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Preview: John Crowley Little and Big

John Crowley Little and Big

John Crowley Little and Big -

Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:31:29 GMT



Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:31:29 GMT

Longtime readers of this journal will remember the constant follower who called herself jenlev -- a person I always sensed was a good and gentle nature, though of course that's merely an impression.  Jenlev loved birds, especially ravens and crows, and photographed them constantly.  I used one of her pictures as a Facebook icon (and still do).  We corresponded outside social media about birds and other things,

Her emails always ended with this quote:

"If my words did glow
with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played
on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice
come through the music
Would you hold it near
as it were your own?"

- Ripple -

Jen died of cancer on October 25th.

Nobel Dylan

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 14:41:32 GMT

I remember the firs time I listened to Blonde on Blonde.  I'd been impressed by some of his songs, and lots of them I found weirdly artificial -- his pseudo-illiterate grammar no American ever used, his teenage-genius visions.  he was somehing -- no doubt -- but I couldn't predict what.  But hearing Blonde on Blonde I was sure I was listening ot one of the great works of art dcreated in my lifetime.  Then came John Wesley Harding and I was astonished all over again.  I've listened far less to the music he's done since -- though some of what I've heard almost matches those two albums.

ANd the Nobel gives me leave to reveal my long-ago-earned but so-far-secret knowledge of the import of one of his most teasingly obscure but actually quite obvious songs:  All Along the Watchtower.

"There must be some way out of here" said the joker to the thief
"There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."
"No reason to get excited", the thief he kindly spoke
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now - the hour is getting late."
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, and their foot-servants, too.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

The secret of the song is that it is a moebius strip.  The last stanza is actually the beginning:  the ladies on the watchtower observe two riders approaching.  The point of view then shifts to the two riders:  the joker and the thief.  The hour is getting late for their arrival.  But they can never arrive -- because they and their conversation have been put first, and when the last line as sung is reached, and the ladies see them in the distance, they must begin again.  "There must be some way out of this," says the Joker -- but there isn't, despite the Thief's insistence that they've been through that (they have) and they should not talk falsely:  the hour is getting late, but can never pass.  The Joker has it right.

[BTW on a couple sites I read the words "barefoot servants too" which is absurd.]

Grim slide

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:32:35 GMT

It's trivial -- so many other and far larger awful things lie around us on every side -- but it seems as though Americans are simply forgetting how to use English words.  I am very well aware that language changes, usage loosens,  shortcuts become formal speech:  but mostly what I experience is a loss both of exactness and richness.  The march of the preposition "of" to take the place of prepositions that are more appropriate and meaningful is one example (my Facebook page has noted many).  Now i see that the new bill passed allowing US citizens to sue the Saudi government for damages related to 9/11 is called "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act."  Justice against?  I had never seen this formulation and i don't understand how it can mean what it seems to want to mean.  I thought it must be a new [counterfeit] coining, but a quick search in Google Books show it used in many titles in many contexts, all recent.  


Fri, 09 Sep 2016 01:54:56 GMT

I am trying fruitlessly to remember the term for the late Greek world of the 2nd to 4th century CE. Not Ptolemaic or Alexandrian or Graeco-Roman.  ANother one.  Help?

return of the Grammar Whiz.

Sat, 03 Sep 2016 14:22:40 GMT

Rules as long before:  Add words and punctuation to the phrase at either end such that the the result will be a good English sentence.  No adding things within the phrase.

mythos so mainstream it has passed, whatever

The Chemical Wedding

Sat, 21 May 2016 01:14:06 GMT

I know it will seem a little much that having long abandoned my page here, I return in order to drum up business for a project I am concerned in.  I hope you'll forgive me because it will be evident (to those who don;t already know it from Facebook) that it IS REALLY COOL and offers real value to supporters and contributors.

Yes I am talking about a KICKSTARTER project to fund beautiful hardcover editions of my new project (ongoing for years, of course, like all of mine) -- "The Chemical Wedding, by Christian Rosenkreutz.  A Romance in Eight Days."  A little book I regard as a good candidate for First Science Fiction Novel (pub. 1616 -- 400 years ago exactly!).

