John Crowley-Little, Big
I have to preface this entry by saying I’m a little biased about this book. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it: It’s so awesome, Oh my god you have to read it, If you want to start reading fantasy start with this one, this book is so great and so on. So I dove into the pages with high expectations. I thought, if they think it’s so great, I should also think it is so great.
I should have known better. What others like is not what I like. I know I like high fantasy and epic fantasy. I like other world fantasy, including futuristic. Urban and Contemporary rarely does it for me, though rural can work sometimes. I like clever and witty narrative and dialog.
I should have quizzed these people more on what they like before I thought I’d like this monumental work of fantasy literature. But I can respect Crowley for what he did in this book.
Going into it blind, I thought it would be about a peculiar family and the house or estate they live on. But in the end, not so much. It’s about what is done to them. So the whole book is getting us familiar with their tale, with them. Making us get attached to them and feeling for them when the standard bumps of life show up in their lives. This book is about 500 pages long, and covers about five generations. Every time he jumped into a new one I got bored and agitated with it. So there were many people to whom I was supposed to empathize and develop a relationship with.
Meanwhile there are hints dropped and heavy handed (I think) foreshadowing–I actually rolled my eyes at the most prominent instance. To be blunt, it’s dodging of the fantastic annoyed me. The questioning and uncertainty irked me. And the two most main characters never even entertained the possibility. That certainly adds tension, but one makes me feel left out and two makes me want to be in someone else’s head more. There are a few brief respites though, like Crowley wanted to give us some glue or something.
The thing I disliked the most was dialog. They spoke in a halting and staggered fashion. A word, a descriptive phrase, then the rest of the sentence. People do not speak like that. Sometimes they might, but not ALL THE TIME. So he was trying to pass these people off as eccentric, sure, but I think my blood pressure went up when certain characters were speaking.
But none of that really matters in the big picture. Roz Kaveney said in a review she wrote in 1982 for “Books and Bookmen” that this is one of the few stories that reconcile humans and fairy, which it does. And I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like it until I read that. The characters in this book seemed so askew for “normal” people. They’d have to be to do that job. So they didn’t appeal to me on the front of normal people exposed to fairy, or occupants of a fairy land who happened to be in our world. To me they were awkward, with a very exclusive feel, but not pretentious (otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered).
So hearing Ms. Kaveney’s conclusion, and having read “From Homer to Harry Potter,” I can easily classify this story as literature of fairy. This fantasy pulls very strongly from traditional “this world” beliefs and doesn’t take it to another world. I’ve always held stories that deal with actual Faerie slightly apart from the other fantasy I read. Usually when I refer to fantasy, I’m thinking of epic or high, or even some urban and contemporary if the fantastical elements are strong enough.
So, maybe I read it wrong, or just missed something. I don’t feel the need to read the rest of Crowley’s work to see what is particular about this book or just him. But as I’ve said above, much of this story didn’t grab me.
Okay, so what did I like about this book? Why did I read all of it? There are a few reasons. I’m a little obsessive about finishing what I start. It’s a highly influential work. I hoped it would get better. And after I got about a quarter into it and didn’t like it, I wanted to at least be able to say why honestly.
On another note… hopefully I’ll have another story out for sub soon.
Fantasy: The Runelords – David Farland
Scholarly: Wizardry & Wild Romance, A Study of Epic Fantasy – Michael Moorcock
Writing:(I’m slacking here)