John Crowley's "Little, Big" discussion

(Old thread on this topic, linked to per the board’s conventions)

Box spoilers, please - though the book’s been out for 25 years, not enough people read it and I’d hate for an interested party to have something given away.

I just finished “Little, Big” and I think it might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever read - it just completely captivated me, and the language was delicious. By the time I was finishing it this afternoon, I simply didn’t want it to end at all.

I can tell that Crowley strives for and celebreates subtlety throughout the book - I’m sure that there were things I completely missed, and based on the interview with him I found at, every reader missed that Barbarosa became Brother North Wind in the new faery world at the end. So I’d like to have some discussion about the book, because I have some specific “what” and “why” questions that others might be able to answer.

  1. What’s the backstory on Grandfather Trout? It’s alluded to that he was a member of the clan who got turned into a trout as punishment - was he August Drinkwater, turned into a trout as punishment for messing up his deal with the bird

  2. I think I kind of completely didn’t get Sylvie’s whole subplot. Why does she suddenly disappear from Auberon’s life? Where does she go? Why does she remove all traces of her existence? What’s she up to for that entire time before she suddenly reappears to join him at the end?

  3. Speaking of that, I kind of didn’t understand the whole point of, well, the entire plot. Why was there a conflict between the faeries and Barbarossa? What was the conflict? Why did the faeries need the Drinkwater clan to move into their world to take it over and replace them? What was the relationship between the family and the faeries? Everything that happened - WHY?

I was really sad that Smokey died in the end instead of joining the family. What was his role in the whole story, then - how did he continue the tale by coming into their lives? I felt like it was really unfair that he was always kept as a sort of outsider, even in the very end as he just croaks instead of coming with them.

My brother thoroughly loves this book. He lended his copy to me a couple of years ago, since we share a lot of tastes in fiction. I’ve tried starting it twice, but it was so informationally dense that I had a hard time following it after about 80-100 pages.

That, and I found it hard to relate to Smokey - after leaving a dead-end job looking for typos in a phone book, the guy hikes a hundred miles to satisfy his fiance’s requirement before getting married. I’d have just bummed a ride.

I did enjoy the setting - very casual but otherworldly, in a mundane, Baum- or Burton-esque sort of way.

I’ll probably start it up again, when things quiet down long enough for me to read.

It took me one or two starts to get into it, but once I caught it I was just done for - constantly reading it. It feels legitimately magical.

One thing that I cannot overstress - every paragraph is important to the whole, especially when you think it’s not. I feel like I need to just re-read the entire book now that I’ve finished it.

Did you find yourself wanting to take notes while reading? :slight_smile:

I’ve been mired about 200 pages in for a couple of months now. I’m not sure what the problem is; it sounds like something I’d really like and the writing itself is lovely but so far the characters have failed to grip me. I don’t find Smokey or his wife (Alice?) that interesting. This thread is making me curious, though, so I’ll have to dig it up and start reading again.

I also gave up on this book halfway through–but people whose opinions I trust still tell me that it’s brilliant. Someday, if I can find a cheap copy, I’ll give it another chance.