There are only 14 days left in the campaign and a little (well, quite a bit) less that nalf the stated goal amount reached.  I hope you can participate.

ANd here's a prize for everyone -- a riddle I just thought of:  What number, when you add 5 to it, changes space into time?

Me back home again in Indiana

Thu, 17 Dec 2015 12:20:07 GMT

I thought I'd got away from South Bend long ago, but here I am in Mishawaka (South Bend's Twin CIty, as I 'm sure you know) serving the public thoughtfully and humbly.

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 19:02:30 GMT

Rouze up, O Young Men of the New Age! Set your foreheads against the ignorant hirelings! For we have hirelings in the Camp, the Court, and the University, who would, if they could, for ever depress mental, and prolong corporeal war.

William Blake.

Same goes for you, Young Women!  and you Greybeards too!
Set your foreheads against the ignorant hirelings!

Mon, 16 Nov 2015 02:03:21 GMT

Can anyone come up with the names (or a hint to get the names) of stories or movies where somebody tries to become smart by reading the encyclopedia?  (Not counting A.J. Jacobs.)  

Mon, 26 Oct 2015 00:26:57 GMT

There is a certain kind of modernist story that involves the sudden appearance of an inexplicable thing in an ordinary social situation -- something ususlly large and unavoidable -- that's not particualrly threatening but is inconvenient and eerie.  Gradually people come to either accept it or explain it to themselves.  Eventually it vanishes, or it never does.  The only example I can think of is Marques's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."  I know there are others.  ANy examples?

Revenge of the Metaphor

Tue, 15 Sep 2015 00:49:27 GMT

Treating metaphors as merelycolorful ways of saying things can irritate them, and sometimes they bite. In a local arts & culture magazine, an aricle about how hard it was to restore Emily Dickinson's house. It was helped by the discovery of some fragments of wall paper still adhering to surfaces. "Discovery of the wall paper fragments...lit a a fire under museum directors and the board of governors," the article says. "Not that the fire was quick to burn," he continues, giving us time to beat out the metaphorical flames consuming Emily's home.

Not feeling myself

Sun, 30 Aug 2015 21:21:02 GMT

I have every sympathey with myself here, thinking perhaps that my perplexity arose from the fact that I was actually not there at all.  Still I have to admire the grace, self-possession and dry wit with which I conducted myself.  I hope I was let off.

What I didn't do in the war

Sun, 23 Aug 2015 01:58:36 GMT

If I read this right, you can get my new Harper's  "Easy Chair" essay (about how I did not go to Vietnam) for free as an inducement to subsribe. Enjoy!

Little and big

Sun, 16 Aug 2015 22:06:16 GMT

Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker about Max Beerbohm, the paradigmatic beloved minor writer. "Beerbohm found so many ways to be modest that when he had to try and be major he couldn't." (Max assembled materials for a big Jamesian novel he got nowhere with.) "Still," Gopnik writes, there is no such thing as a minor writer, because--there is no such thing as a major writer. As Max wrote, considering Whistler, even Shakespeare occupies shockingly little of our attention -- shocking, that is, for those of us who are trying to occupy it too. (Boswell, one of Max's favorites, said the same thing about Voltaire: no had ever been more talked of, and look how little, really, Voltaire was talked of.) This means that bigness is a mirage, but it also means smallness is a kind of illusion too. Anyone who is read at all is more or less the same size."
I think that's a wonderful insight.

Childish things

Tue, 11 Aug 2015 23:34:05 GMT

From an article in the 0online NYRB by Glen H. Shepherd about photiographs of the now-nonexistent Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego: "There is something bewitchingly surreal about his photographs of the Hain initiation ceremony, in which young Selk’nam men are hazed by a pantheon of spirits that are revealed, in the final moments (forbidden to women), to be kinsmen in elaborate masks." An African people I read about have an inititation for young men in which weird sounds are heard in the bush, and the young men are dared to follow the sounds. When they have sufficiently faced their terror of the spirit world the elders appear and show them how the sound is made, with what in English is called a bullroarer. Basically the older men induct the younger into the facts of the world: we are the gods you fear. It's like a child being told there's no Santa Claus, it's Dad in the red suit, but don't tell the younger ones.

