας καβγάς, καμία νύξη για το ενδεχόμενο ενός χωρισμού. Ωστόσο απομένει, έτσι, στα ξαφνικά και χωρίς να καταλαβαίνει την αιτία, ολομόναχος. Κάπως έτσι καταλήγει μια μέρα στο μπαρ που σύχναζαν παλιότερα μέσα στην φασαρία που θυμίζει τον ήχο που κάνουν οι κομπάρσοι τα τηλεοπτικά στούντιο σε αντίστοιχες στιγμές (ένα υπόκωφο βζουβζουβζού που δεν σκεπάζει τις φωνές των ηθοποιών) και εκεί βλέπει έναν καλοντυμένο ηλικιωμένο να πίνει κρασί με μια όμορφη γυναίκα. Είναι η Σιλβί. Ο ήρωας σκέφτεται πως μάλλον δεν άντεξε μαζί του την φτώχεια, τα φθηνά ρούχα που υποχρεωνόταν να αγοράζει από τα παλιατζίδικα και γι’ αυτό το έσκασε με τον πλούσιο γέρο. Και ξαφνικά την βλέπει να σηκώνεται για πάει στην τουαλέτα:«Έκρυψε το κεφάλι του, εκεί που καθόταν, θα έπρεπε να περάσει από μπροστά του. Να το βάλει στα πόδια; Όχι. Έπρεπε να σκεφτεί έναν τρόπο για να την χαιρετήσει, σκέφτηκε, σίγουρα υπήρχε κάποιος τρόπος, αλλά είχε μόνο δευτερόλεπτα στη διάθεσή του για να το σκεφτεί: Έι, γεια, γεια χαρά, επ, για δες μια συνάντηση... Η καρδιά του κόντευε να σπάσει. Υπολογίζοντας την στιγμή που θα περνούσε, γύρισε, ελπίζοντας πως το πρόσωπό του θα έδειχνε ήρεμο και δεν θα μπορούσαν να ακουστούν οι χτύποι της καρδιάς του. Μα πού πήγε; Στιγμιαία πίστεψε πως μια γυναίκα με μαύρο καπέλο, που περνούσε εκείνη την ώρα από μπροστά του ήταν εκείνη, αλλά δεν ήταν τελικά. Μήπως τον προσπέρασε χωρίς αυτός να το αντιληφθεί; Μήπως του κρυβόταν; Θα έπρεπε να ξαναπεράσει από μπροστά του στην επιστροφή. Τώρα θα είχε το νου του. Μπορεί και να το είχε σκάσει, γεμάτη ντροπή, αφήνοντας τον γέρο φραγκάτο με τον λογαριασμό, χωρίς «επιδόρπιο». Η γυναίκα που για μια στιγμή του φάνηκε πως ήταν εκείνη, στην πραγματικότητα δεν της έμοιαζε ούτε στα χρόνια, ούτε στο μπόι, με μια υπολογισμένη κίνηση κι ένα σοβαρό "με συγχωρείτε", τον προσπέρασε μέσα στο σενιαρισμένο πλήθος και επέστρεψε δίπλα στο κάθισμα του πλούσιου γέρου. Μα πώς μπόρεσε έστω και για μια στιγμή να πιστέψει... Η καρδιά του έγινε στάχτη, σαν σβησμένο κάρβουνο. Η χαρούμενη βαβούρα του μπαρ έσβησε μέσα στον απόηχο μιας σιωπής και ο Όμπερον αντιλήφθηκε ξαφνικά με φρίκη, σαν να ξετυλίχθηκε το κουβάρι στο μυαλό του, τί σήμαινε αυτό το όραμα, και πού τώρα θα κατέληγε ο ίδιος. Και σήκωσε το τρεμάμενο χέρι του προς τον μπάρμαν, σπρώχνοντας βίαια τα χαρτονομίσματα επάνω στην μπάρα με το άλλο».Η άλλη ιστορία, είναι μια ιστορία τρόμου. Μια παραδειγματική και καλογραμμένη ιστορία, μιας μητέρας που κρατώντας στην αγκαλιά της, μια βροχερή νύχτα, το παιδί της, επισκέπτεται το σπίτι του πατέρα του. Και δεν είναι παραδειγματική λόγω του περιεχομένου της, γιατί αυτό καθαυτό δεν έχει ιδιαίτερη πρωτοτυπία κι ας είναι ανατριχιαστικό, αλλά λόγω της ξεκαρδιστικής προφορικότητας του αφηγητή, που δίνει στο απόσπασμα μια εξαιρετική ζωντάνια που μου θύμισε κάπως Μάρκ Τουέιν.Πάντως αυτή η όχι ιδιαίτερα εντυπωσιακή συρραφή από ιστορίες, θα μπορούσε να ανταποκριθεί περισσότερο στα γούστα ενός διηγηματογράφου και λάτρη της μικρής φόρμας και όχι στο μέσο αναγνωστικό κοινό βιβλίων φαντασίας. Αν είχε ίσως μια πιο ξεκάθαρη συρταρωτή δομή, θα ήταν πιστεύω πιο έντιμο έργο, ξεφεύγοντας από αυτήν την επίπλαστη συνέχεια σαπουνοπερικών διαστάσεων που αφαιρεί κάτι από την αμεσότητά του και διαταράσσει την αρμονία του συνόλου.

