“Let him follow love.” Little, Big – John Crowley
When I mentioned to the author, John Crowley, that I was reading his book Little, Big I told him that I came to choose it for several reasons, one of which, was the title. I liked it. It reminded me of Little Big Man, a wonderfully strange book I read when I was pregnant with my third child, which reminded me of the other book I read at that time- War and Peace. I bring this stream of recollection up because as it turns out, Little, Big is the bridge between the two. No, I didn’t realize there was a bridge either, but there it is.
Little, Big, like Little Big Man is a fantastical tale, but like War and Peace it is an epic multi generational saga (including a very helpful genealogy tree) encompassing all the..little parts within and without the big. This was how my mind captured it at least, even if it was a slippery sort of tale at times. About half way into the book I happened to look at the spine and noticed a library sticker which categorized it as “Sci-fi Fantasy.” What the hell am I reading? I thought to myself. I don’t think I have ever read a sci-fi fantasy book before and was quite alarmed at finding myself fully engage, albeit accidentally, in one now.
“You will live in many houses, Mrs. Underhill had told her. You will wander, and live in many houses. She had wept hearing that, or rather later when she thought of it on trains and boats and in waiting rooms, not knowing how many houses were many or how long it took to live in one.” Little, Big
I spent the next few days re-assessing the term. What does sci-fi fantasy even mean? Clearly I do not know. I can say that this book has the sort of oneiric quality that can leave one disoriented, grasping for a familiar matrix. As a reader I don’t question this state of mind, I either:
a) re-read the previous paragraph or two to make sure it’s not me.
b) if applicable, look at the genealogy to make sure I know where I am.
c) keep reading.
“Forget a Tale is being told. Otherwise – oh, don’t you see, if we don’t know the little that we do, we’d never interfere, never get things wrong; but we do know, only not enough; and so we guess wrong, and get entangled, and have to be put right in ways- in ways so odd,” – Little, Big
Keep reading. It is a long tale, but so wonderfully moving. My heart. It’s my heart that, after hundreds of pages, can feel so deeply for the characters. I love what and whom they love.
“The struggle was, as it had always been, to think rightly about what had happened, to come to conclusions that took in all aspects, that were mature; to be objective.” – Little , Big
Auberon’s attempts to make sense of and ineffectually free himself from his broken heart is so beautifully and scrupulously detailed by Crowley that when my son (the very same third child referenced at the start) innocently played a song in the car in which the singer sang out to Sylvia- Auberon’s Sylvia! I cried.
“Why had he not known that love could be like that? Why hadn’t anyone told him? If he had known, he would never have embarked on it; or at least not so gladly.” – Little, Big
Little, Big is an enchanting, sibylline tale. I am not predisposed to take inordinate interest in fairies and magic, but in this odd tale it was hardly necessary. In a way they were just barely there and now over there and maybe it was something else altogether the way a dream is suddenly this and then that, but you understand that it is really none of these things and was always only this simple thing. It was only ever the Tale that came out the way it was meant to until it reached its end.