Read 最國 上／下 by John Crowley Free Online
Book Title: 最國 上／下|
The author of the book: John Crowley
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Reader ratings: 3.1
Date of issue: December 3rd 2010
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.27 MB
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I've given a lot of thought to this review: how to begin, how to describe this story, how to explain my utter adoration for it, and most importantly, what words I might use to successfully make everyone read this book right now.
As you can probably imagine, I've come up rather short on all counts.
How do you talk about a book which seems to either redefine or cause to shrivel all the normal descriptors one attaches to works of fiction?
I mean, strictly speaking, you'd have to call this an epic fantasy, I suppose. Wait! You didn't let me finish. Because that's not it, not really. I mean, it's not really just epic, because it actually seems to encompass the whole damn world, to cover all of time, kind of. And it's more of an occult novel than a fantasy novel, if anything, I guess. I mean, it's a real story, set in real-life New York, partly upstate and partly in our big bad city. It just sort of so happens that, well, everyone in the story is part of the Tale, which only some of them can understand, an no one can predict, not really. See, now wait again! Because now you'll think it's some big silly meta thing, which it is not not not.
Look. Little, Big is a novel about a family. For real this time. It's about Smoky Barnable, our earnest, humble, erstwhile sometimes-hero. Smoky meets and falls in love with one of the most beautiful characters I have ever had the pleasure of traveling five-hundred-odd pages with, Daily Alice. Daily Alice lives in Edgewood, which is in upstate New York, and the book opens with Smoky making the trek upstate for his wedding. He has been given a series of inexplicable instructions (walk don't ride, wear clothing borrowed not bought, etc.), which he is doing his best to follow, though he doesn't understand why he must.
He must because it is part of the Tale. He has been promised to Daily Alice, kind of, maybe, or well, someone has been promised to her anyway, and she hopes it's him, but she has already decided that she will have him anyway, she loves him that much, even if he is not the one promised.
This is a taste of the world you step into in Little, Big, which goes on to follow Smoky and Alice and their families and their neighbors and their children and some of those children's children too, for four generations, backwards and forwards. It may well be a fantasy, but it is done with such a light touch, with such subtle mentions of fairies and talking fish and worlds within worlds, that you could easily miss or dismiss them, you could write them off as the magic-belief of children, or the ramblings of old women who have spent too long abed.
And I haven't even told you this yet, as this review draws longer and appallingly longer: John Crowley could have spent all five hundred pages just describing a single tree, and I would have followed him along every goddamn branch. Which is to say, this book is suffused, constantly and shockingly, with some of the most astonishingly beautiful prose I have ever read – equally as stunning when describing twilight falling over the City or the endless quest for love.
Here are some other wonderful things about this book:
* In the City, the true oracles are the bums who lurk on the subway in broken shoes muttering to themselves.
* At one point a maybe-fake, maybe-evil baby (who eats live coals) is blown up.
* The only tie to the world of 'them' – the creatures who may or may not know how the Tale will come out – is a deck of pseudo-Tarot cards, the reading of which takes at least an entire lifetime to begin to understand.
* Included are some of the most powerful, most potent descriptions of taking hallucinogenic drugs that I have ever read (and that's not even what's happening in the story).
* Did I mention the dialogue? It is so good, so true, so utterly believable.
* This book made me – a sworn cynic, a jaded literary snob, a snarky bitch who doesn't even know what 'sentiment' means any longer – cry, several times.
* Everyone in the book is named for nature: Violet Bramble, John Drinkwater, Marge Juniper, Mrs. Underhill, George Mouse, Lilac, the Rooks, the Dales, and on and on.
And now look. Because I know that I have done a woefully inadequate job of making you see, I am going to here transcribe a long-ish passage from the book. This takes place very early on, when Smoky and Daily Alice are still just falling in love. She is telling him about a time when she was walking in the woods just after a storm and saw a rainbow off in the distance.
"It was a rainbow, but bright, and it looked like it came down just – there, you know, not far; I could see the grass, all sparkling and stained every color there. The sky had got big, you know, the way it does when it clears at last after a long rainy time, and everything looked near; the place the rainbow came down was near; and I wanted more than anything to go and stand in it – and look up – and be covered with colors."
Smoky laughed. "That's hard," he said.
She laughed too, dipping her head and raising the back of her hand to her mouth in a way that already seemed heartstirringly familiar to him. "It sure is," she said. "It seemed to take forever."
"You mean you – "
"Every time you thought you were coming close, it would be just as far off, in a different place; and if you came to that place, it would be in the place you came from; and my throat was sore with running, and not getting any closer. But you know what you do then – "
"Walk away from it," he said, surprised at his own voice but Somehow sure this was the answer.
"Sure. That isn't as easy as it sounds, but – "
"No, I don't suppose." He had stopped laughing.
" – but if you do it right – "
"No, wait," he said.
" – just right, then . . . "
"They don't really come down, now," Smoky said. "They don't, not really."
"They don't here," she said. "Now listen, I followed my dog Spark; I let him choose, because he didn't care, and I did. It took just one step, and turn around, and guess what."
"I can't guess. You were covered in colors."
"No. It's not like that. Outside, you see colors inside it; so, inside it – "
"You see colors outside it."
"Yes. The whole world colored, as though it were made of candy – no, like it was made of a rainbow. A whole colored world as soft as light all around as far as you can see. You want to run and explore it. But you don't dare take a step, because it might be the wrong step – so you only look, and look. And you think: Here I am at last." She had fallen into thought. "At last," she said again softly.
See? See? They're just ordinary people, to whom (maybe? maybe not?) extraordinary events are always happening.
Well anyway there you are. If I can't convert you, and Mr. Crowley himself can't convert you, then you are just unconvertable and I'm done trying. But if you are even the tiniest bit intrigued by my very long, rambling, adulatory speech here, please, I beseech you, go get this amazing, astonishing, riveting, spectacular book. It really will blow your mind. It did mine.
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Read information about the authorLibrarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies, and did find work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel (The Deep) in 1975, and his 15th volume of fiction (Endless Things) in 2007. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
His first published novels were science fiction: The Deep (1975) and Beasts (1976). Engine Summer (1979) was nominated for the 1980 American Book Award; it appears in David Pringle’s 100 Best Science Fiction Novels.
In 1981 came Little, Big, which Ursula Le Guin described as a book that “all by itself calls for a redefinition of fantasy.”
In 1980 Crowley embarked on an ambitious four-volume novel, Ægypt, comprising The Solitudes (originally published as Ægypt), Love & Sleep, Dæmonomania, and Endless Things, published in May 2007. This series and Little, Big were cited when Crowley received the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature.
He is also the recipient of an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant. His recent novels are The Translator, recipient of the Premio Flaianno (Italy), and Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet. A novella, The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines, appeared in 2002. A museum-quality 25th anniversary edition of Little, Big, featuring the art of Peter Milton and a critical introduction by Harold Bloom, is in preparation.
Note: The John Crowley who wrote Sans épines, la rose: Tony Blair, un modèle pour l'Europe? is a different author with the same name. (website)
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