  • Eddie Watkins
    2019-04-20 20:12

    This book is like life to me. A dangerous statement, but true! It has the feel of all the moments of my life as it unfolds. It has all the wisdom and subtle instruction by example that is necessary for a rich and various life. It limns many of the other layers of life that are left out of "realist" fiction, and so it's been called fantasy, and until recently that is the section where you would always find this book. But this is reality fiction, and it's hard for me to imagine a person whose actual life being lived would not be enriched by reading this book.There's a great blurb by Harold Bloom on the back cover of one edition which says something to the effect that it's as if this book has always existed, as if it wasn't even written but has always been. Indeed.

  • Wanda
    2019-03-28 20:46

    It seems to me that John Crowley had both older fairy stories and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in mind while he was writing Little, Big. There is a parallel world beside (or maybe simultaneously inhabiting) Edgewood, and, like older versions of fairy stories, its inhabitants seem to be maybe indifferent or maybe hostile to humanity. Smoky spends his life like many of the men who marry into the Drinkwater/Bramble family, wondering what exactly is going on and not really getting a straight answer from the women-folk. It is very reminiscent of old tales where one must be very careful of the fairy folk and avoid angering them. Unfortunately, keeping the details murky for the main characters also keeps the reader in a fog of uncertainly about exactly what was, what is, and what will be. As a reader, I thought that some people knew more than they actually did—Daily Alice and Sophie, for example. All the characters seem strangely passive, just accepting that they are part of The Tale and not striving to understand what’s going on. Even those who start trying to figure things out seem to get strangely stalled or distracted and give up before they get very far. Nobody talks, nobody explains their feelings, nobody gets angry. Only Auberon throws a real fit and that only when it’s impossible to discuss it with the person he is angry with, and he inflicts his anger on himself in self-destructive ways.I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Smoky and Daily Alice’s son is named Auberon (i.e. Oberon, King of the Fairies in Shakespeare) and that Auberon’s great love is Sylvie, who confesses to him at one point that she is also known as Titania (Shakespeare’s Queen of the Fairies). By book’s end, the reasons for those names will become abundantly clear.The writing is beautiful, the descriptions are lush, the family connections are complex—my only complaint is that not much seems to be going on. It’s like a soap opera, where you can tune in weeks after your last episode and still have a pretty firm grip on the plot. Not much will have happened while you are gone (and Auberon and Sylvie actually do work together for a while writing scripts for a soap opera in the City). Maybe I will re-read this someday, trying to find the hook that seems to have caused so many people to adore this novel.

