The Little Big Readalong

Republished and combined into one post on my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive.

May 3rd, 2015

I’m joining in the readalong  of the modern classic fantasy novel Little Big by John Crowley this May, hosted by Dolce Belezza, together with Helen of A Gallimaufry and Tom of Wuthering Expectations.

I read this book back in the early 1980s when it first came out in paperback – I remember I was drawn to the cover (top left) with those blues and violets like a magnet. It’s 25 years old this year, and it’s fair to say I’ve forgotten almost everything about the actual novel. I almost exclusively read fantasy and science fiction back in those days, devouring without remembering much of it.

The edition I currently own (rescued from a charity shop, top right) has more of a Gothic feel to the cover with the sepia photograph and gives me the impression somehow of being an American version of Gormenghast (which wouldn’t be a bad thing?). We’ll see, but it begins thus:

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. His name was Smoky Barnable, and he was going to Edgewood to get married; the fact that he walked and didn’t ride was one of the conditions placed on his coming there at all.

Given Little, Big‘s reputation as one of the best fantasy novels of the later 20th century, I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck into the world of Smoky Barnable and Daily Alice Drinkwater once more.

* * * * *

May 31st, 2015 – Update

I had such good intentions joining in with the Little Big readalong, but already I’ve got seriously waylaid by Shiny New Books and other things, not the least of which is that I’m now behind on Anthony Powell because I started my Annabel’s Shelves project. I once did one of those personality tests and came out as a Creator-Innovator – which means that I’m bad on following through… Yup! That’s me.

This is my excuse for saying that I’m putting re-reading Little Big on hold having made it only to page 75. The key reason for this is that I’m struggling to get into it. There is just so much description – it’s like Donna Tartt with added parentheses. It’s not that the language or style is difficult, it isn’t, but it is leisurely and I’m less time-tolerant of this quality in a text these days. Mea culpa.

However, there were bits I loved – in particular Edgewood having a multiplicity of fronts to it:

“This used to be the front,” Daily Alice said. “Then they built the garden and the wall; so the back became the front. It was a font anyway. And now this is the back front.” She straddled the bench, and picked up a twig, at the same time drawing out with her pinkie a glittering hair that had blown between her lips. She scratched a quick five-pointed star in the dirt. Smoky looked at it, and at the tautness of her jeans. “That’s not really it,” she said, looking birdwise at her star, “but sort of. See, it’s a house all fronts. It was built to be a sample. My great=grandfather? Who I wrote you about? He built this house to be a sample, so people could come and look at it, from any side, and choose which kind of house they wanted; that’s why the inside is so crazy. It’s so many houses, sort of put inside each other or across each other, with their fronts sticking out.”

Pop -up books from Smithsonian Institution’s Libraries Movable books collection

That image is amazing, but rather than the sides of a star or polygon, it made me think of pop-up books… turn the page and a new structure pops up from the folds of the book.

I hope to find another time when I’ll have the patience to savour Little Big

Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below (affiliate link):
Little, Big (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) by John Crowley, 1981. Gollancz paperback, 560 pages.

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