Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Book for the Twee Tea Sucker Set

I’m 138 pages into John Crowley’s “Little, Big” and I’m still waiting for the plot to arrive.

Oh, lots of twee things have happened. This is a book written for the Twee Tea Sucker set. Characters in this book take tea all the time. They wander the woods nekkid. They drink the blood of fish and talk to kingfishers. They schlump around writing twee tales and live in worlds of their own in a twee sprawling country mansion with twee rooms and twee occupants (one of whom appears to be a pedophile) and have twee friends over to suck down more tea. They also take potty breaks to relieve themselves of all the twee tea they’ve sucked down. But they don’t DO ANYTHING. Well, except for drink all that tea. Bundle up the pedo photos they took of their siblings nekkid in the woods. Use Ford automobiles to cut firewood. That kind of thing. Absolutely riveting stuff.

Crowley, it appears, is a riveter – one of those writers who has to put in and describe each and every rivet in the building behind their characters lest something twee go unnoticed – and it’s driving me nuts.

It’s also an education, because in some ways I tend to be a riveter in my writing as well. Reading Crowley’s book is teaching me that too many details spoil the soup.

Problem is, I can’t tell what kind of soup Crowley is cooking. A few reviewers and critics have compared Little, Big to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which I think is a smear on Alice. I can see the phantasmagorical in both books to be sure, but Alice’s world is at least a tidy mass of oddity, not the sprawling mess of boring characters and twee for the sake of twee that is Little, Big.

The big picture I get: We live in a world where most of us are disconnected from it, disconnected from Nature. Those who dwell at Edgewood work to keep those bonds alive, though it’s hard to see why as most of the characters DON’T EVER LEAVE THE HOUSE and hint that the house is the portal to this parallel world of fairies.

They must be Cottingley Fairies. That’s got to be it. Because while they look real and fooled the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, they’re not real. And they sure could have been.

Maybe that’s the purpose of the book: To show us what it’s like now that we’re disconnected from the Earth, disconnected from the phantasmagorical.

Well, folks, I’m not. Maybe that’s why this book is so deadly dull. Twee, but dull.

And I love twee. The book I’m writing right now drips with twee. Except it’s not a twee book. So the twee – most of it – has to go. That’s a lesson Crowley should have learned. But it appears this book came later in his career, when built-in audiences mean authors have more power than editors.
I’ll continue reading for the educational aspect – this book is an excellent example of what not to do as a writer.

UPDATE: On page 140, I decided I was done with John Crowley. Forever.


naca A said...

thank you... finally I can put this aside, unread, guilt-free

Mister Fweem said...

I tried to like it. I really did. So many people told me this book was good. I just couldn't do it.