by John Crowley
sometimes, when dreaming, i am aware of a complex and mysterious history to the at times strange but often mundane narrative of the dream itsef. i'll be running away from something, against some dark background, a house or castle or a school, who knows... although the drama of running is clear, there's often a feeling that so many things have already happened before i started running, things of which i'm only dimly aware, a whole story has happened or is happening in which i'm only getting bits & pieces or what feels like the end. i guess it's what makes some dreams so hard to explain - simple or inexplicable events occurring that have an emotional depth and meaning that is near impossible to describe in passionless terms.
other times, passing by my work's drop-in center, i'll exchange words with a visitor, a person usually dealing with life changes or the possibility of life ending (that's the nature of my workplace). they'll say some simple pleasantry or even give a brief phrase to show how they're doing... and there's a whole world in what they say, an entire journey expressed, near-tangible emotions conveyed. but of the details of that history, the why and how of it, and the place they seek or the place they fear to go... inexpressible.
that's what reading Little, Big was like for me. so many little moments in a family's life, in the lives of people connected to the family, in the city in which the family dwells. and all these moments live in a world with a background and a future that is vast, mystical, dreamlike, one that cannot be expressed with any kind of logical or linear description. sometimes the moments are so personal and delicate... other times they are whimsical and brimming with magic, or strange and full of some kind of barely understandable threat... sad moments, and tragic ones, and moments filled with delight... and in the end, they become grand and they sweep the characters and the reader towards what almost feels like an understanding of the purpose and destination of it all. almost!
the novel is about an enchanted family, their loves & lives & history. it is also about the end of an age, the beginning of another, witches & changelings & fairies & enchantments, loneliness & forgetfulness & sorrow, love, the past and the future, and new york city. there are no real villains, there are no traditional heroes. the writing has a dense but fragile beauty. there are layers upon layers. there are mythical beings that come alive and realistic characters that become as myths. i sighed in amazement, many times, at the wonder of it all; it is like a dream made half-real. it is a unique book.