October 2017

I’ve never heard of John Crowley but it seems I should have.


Genre Trouble

What stands between John Crowley and a serious literary reputation?

James Hynes

For the most part, the American novelist John Crowley flies under both the commercial and critical radars, as invisible to most readers as he is to most critics. You don’t have to look very hard to see why this should be. Despite their high literary gloss and intellectual sophistication, his first three novels were originally published as genre fiction: The Deep (1975) is a gothic fantasy reminiscent of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy; Beasts (1976) is a science fiction romance about the genetic recombination of humans and animals, sort of a cross between The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Wind in the Willows; and Engine Summer (1979), Crowley’s most impenetrable work, is an after-the-apocalypse narrative. In an attempt to give it mainstream credibility, some admiring critics have called his next book, Little, Big (1981), a magic realist novel. But Little, Big, his best known work and arguably his masterpiece, is unequivocally a fantasy novel, albeit a highly idiosyncratic one. Much of the book reads like a straight literary narrative–it is as compelling a portrait of a long marriage as any I know–but it is based on the Sufi fable The Parliament of the Birds and uses the themes and archetypes of Northern European folklore. In other words, it is a long, gorgeously written, picaresque family saga, in the last fifty pages of which all the major characters, with one heartbreaking exception, turn into fairies.



I’d heard of the movie Atonement but knew nothing about McEwan.  If my life lasts long enough, I may get to one of these recommended five.

I’ve never read any Grisham. Just never appealed. He is a fan of one of my least favorite authors -James Lee Burke – which doesn’t increase my desire.