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“The worst is not when we can still say This is the worst”

The worst review that my novel Little, Big has ever received (if you know of worse ones let me know). It’s the worst in part because it’s so long and onviously impassioned; the reader’s pain is apparent. The strangest thing about it is that it seems the reader did read the whole thing. If I felt as he or she felt about a book, I’d have closed it after a handful of pages and consigned it to the recycle center. It’s partly because it was seemingly read through (of course I can’t know) that I am touched by it, but also because the reviewer was shocked the book had been written by the author of “The Deep,” a book he or she apparently much enjoyed. I found it among the listener comments to the audio version. I was reading The Chemical Wedding for an audio book and visited the site to see how my other audiobooks (Aegypt, Little, Big) were doing, and got this.

Nothing happens in this novel. Literally, nothing.

I’ve been pondering how to begin this review from about halfway through the novel. I’ll preface this by saying that I am a lover of literature, a collector of books and I appreciate the genre immensely. I don’t usually write reviews because literature, like film, is a highly personal experience and generally not to be judged. “Little, Big” by John Crowley had been constantly appearing as a recommended book for me in every single digital app and application that has any knowledge of my tastes and preferences for several years. 66% of reviewers have given this novel 5 Stars. The book has been compared to “The Book of Lost Things” and “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.”

All of that said, it is completely beyond my comprehension how anyone who has raved about this book could possibly have gotten past the second chapter. To compare it to any of those wonderful novels is an insult to those authors.

There is a big difference between someone who is a beautiful wordsmith, and someone who can tell a beautiful story. “Little, Big” is filled with beautiful prose and words that are wonderfully chained together in long, magical paragraphs that describe absolutely nothing and fail to convey any consistency of storytelling. Either Mr. Crowley wrote the entire novel in a drug-induced haze, or he pulled out every half-written story fragment and college essay and decided to try to mash it all together to see if he could get away with seeming intellectual. Quite honestly, there were moments that I was certain that this was a first novel from someone who literally had pulled every thought they ever had out and tried to weave it altogether while conveying random philosophical thoughts on life.

My problem as a reader is that I don’t give up on books. Ever. I feel as though I am somehow doing the world some kind of hidden injustice if I don’t finish a book. This book was sheer torture. In fact, I’ve heard tell that it’s been used at Guantanamo Bay as an inhumane method of enhanced interrogation. About halfway through the novel I skipped to the back just to see how much longer this grueling Hell would last. When I discovered the biography and found that the novel was written by the same person who wrote “The Deep” I just about fell out of my chair. It has to be some kind of cruel joke.

The characters in “Little, Big” are uninteresting and not particularly likable. In fact the self-description of the person that you are lead to believe is a central character in the story is such that he is invisible to anyone around him until he meets the woman he falls in love with. Unfortunately for him, and for Mr. Crowley, he remains uninteresting and all but invisible in the book. Characters are introduced and forgotten. Story lines are begun and go nowhere. There are half-hearted feeble attempts to try to weave some of them back in at some other place in the book because it seems that Mr. Crowley suddenly remembered that he had mentioned it somewhere once before.

Mr. Crowley somehow even manages to make scenes of incest, drug use and infidelity seem completely uninteresting, forgettable and mind numbing.

I write this review solely in the hope that someone reads it and I spare them the nightmare that I have endured… that they take those hours that would otherwise have been better spent watching paint dry, and do something productive with their life… like watching paint dry.

Comment

  • Steven M. Smith
    May 2, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    That’s a shame. I love Little, Big. At the end there, the person says, “I write this review solely in the hope that someone reads it and” and I thought the finish to that might be “explains to me why Little, Big is actually an excellent work.”.