Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Even Bigger than Aegypt?

Should I include fiction in this blog? I've been hesitating, but finally decided that I don't want to be too strict here about distinguished between academic publications and fictional prose. It has been some time since my last posting, not because I stopped reading and not even because I went on vacation (I wish...), but because practically all my attention had to go to two Ph.D. theses that are in their very final stages, plus a whole series of MA theses and papers (on which: see previous posting). In between, when the weather allowed it, I've been playing with my cats or relaxing on my roof terrace while reading an absolute enchanting novel by the American writer John Crowley. I think it's sufficiently close to my professional work to be mentioned here, for one of Crowley's special attractions, for me at least, is his considerable expertise in my own field of research.
Just a few years ago I read the four volumes of his Aegypt cycle, which intrigued me in particular because of Crowley's profound musings about history (which seems to be a numen for him, as it is for me), but also because of the way in which figures such as John Dee or Giordano Bruno appear in his work. I was sufficiently captured to read all four novels in a row, and don't regret it, but they did not prepare me for the powerful impression that his earlier novel Little, Big is now making on me. Interestingly, it somehow didn't attract me very much when I first leafed through it. But once I started reading it in earnest, I found myself overwhelmed by some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read, in any language. Perhaps it's just me, but reading this novel feels like an intoxicating, synaesthetic drift through a never-ending symphony of pure sensual delight. I find myself re-reading passages and even entire chapters for no other reason than to re-experience the pure joy that this language gives me. But what about the content? Well, this is one of those books where the less one says about it before reading, the better. Even a summary could end up giving a totally wrong impression. Yes, it is a faery tale in the most literal sense, full of magic and mystery - but much more importantly, it is very great literature. It makes you see the world in a different way, makes you ask questions you'd never considered before, makes you fall in love with persons you'll never meet (particularly, in my case - halfway through the book now - with a woman carrying a name as luxuriously flamboyant as Daily Alice Drinkwater), and of course, it makes you feel the book should never end - or should at least have an endless number of sequels.