I’m about half way through John Crowley’s Little/Big and I’m am filled with wonder. What a delightful storyteller and a beautiful writer and an insightful observer. He has such love for each character and reveals each of them with tenderness and deliberation.
Little/Big is the story of a family that has a relationship with faeries and the faerie world, though there is no lightning-flash magic. Cards can tell the future, kingfishers can grant wishes, albino trout can pass along messages from other powers. I’m not sure there will be any conflict in the book – there hasn’t been any so far. When one character is granted the ability to have all of the young women in the county, and he impregnates several, it’s presented as a baffling thing and an understandable choice, though foolish, made by someone not accustomed to dealing with faeries. The parents of the impregnated young women don’t storm the house and ask for August’s head. The family just takes in one of the young women, the first one he was in love with.
It is just the story of this extended family and the strange home they live in and the odd way that the faerie world influences them. And the love they have in their lives.
A beautifully told story of what happens next and what has happened before.
I had tried to read Aegypt a couple of years ago, and the lack of conflict there also made the novel seem slow. I think with this writer the payoff is just the journey. Little/Big begins with a long walk that Smokey Barnable must take to join his bride-to-be at her home. He cannot take a car, and he does not have a map indicating the village of Edgewood where he is to go – he must infer the location from a blank spot on the map. I’m seeing this as an apt metaphor for the entire novel, and perhaps much of the author’s output.
The novel reminds me of Disch’s On Wings of Song, though without the dollop or six of perversion and Iowa-bopping (not quite bashing). Both books are extended love stories.
I’m putting Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel:The Evening Land on my list to read though. I think I want to read more from him.