JOHN CROWLEY

all splendid art by Michael Parkes]

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.

Now — for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart —
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.

Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind's twelve quarters
I take my endless way.
(A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad)


JOHN CROWLEY

(born December 1, 1942 in Presque Isle, Maine USA)

THE ONTOLOGICAL ROMANCES OF JOHN CROWLEY

Contains extensive information on the author, with biography & bibliograhy, interviews, etc.

Gargoyles, by M Parkes
John Crowley, Little and Big
His blog - with interviews, reviews, links, art, etc.
    AWARDS AWARDED:
  • 1982: Little, Big received the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

  • 1990: Great Work of Time received the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

  • 1992: American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

  • 1997: Gone received the Locus Award for Best Short Story.

  • 2003: The Translator received the Italian Premio Flaiano.

  • 2006: World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

Swan Lake, by M Parkes

John Crowley on Fantastic Fiction
A good bibliography

John Crowley at HarperCollins

A publisher's bookmark

The Creation, by M Parkes
STRAIGHT AHEAD PICTURES
"Our mission is to create innovative media projects and educational forums that use archival materials and oral history to foster community dialogue about contemporary social issues."
(Co-founded by John Crowley)

The Source, by M Parkes
John Crowley at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Complete bibliography with active links & references

Tuesday's Child, by M Parkes
THE 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF
LITTLE, BIG or
THE FAIRIES' PARLIAMENT

by John Crowley

Featuring the extraordinary art of
Peter Milton
With a 10,000-word original essay by
Harold Bloom.
One of the great novels of our time,
edited, designed, and produced
in accordance with the author's dream.

(Contains autograph letter from author)

Athena, by M Parkes
An excerpt from John Crowley's Daemonomania

An excerpt from his The Translator


Dawn, by M Parkes
A PICTORIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

Created by John W. Anderson:


"The John Crowley Pictorial Bibliography represents my attempt to catalog the variant editions/printings of the published works of John Crowley, in both the United States and Great Britain. A variant is any reprint of a book (hard cover or paperback) that represents a change of any sort from the previous printing to the covers of that book. The books are listed chronologically. I've included all data I thought relevant, including the publisher, year and month of publication, edition/printing and date of printing, format (hardcover or paper), price, ISBN #, and cover art illustrator."



Desert Dream, by M Parkes


THE JOHN CROWLEY PAPERS 1962-2000

at the Harry Ransom Research Center,
University of Texas (Austin)


Scope and Contents: The John Crowley papers, ca. 1962-2000, document the creation and realization of his novels, short stories, and scripts for film and television. The collection has been arranged as a single series, Works, which is subdivided into four subseries: Diaries, Fiction, Film and Television, and Commercial Work. The Diaries subseries contains 12 journals written between 1964 and 1995, arranged chronologically. The Fiction subseries contains Crowley's manuscripts, working drafts and publication matter for seven novels and two short story collections. The Film and Television subseries contains thirty scripts including six feature filmscripts, five unrealized documentaries, and two television proposals. Eight of the documentary scripts were written in collaboration with his wife, Laurie Block. The Commerical project subseries includes advertising copy, narration for a fireworks display, and short articles from a variety of publications.

With the exception of The Deep, all novels to 2000 are represented in this collection. An earlier state of his novel Engine Summer, written 1967-8, was then titled Learning to Live With It. Ember Days is an early version of part 1 of his novel Love & Sleep, and was originally intended by his publisher to be issued as a free-standing work.

The four stories collected in Novelty (1989), "Great Work of Time," "In Blue," "The Nightingale Sings at Night," and "Novelty" are present, as are five of the seven short stories collected in Antiquities (1993): "The Green Child," "Missolonghi 1824" (published as "Satyros" in Omni magazine, 1990), "Snow," "Exogamy," and "Her Bounty to the Dead" (published as "Where Spirits Gat Them Home" in a collection called Shadows, 1978). There are two draft versions (1962 & 1967) of another story, "Holy Saturday," which was also published in Shadows.


Desert Lotus, by M Parkes
by Matthew Cheney, on SF Site

IN OTHER WORDS

by
John Crowley


(Subterranean Press, 206 pages)


If John Crowley wrote the text on the label of a soup can, it would be worth reading. In Other Words is much more than a label on a can: it is a collection of essays and reviews, a glimpse of a master's workshop, a box of wonders and a museum of joys.

This is not to say that Crowley's non-fiction will displace his fiction in readers' affections. His fiction is singular; his non-fiction is thoughtful, erudite, and skilled, and it does what most other things of its type do -- it conveys information, ideas, and opinions -- but it lacks the hard-to-pin-down unique qualities brought to it by a genius of the form such as Guy Davenport. No matter. Being a genius of one sort of writing should be enough for anybody, and Crowley's genius with fiction is as close to incontrovertible as any such thing can be. When it comes to essays, I'm more than grateful for the thoughtful, erudite, and skillful.

