Back in my undergraduate years, a classmate and friend of mine lent me a book she had read and felt would be something I would enjoy. The book, exceeding five-hundred pages, proved too dense a read to go alongside the required reading we were already doing for our English courses. Not to mention I always struggled with a sluggish reading speed.
In that first attempt to read Little, Big by John Crowley, I gracefully spilled my coffee (of which I drank far too much in order to keep my eyes peeled during discussions of Romance of the Rose and Amores Perros) all over Catherine’s book. I bought her a brand new copy of the $25 edition and thus owned the epic journey of Smoky Barnable—if you could call it that—for myself. But Smoky and company would have to wait as too many books and works of literature begged my attention in order to graduate on time.
I don’t remember when I picked up the book for the second time. This time it was either work or graduate school that got in the way.
One thing I should mention is that Little, Big, being as dense and long as it is, is not the type of book you can simply pick up where you left off especially after a long absence. So, even when I had gotten past page 300 on my last attempt, a couple of weeks ago I started on page one.
And last night I finished. I sincerely enjoyed my reading experience each time I picked up the book for another try. I guess I wouldn’t have given it such effort if it was terrible, although I do have a guilty conscience issue when it comes to leaving books unfinished.
But the further into the book I got, the stranger it became. At first this strangeness added to the allure and mystery Crowley was so talented at creating. What exactly were these characters talking about in riddles and round-a-bout conversations? How were these new characters connected to the older characters and more importantly, to the Tale as a whole?
And suddenly, when my left hand started to tire from holding so many pages at once and I was feeling a sense of glory at being so close to the finish, What the H—?
Is this a totally new subplot squeezed in at the last minute or have I been missing a crucial element to this entanglement of a story? Everything seems to read upside down and right to left, inside out. I suppose that is how it should be considering the circumstances presented, but it does not make anything more comfortable considering how so much is being thrown at me so fast, so late.
And then we come to the close. All I can think is, really? Is that all? That is what these last five hundred pages have been working up to? I feel cheated. This is a total cop out! How does it even make any sense (if it is even supposed to)? Needless to say, I feel quite unfulfilled right now. I can’t quite stop thinking about the characters, their journey, and the end. Spending so long with them, so many attempts to get through the book, I need to fully digest it before I can move on. I’ve invested too much. I suppose the fact that it is wracking my brain makes it a successful work of literature in its own right.
I am aware that this is an entirely ambiguous and inconclusive “review” of sorts, a poor excuse of one at that, but I am a firm believer in not giving away the details. I am not trying to discourage anybody from reading Little, Big. In fact, I’d love to discuss it with somebody (instead of just my own inner voices…). But, at the same time, that ambiguity you get by reading this blog post is probably not far off from the feeling you would get reading the book.