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Little, Big by John Crowley

Little, Big (edition 2002)

by John Crowley

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2,797782,089 (4.12)2 / 170
Title:Little, Big
Authors:John Crowley
Info:Harper Perennial (2002), Paperback, 560 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy, fairies, strong sense of place, architecture, Midsummer Night's Dream, world-building

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Little, Big by John Crowley (Author)

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Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Smoky Barnable marries Daily Alice Drinkwater, whose family owns a mysterious house called Edgewood. The story of their marriage and descendants is told with flashbacks to earlier generations as the family's part in the Tale becomes clear.

This is a wonderful fantasy novel which follows a completely different track to the usual sub-Tolkeinesque worlds. The ending is heartbreaking ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jul 26, 2014 |
what a bizarre and brilliant book. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
what a bizarre and brilliant book. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
Words to describe the overall impressions of this story (for me) are "whimsical", "languid" and "abstract". It is a sweeping tale that defies the usual straightforward story telling. It defies an awful lot of things actually so the first piece of advice is to approach any read of this book with an open mind. The story will tell its tale in it's own due time, with its own voice and meandering manner. The story is very fluid in format, flowing between characters, settings and generations. What makes this rather abstract story work so well for me is the wonderful voice Crowley has given his characters: an interconnected family of loose relations that appears to just float through life with a combined air of bafflement, acceptance and bemusement of the circumstances/powers/influences that move them and the world they inhabit towards a predestined conclusion. A world where rooms have names, like the "Gothic Bathroom", the "Invisible Bedroom" and where the house, Edgewood, is very much a character of this tale. While this is, in essence, a story about the relationship between the Drinkwater family and the fairie world, it is so much more than that. It is a perfect summertime read, preferably while lying in a flower strewn country meadow or a sun lite wooded glen, away from all the hustle and bustle of urban life. The story is timeless in quality and should be enjoyed in an equally timeless, uninterrupted environment.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by the author, which worked rather well as the author conveyed both the languid tone of the story as well as the fun bits: the real to life characterizations of manner and turns of phrase he had imbued in his characters. My only quibble with the audiobook was I wasn't expecting the rather disembodied female voice to chime in with the section titles. That was just a tad weird at first, but I got over the strangeness and began to use here voice as indicators when I could pause the story. As I mentioned above, this story needs to be approached with an open mind. There were times when I thought about abandoning the story - seriously, where exactly was this peculiar story going? - but I am thankful that I decided to stick it out. I can see why this story is considered to be "a neglected masterpiece" with the closest achievement on par being Lewis Carroll's Alice stories.

This is a story I am happy to have experienced and will be adding it to my very, very select 'future re-read" list. This is one story I know will stand the test of time, regardless of when it is read. ( )
6 vote lkernagh | Jul 20, 2014 |
I don’t know. The greatest American fantastic novel of the 20th century? And maybe one of the greatest American novels of that century, period? I’d like to think so, but my relationship to this book is so personal, I don’t really care how it ranks; I’m just so grateful to John Crowley for creating this epic wonder every time I go back to it, which I do, every few years, and the magic works on me every time. Once you get to be a grownup, you mostly lose the ability to feel that all-consuming longing to become a part of the story you’re reading, that intense, hopeless desire for the book’s world to be the world, the one you live in. Little, Big, definitely written for grownups, still does that for me.

I can love it and still quibble with it, though: too much time spent inside Auberon’s gloomy head in the middle, the prose is gorgeous but starts to wear out its prolix welcome toward the long-foreshadowed end (and yet, overall, the story arc is one of the most perfectly realized of any book I know), the “black guy,” Fred Savage (?!) is a belabored embarrassment among an otherwise deftly realized set of principals. I also used to think its portrait of fairy tale fascism come to a declining republic was too clownish, a misstep – but we’ve moved deeper into absurdist politics since then; it no longer seems so outré.

What this novel is really concerned with is Time with a capital-T, which the contemporary machine world does not permit us to experience any more than it permits magic - even the very opaque and questionable sort of magic this book contains. But in it seasons turn, four of them at a time, each with its distinctive role in growth, fruition, decline and death; lives pass from childhood to old age and death; the world itself gets older – maybe. Time has meaning, and you can feel it pass.

And along the journey of the Tale, there are all sorts of little gifts: for instance, it’s studded with Lewis Carroll Easter eggs (and there may be as many blind quoted riffs and homages to other fantasy classics, I just don’t recognize them). There are all kinds of references to mystical traditions, none of them are explained in detail or tied to their specific place in history, so you have to think for yourself. For me it also offers the very particular physical details of the time and place I grew up, the Northeastern US, second half of the 20th century. Those details may be exotic or meaningless to a later readership, or one with a different geography. But for me they’re another lovely thing that makes re-reading Little, Big like coming home, only better.
( )
1 vote CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Crowley, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Canty, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carr, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, John AnsterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, YvonneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lippincott, Gary A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A little later, remembering man's earthly origin, 'dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return,' they liked to fancy themselves bubbles of earth. When alone in the fields, with no one to see them, they would hop, skip and jump, touching the ground as lightly as possible and crying 'We are the bubbles of earth! Bubbles of earth! Bubbles of earth!'
- Flora Thompson,
Lark Rise
For Lynda
who first knew it
with the author's love
First words
On a certain day in June, 19--, a young man was making his way on foot northward from the great City to a town or place called Edgewood, that he had been told of but had never visited.
The things that make us happy make us wise.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061120057, Paperback)

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 Drinkawater, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:45 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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 Drinkawater, 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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