Jan 16, 2008

little, big

thanks to the lifton-zolines and joel finkelstein, i've been re-introduced to the work of john crowley. the last time i picked up little, big, i put it down again after just two pages. something about the opening chapter failed to resonate, or it may have been the mood of the time. (i had the same experience with the hobbit, which i have still not succeeded in finishing.) this confirms my belief that for every book, there is a time and, presumably, a place.

this time, here, little, big is superb. reading it is a bizarre experience -- the plot recedes and you are drawn gently through a progression of images, all intricate and dim, like old daguerreotypes or piranesi's etchings of imaginary prisons.*

carceri d'invenzione, plate 7: the drawbridge

it feels like walking into a warm, slow-moving, dark river. crowley is funny too, as inventive with the language as rushdie and his images as fabulous as marquez, but without the compulsive flashiness of either. for reasons unknown, he's never made it to the pantheon of great fantasists. for that, little, big probably deserves to be somewhere on the top ten list of unfairly unknown books, together with t.r. pearson's short history of a small place.

* the carceri d'invenzione have prompted some pretty unusual creative output. for one, any perfumier intelligent enough to create a scent in celebration of imaginary prisons is worthy of investigation. not to forget that the inspired by bach series had yo-yo ma playing bach's solo cello suite no. 2 in a computer-generated rendition of piranesi's etchings. performance spaces have a particular dynamic and auditory profile that performers in them respond to; the idea of playing a piece in response to an imaginary performance space so that the sound engineers can later transform the recording is quite astonishing.

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