  • Brooke
    2019-04-08 16:06

    Whenever critics describe a book as "ambitious," I'm always wary. Ambitious is sometimes just another word for "really, really long," and a good portion of the really, really long books I've read could have done the job better in fewer pages. John Crowley's Little, Big is called "the best fantasy written by an American" by one critic, but the A-word by another. Is it too long? Maybe just a bit, but the places where it dragged suffered from an unsympathetic character more than an unnecessary prolonging of the story.Little, Big tells the story of the Bramble/Drinkwater family, which has so many children and cousins and other various branches that the family tree drawing in the front of the book can barely capture a small portion of it. The main family members live in Edgewood, a country house that is many houses built into one. Faerie, both the place and the creatures, has selected this family for its "Tale," and the novel follows several generations as it moves closer to the end of this Tale, seemingly on a predestined track.Every event in the 500+ pages ties in to the Tale, but the story moves along at a sleepy pace. I enjoyed the ride until Auberon's portion of the story in the final third of the novel (not Uncle Auberon, who is encountered earlier and is far more interesting). He flees Edgewood to live in the City, falls in love, loses his loves as is preordained, and becomes a pitiful, wandering drunk for a year. I couldn't bring myself to like or care about him and went a couple of days reading only a few pages at a time because I was so bored with his part of the Tale. I wanted to go back to the characters we had spent the first 2/3 of the book with. Luckily, they become more relevant again after Auberon sobers up, and the last 150 pages went by very quickly.If you're a fantasy fan, be warned that although the fantasy elements are pervasive, they are also very subtle. "Subtle" could actually be used to describe the entire book -- there aren't very many Events or things that Happen. Reading it is like taking a lazy stroll on a perfect day where the scenery is pleasant and pretty but lacking landmarks and forks in the path. I'm glad I read it, but I can't see myself rereading it in the future.

  • Terry
    2019-04-01 00:07

    Ok, some Crowley I love and some Crowley...not so much. Unfortunately this one, the book that most consider his masterpiece, falls into the latter category for me. As always Crowley's mastery of prose is readily apparent, but you know what? This is a pretty dull book. Granted the kind of long, ambling family history that Crowley is writing here is rarely full of slap-bang action, but the pace here is often glacial and while there are, as always, sparkling moments studded throughout the book I just kept waiting for _something to happen_! I plan to re-read this, hopefully sometime soon, to see if time has changed my opinion of _Little, Big_ since it's been quite a few years since I read it, but I have to admit that given the size of the tome, and the number of other books on my to-read list, I sometimes cringe at the thought.

  • Erica
    2019-04-22 16:15

    I read the last 20 or so pages of this late at night, half-asleep which puts your mind in the same state as the characters (characters getting lost in the woods, forgetting who they are, talking to animals - more in line with the fuzzy dreaming brain). Everything in the book was leading up to those last few pages. The Tale! When will it end!? What will happen to justify all these whispered anticipations for it? After seeing reviews of the book on here, I picked it up with great anticipation. Magical Realism, I thought, my kind of genre. There is magic in it, but it's so murky, just as it is for the characters. I kept wondering if there was some metaphor to the events. By the end, I didn't know any better. There's a war being fought, but we don't see it and it doesn't last and it might not even have happened and the reasons for it are barely mentioned. Gar! That's too damn subtle! And a tangent about a president - an emperor who's somehow like a president and somehow not but we never visit the real world long enough to find out! The pieces of this puzzle are lovely and striking, but what does the finished product look like? A banquet in the woods? Why does this end for the characters have special meaning? It doesn't satisfy. Am I supposed to know something about gnosticism, as a previous reviewer mentioned? Where's the punch? What does it all mean!?!?! Haha.

  • Julian
    2019-03-30 00:12

    I appreciate the entertainment merits of fantasy/science fiction, but after years of Dungeons and Dragons and reading the literature spawned from that (which seemed to always borrow from Lord of the Rings), I grew tired of the genre and more or less walked away from it (and Dungeons & Dragons - but that's another story). As a wedding gift a friend passed on a copy of Little Big. And I fell in love. Mr. Crowley's prose is beautiful, original and haunting. It captures the "magic" of the world of faerie. It does not explain away everything, does not give rational cause and effect, maintains the mystery - which most if not all the fantasy literature I have read does do; it eliminates the "other". I felt reading this book was something I was always looking for in fantasy. The next literary step. Now having said all this, I should also say that I've recommended this book to many folks and a good many of those many folks did not love it as I did. Infact, it's often the case that Little Big isn't finished. Complaints being primarily that the plot is too vague, too nebulous. The other 1/2 who read it feel as I do. So enjoy, but be forewarned.