Women aren't part of these intitiation ceremonies -- theirs turn on menstruation and other secrets -- maybe they already guess these male secrets, or maybe they don't care.

Wouldn't it be interseting if our churches worked the same way -- you believe and pray and have magic helpers and angels and speak to Grandma in heaven, and then when you grow up your "confirmation" is actually to learn it's all not so; it's a means or a divine game but not a set of facts, and we ourselves are its origin. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Me not being wealthy

Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:07:11 GMT

I'm glad to know that despite being a former cover star (whatever that is) I have not slaved uselessly as a wealth manager only to find it is not the way to riches


Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:16:53 GMT

The old, old question of Who are you? to one's own self grown strangely evasive
in the gloaming, and to God's world around to which one has never been really

Reading "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" for reasons that will be clear when my Harper's essay-after-next (November) appears.  It's the best example I know -- there are many -- of the novel that contains summaries or selections of novels written by a character, to varied effect.  (Nabokov's mostly to discharge ideas that sound wonderful but really couldn't be written.)

Rough magic

Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:56:53 GMT

Watched Julie Taymor's Tempest last night. It was wonderful throughout, though (as is common now) a bit darker-hued than you'd expect. I was reminded of Max Reinhardt's 1930s film of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in the casting, assembled as in a dream -- Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, Chis Cooper (!), Alan Cumming, Tom Conti -- all doing classic strong Shakespeare verse-speaking. ANd of course Helen Mirren as Prospero -- sorry, Prospera -- giving one of the most moving performances in a Shakespeare film I've ever seen. Somehow her exchanges with Miranda were more touching and intimate as mother-daughter than as father-daughter, and her concern for both her lost power and her child were enriched. Her great last speech ("This rough magic I here abjure") had me in tears, maybe because I feel myself to be an old (would-be) mage in the same condition.

Rough magic

Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:56:00 GMT

Watched Julie Taymor's Tempest last night. It was wonderful throughout, though (as is common now) a bit darker-hued than you'd expect. I was reminded of Max Rheihardt's 1930s film of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in the casting, assembled as in a dream -- Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, Chis Cooper (!), Alan Cumming, Tom Conti -- all doing classic strong Shakespeare verse-speaking. ANd of course Helen Mirren as Prospero -- sorry, Prospera -- giving one of the most moving performances in a Shakespeare film I've ever seen. Somehow her exchanges with Miranda were more touching and intimate as mother-daughter than as father-daughter, and her concern for both her lost power and her child were enriched. Her great last speech ("This rough magic I here abjure") had me in tears.


Tue, 21 Jul 2015 11:54:37 GMT

I enjoy the Times Litereary Supplement for a lot of reasons.  It reviews books that wouldn't be noticed in any general weekly.  It reviews books in languages other than English and quotes from them in the original, which even if I can't read is pleasant to encounter.  And it furnishes me every week with examples of how different British and American English are, both in older  locutions and in new-fangled ones -- despite the fear in my youth that the two would become an indistinguishable slew they have actually drifted farther apart in recent decades (I think).  Older locution of the week, in a review of a Antonia Fraser's autobiography:  her mother's brother "contracts polio:  from his propinquity to the Oxford poor in Cowley or the bran-tub of the Countess of Jersey's lucky-dip?"  


Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:09:48 GMT

Hello all after long absence.  I'm posting my Readercon schedule here for you all to keep in your wallets:Thursday July 099:00 PM    ENL    How to Write for a Living When You Can't Live Off Your Fiction.. Leah Bobet, John Crowley, Michael Dirda, Barbara Krasnoff (leader).You've just been laid off from your staff job, you can't live on the royalties from your fiction writing, and your significant other has taken a cut in pay. How do you pay the rent? Well, you can find freelance work writing articles, white papers, reviews, blogs, and other non-SFnal stuff. Despite today's lean journalistic market, it's still possible to make a living writing, editing, and/or publishing. Let's talk about where and how you can sell yourself as a professional writer, whether blogging can be done for a living, and how else you can use your talent to keep the wolf from the door. Bring whatever ideas, sources, and contacts you have.Friday July 106:00 PM    F    From the French Revolution to Future History: Science Fiction and Historical Thinking. Christopher Cevasco, Phenderson Clark, Jonathan Crowe, John Crowley, Victoria Janssen (leader). Arts journalist Jeet Heer wrote, "It's no accident H.G. Wells wrote both [The] Time Machine and The Outline of History (one of the most popular history books ever), [and] it's no accident that science fiction writers are also often historical novelists: Kim Stanley Robinson, Nicola Griffith, etc." For Heer, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and horror can all be grouped under the meta-genre of fantastika, and all emerged from the "epistemological rupture" of the French Revolution, which "forced us to think of history in new way, with new emphasis on ruptures and uncontrollable social forces." Is Heer right to see these commonalities? Is it useful to think of historical fiction in fantastika terms? And how do speculative genres borrow from historical ones?Saturday July 112:00 PM    G    Imagining the Author. John Crowley, Natalie Luhrs, Kate Maruyama, Kathryn Morrow (leader), Diane Weinstein. Is it possible to read a piece of fiction without keeping in mind that the author has a gender, an age, a profession, an ethnic identification, a height, a weight, or a race? And if it is possible to truly do away with assumptions, without inserting one's own characteristics as a supposed neutral state, is it a good idea? How does assuming that the author is like or unlike the reader influence the reader's experience of a piece, or a critic's analysis of it? Is imagining the author a necessary starting point for any deep read or critique, or is this all ultimately a distraction from addressing the work itself?3:00 PM    F    Shifting the Realism Conversation. Leah Bobet, Michael Cisco, John Crowley, John Langan, Yves Meynard. In a 2014 interview, James Patterson, not generally thought of as a fabulist, declared, "I don't do realism. Sometimes people will mention that something I've written doesn't seem realistic and I always picture them looking at a Chagall and thinking the same thing." Meanwhile, the SF/F world is engaged in ongoing discussions about the value and meaning of realism in epic fantasy, particularly the variety that uses claims of realism to justify portrayals of violence, bigotry, and misery in cod-medieval settings. What shifts in these discussions if we[...]

Pot-Kettle entanglement

Fri, 22 May 2015 13:11:27 GMT

Karl rove's American Crossroads super-PAC has taken on the job of diminishing Hillary CLinton in the public mind.  A quote from the NY Times about the Rove process:

"In recent weeks, Crossroads has begun carving a niche for itself in attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner. The group will use polling data and opposition research to paint her as “a typical politician who would say or do anything to get elected,” said Steven Law, president of Crossroads."

Mon, 18 May 2015 21:24:59 GMT

Slate magazine informs me (what you all knew) that Twin Peaks where the bikers shot one another up is a "breast-themed" restaurant. Worst breast-themed restaurant name since Hooters, which I have never been quite able to say aloud, much less visit. ANd here I thought the Waco one had something to do with David Lynch. But no -- just Grand Tetons.

I haven't got around to re-establishing my paid account after it was cancelled because of an out-of-date credit card I forgot to reset.  It has given me a moment to wonder if I want to.

my busy week

Sat, 16 May 2015 12:04:33 GMT

Somehow I managed to solve some repellent problems in Canada while thinking big thoughts at the UN.

"The work will also add to a raging discussion in the policy world about how to best reduce poverty. This type of discrete intervention can’t deter many of the major contributors to poverty, such as corruption or government instability, according to John Crowley, a chief within the social and human sciences sector at UNESCO."  [thanks to pgdf]

In the land of dreamy dreams

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 15:46:48 GMT

 Correspondents who remember or who paricipated in the brave though failed effort here to build a taxonomy of dreams -- back in 2009 -- may be interested to know that the effort forms a part of my new essay in Harper's magazine.  It was great fun setting it forth, tough of course it had to be fairlly restricted.

I'm sorry to say that Harper's has a pretty high paywall -- but of course there's always the library.