- Hardcover: 529 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday Book & Music Clubs (June 1, 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568654294
- ISBN-13: 978-1568654294
- Package Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 236 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Little, Big Hardcover – June 1, 1981
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And so this novel asks a lot of big philosophical and metaphysical questions. The author, John Crowley, is not interested in pat answers. The questions are sometimes more important than the conclusions that follow. And sometimes, there are no conclusions explicitly stated. It's up to the reader to use some mental effort to figure out what's happening in the story. This is why I say that this novel is not for everyone. In today's reading culture, where even college-educated adults are only willing to read young adult novels, this book may be a challenge to some. For one thing, Crowley's prose is DENSE. What I mean by that is that he'll write sentences that are their own paragraphs. Sentences with numerous clauses that are separately by a multitude of commas, semi-colons, hyphens, long dashes, and parentheticals. And within these long sentence constructions, Crowley will pack in multiple disparate ideas that he is able to artfully connect with an overarching theme, philosophical thesis, or series of actions. And also, the sentences are beautiful, almost musical, in their prose. Here's an example (the hairy thing mentioned is a squirrel's tail; a love totem from the Fey):
"But they had kept their promise, oh they had, he was on the way to becoming an entire anthology of love, with footnotes (there were a pair of step-ins under his seat, he could not remember who had stepped out of them); only, as he drove from drugstore to church, from farmhouse to farmhouse, with the hairy thing flying from his windscreen, he came to know that it did not and had not ever contained his power over women: his power over women lay in their power over him."
Some people have compared this novel to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book "One Hundred Years of Solitude". It's an apt comparison in that both novels are shining examples of the magic realism genre and great prose, and both are concerned with the rising and falling fortunes of remarkable multi-generational families. But Crowley's novel dives more deeply into the metaphysical. In his story, the universe is actually a multiverse with fantastical realms of existence nested within each other, yet paradoxically, the deeper ones are larger than the ones that contain them. And from this mind-expanding idea, Crowley is able to craft an epic narrative that takes the reader to some truly bizarre and beautiful settings. Some of the characters start to wake up to this and take advantage of this strange architecture of the universe.
The main characters here will speak and live and breathe and stumble and fall their way through this story. For all the magic-realism trappings of this story, the characters always feel like real people. And that is perhaps Crowley's great strength as an author. He never lets the metaphysical or phantasmagoric elements of the story cloud the essential humanity of the people who live inside that reality. I challenge anyone to read this novel from beginning to end and not fall in love with at least 3 of the main characters.
I've read this book twice now, once as a bonus credit assignment from a literature class and most recently on audibles. Now when the book finally gets rolling it actually is kind of an exciting fantasy mystery thing with way too much abstract moments, but at it's heart its a story about family, and simply how they evolve from one another.
Do i recommend this book, Yes, but to a person that is a fantasy buff that also dibbles in spiritual fiction, or thought. It's not a story for people looking for a lord of the rings epic, but one that studies the characters that happen to live in a world that really close to ours but not.
How he is able to be almost manically whimsical (dare I call this a psychedelic novel?) while still producing a stunningly beautiful and grounded work of art, confounds! His skill has the reader leaping almost effortlessly between worlds. No wonder Bloom added it to his Western Canon. Best read along with Aegypt --which also zings and tantalizes. Patience and suspension of disbelief are required, but in this case your effort will be richly rewarded!