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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

...As Once Upon a Time They Were

So concludes one of my favorite reads of all time, John Crowley's Little Big.

Which is the current selection of the AV Club book club, which has inspired me to give it a quick shout-out.

I discovered John Crowley when I was a wee lad, courtesy of Orson Scott Card, who offered great praise to Crowley's Engine Summer, subsequently repeated in an F&SF review column of Card, where you'll see that Card and I did not agree on Little, Big (nor, for that matter, on Crowley's later novel Aegypt).  But nonetheless, just like Card's praise for Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy in recent months may have sent a few readers Brandon's way, Card's praise for Engine Summer got me to reading John Crowley.  I quite liked Engine Summer, which is a post-apocalyptic novel whose derelict roadways stick in the recesses of my mind more than anyone else's.  I went on to read The Deep and Beasts, perhaps not as good but certainly interesting.  And then Little Big appeared in the summer of 1981, which is the Joshua Bilmes version of The Summer of Love, when I was on my own in Cambridge and Boston for several weeks, haunting the second floor sf/fantasy shop a few blocks down from Harvard Square and Wordsworth and the Million Year Picnic and Sack Theatres.  And there was some good buzz on Little Big, and I eagerly anticipated it, and my recollection is that I laid out quite happily and eagerly for it when the Bantam trade paperback arrived in the new release section at Wordsworth.

And I loved it.  If there is one book I'd love to find time to re-read, it is this one.  I don't know, maybe I'd be disappointed and wonder whatever I saw in this at that age.  But all these years later, the last paragraph of the novel still holds resonance for me.  I think of the book when I show off the whispering well at Grand Central.  There's this image of an octagonal house that I can summon up, which I remember being from here.  It was a fantasy.  It was a love story.  It was well-written.  Maybe it's just that it's a type of book for which I had a soft spot in those years (Richard Adams' Girl in a Swing), but I don't think so.

So I smiled when I noticed that it was being featured in the AV Club this month.  

For many years, Little Big struggled to stay in print.  There was a mass market edition, and it would go out of print, then Bantam would think of some excuse to do a Signature Special Edition or some-such that would last for 18 months.  There was another Harper edition before the current, which seems to have settled in at long last to a sales pace that will keep it around.

The literary success of Little Big turned Crowley into a darling of the literary community.  His newest book has been reviewed respectably in all the right places.  But as he's become more and more the darling of the literary community he's become of less interest to me, and I don't see myself rushing into the arms of his new Four Freedoms.  But if you're inspired to read Little Big, let me know what you think. 

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