Almost three years ago I was introduced to the novel Little, Big by John Crowley. The introduction came by way of Maynard James Keenan’s book A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, a book I highlighted in a post titled Fictional Tendencies: The Beginning. Shortly after I had finished reading Maynard’s book I purchased Little, Big by John Crowley, upon its delivery, and me opening the shipping package, I began reading. Now, I don’t recall why but I stopped reading after 80 or 90 pages. I think I started another book or became involved in another one of my projects.
Now I’m off on this tangent, not reading Little, Big, and I won’t return to it until the beginning of the month of November 2018. Something about it kept calling me back, it was in one of my many stacks of unread books, and I thought, okay, I’m ready now. While standing in my room, holding the book and brushing off the dust, I asked myself, “Do I start over? Or do I start where I left off?” I opted to start where I left off, and I’m glad I did. Everything that I had read came flooding back into my head, it was as though I never left.
On the surface Little, Big is the story of Smoky Barnable and his journey on foot from the City to a place called Edgewood. And as the back book cover states, “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.”
Now, the above is certainly true, it’s all there in the book. But it’s more than that too. This is a book that’s an onion, there are layers upon layers of great stuff here. There are nuggets of knowledge. This is a story and is neither here nor there but both. And it’s everywhere in between. It’s as simple as it is complex. It entails everything about life and all of its complexities. While asking one question, the characters in Little, Big might answer a completely different question and be okay with the answer they have, even if it isn’t the one they were looking for. Maybe they were looking for it and weren’t quite ready for it. Maybe it was the answer they never knew they needed.
Maybe life is a journey with more questions left unanswered than answered and we’re all here trying to make the most sense we can out of what we’re given. What choices we’ve made. And where, when and what we’re trying to reach.
John Crowley’s prose is masterful and beautiful.
I’ve read several books – this is the first book I’ve read that John Crowley has written – and a large majority of the books I’ve read I’m okay with only reading them once. Little, Big is the first book that I might actively attempt to re-read. It’s that special.
Little, Big could be considered a “heavy” book, as the characters experience every success and failure and love and loss that life has to offer. Each character accepts their fate and even when they question their lot in life, they never give up, they continue to push through. When I say that Little, Big could be considered “heavy” my only comparison is that when I finished reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, I felt heavy.
Both books, Little, Big and The Fountainhead, moved me, made me feel something. That is something that all great books should do, move you, make you feel, make you think, make you question. They should inspire. And however any of those emotions or responses occur is up to you the reader.
When I finished Little, Big my heart-felt heavy; heavy with love and appreciation and a little bit of sadness. Heavy with hope. My heart-felt full. I closed the book smiling and with tears beginning to pool in the corner of my eyes. I experienced something special. I might not have understood everything that occurred in the book but what I understood was enough, enough to feel touched or moved. Maybe that’s why I want to re-read it, to better understand it, to better understand life.
Little, Big is a story that is whatever you make of it, sort of like life. It’s as complex or as simple as you want it to be, and it’s as simple or as complex as it wants to be for you. We all have our own journeys to make. We all have our own stories to tell. I’m thankful for John Crowley writing this one. Little, Big such a gem.
Thank you for reading.
Your journey starts with a step, where are you headed?