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Saturday, September 17, 2016

A FEW CAVILS ABOUT LITTLE, BIG

I recently reread John Crowley's masterwork of fantasy Little, Big, and was forced to the realization that it isn't perfect. The first part, set at Edgewood, is wonderful, and the ending is wonderful in a different way. But the middle part, dealing mainly with Auberon and Sylvie, while still very good, left me dissatisfied.

For one thing, Edgewood is an enchanted place, and New York City isn't, even though some magic takes place there. For another, the adult Auberon is less likable and less interesting than Smoky. And these weaknesses allowed me to notice other weaknesses that I might not have noticed had the fundamentals been stronger. The trope that the women of the Drinkwater clan understand the truth intuitively, while the men can't get it no matter how hard they try to understand it rationally, didn't bother me with Smoky or with John Drinkwater, but got a bit annoying when it was repeated with Auberon. (Ariel Hawksquill is an exception, but she's depicted as a "masculine" woman: rationalistic, aggressive, and power-hungry.) It really won't do to have a major character who's a demagogue with a huge popular following, and be as vague about his message and appeal as Crowley is with Eigenblick. And Fred Savage is, alas, a Magic Negro. (And he turns into a tree, which is really problematic and uncomfortable.)

But don't let any of this stop you from reading Little, Big, if you haven't already.

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