Little, Big

Back when I was in college, I read a remarkable book called Engine Summer.  I’ll get back to this.

This past weekend, on that awful ride about which I’ve written here, I did not have the near-perfect Beast on my front rack.  After trying the Beast and a number of other bags, I had gotten myself seduced and purchased, at great personal expense, an Orpington bag from Ironweed.  It’s a great bag, but huge.  On one of my first rides, I carried a large box of laundry detergent home from the store in it.  And there was space for other stuff!

It’s a great bag, but sometimes big is too big, so it’s going to do alternating duty with the Beast from here on out.  Horses for courses, as they say.  And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, there is everything right with that.  Little, Big.

Little, Big is also the title of the most fantastical novel you may ever read.  It has been compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I am not a huge fantasy reader; like everyone else my age, I read The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, but I was unable to choke down The Chronicles of Narnia, and while I enjoyed That Hideous Strength, I felt Lewis’ writings were black and white, compared to Tolkien’s technicolor landscape.  And I could not stomach the copycats like the Wheel of Time series.  I mean, fergeddaboutit.

But Little, Big (subtitled or, the Faeries’ Parliament), was something altogether different.  John Crowley writes an amazing story.  How good?  Well.  Here’s the first pargraph:


That was the paragraph that got me when I opened up a copy of the paperback in a used bookstore in La Crosse, WI.  It gets better from there.

But the reason that I was in that section (SF/Fantasy) in that bookstore (which was wonderful, and which I miss terribly, having moved across the country) was that I had recently come across an earlier book by the same author.  The book that I started telling you about, one that I encountered when I was in college (I have, over the past couple of decades, gotten into the habit of rereading books, like Dahlgren, that have made a strong impression on me).  I suppose it was the cover that had originally appealed to me, being (as I think of myself) a cat person:


This is an entirely different book from Little, Big, and yet it is about the same thing.  It’s about humans, and what humans are capable of.

Told you I’d get back to it.



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