There is much to discover with In Other Words, for though it is a relatively short book, it is a rich one. Anybody who has read his fiction knows that Crowley is interested in magic and history, so the essays about such topics here will not be surprising (though they are so full of ideas and information that they are never less than enlightening), but the book gives us the opportunity to learn about some of Crowley's other interests, too. For instance, the last section of the book is titled "Comix" and discusses the comic strips and graphic novels and not-easily-categorized work of such people as Walt Kelley, Edward Gorey, Ben Katchor, and George Herriman. His writing here is passionate and insightful, lively and unpretentious -- it is the writing of an intelligent connoisseur, a particularly aware fan.

Some of Crowley's most provocative ideas are about the nature of fandom. He is an eclectic writer who has been pidgeonholed as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and this relationship has been both edifying and unsettling for him. (More than once he compares SF conventions to AA meetings or revivals.) The first essay in the book ("Reading and Writing in the Former End of the World") is mostly about his novel The Translator, but it is also about growing up during the Cold War, ideas of armageddon, and his first books. Becoming a science fiction writer, he says,

seemed like a good career move at the time. Very many strange and wonderful books were being published as science fiction just then, and it was a great way to get a first novel published and read, if your mind or talent ran at all to the odd or offbeat. Metafiction, magic realism, philosophical romance, dream stories -- they were all being published then as SF. It's far less the case now.

In a fine series of pieces about Robert Louis Stevenson, Crowley considers the writer of popular fiction's relationship with his audience, quoting a letter from Stevenson:

What the public likes is a work (of any kind) a little loosely executed; so long as it is a little wordy, a little slack, a little dim and knotless, the dear reading public likes it; it should (if possible) be a little dull into the bargain. I know that good work sometimes hits; but, with my hand upon my heart, I think it is by accident...

Yet Stevenson, Crowley shows, was not so different in his desires from his audience, and Crowley uses the discussion not to create a simple condemnation of popularity or philistinism, but to wrestle with the contradictions and problems encountered by any writer who tries both to write well and to reach a large readership:

Stevenson was perceiving that if his works were popular with the consumers of adventure and romance novels, then perhaps his conception of the sort of book he thought he was writing was mistaken. There is no way for Stevenson to know for sure, but the enthusiasm of large numbers suggested that his work might in fact be -- might necessarily be -- more like the slack and knotless work he despised than he had hoped.

And yet the attraction of the form was not different for Stevenson than for his audience -- both sought a form of entertainment, but what that form offered, and how it entertained, may have been fundamentally different for the writer and his readership. "I believe," Crowley says, "that the kinds of stories Stevenson genuinely and wholeheartedly wanted to write were the kinds of stories that many readers were eager to read, but that he wanted to write them for reasons different from the reasons the public -- his fans -- wanted to have them."

Crowley brings this idea to his own readership in an essay about some of Thomas M. Disch's most recent novels (which attempt to use and subvert the conventions of particular genres):

Ambition in genre writing is often a perilous thing. The undiscriminating taste of genre readers -- actually a highly discriminating taste, but a taste which discriminates only its kind of book from all others, aesthetic quality aside -- and the invisibility of genre writing to all other readers, are only aspects of the problem. There is centrally the question of whether the forms and constraints of any of the modern genres -- horror, say, or sf, or "romance," or sword-and-sorcery, or the Western -- are worth struggling with, worth the effort of transforming. What readership will witness your labors, or be able to understand what you have done?

It is for the creation of such a readership that we need essays by ambitious writers about what they think they are up to, just as we need ambitious critics to say what they think the writer has done. Particularly within a genre community, where discrimination is so often of the sort that discourages the forms of ambition Crowley values, we need writers to talk about their writing and the writing of other people, to serve as critics and challengers and psychopomps through the spirit-world of artistic possibility.


Two of the most fascinating essays in the book give us a glimpse into some of the concerns that fuel Crowley's art. "A Modern Instance: Magic, Imagination, and Power" discusses the idea of magic throughout the ages, particularly in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the world of Giordano Bruno as seen by Crowley's friend Ioan Culianu. The essay is many things at once: a learned tour through some elements of occultism, a meditation on art and propaganda, a story of an intellectual friendship. It brings to light some of the inspirations and inclinations of Crowley's fiction, but more than that, and more importantly, it shows us how process of thinking, the books and philosophies that capture his attention, the stuff of dreams and history that his ambitions reconfigure in stories.

Similarly, "The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart" is not just a look at some old utopias -- though it is that -- but is a consideration of the entire idea of utopia and dystopia, an analysis not just of the writings of utopians, but of their desires, intentions, and inspirations, and from that it becomes even more: a study of fiction and the need to tell stories of certain types:

More than social criticism, more than proposals for change or philosophies of human happiness, the great utopian projects are enormous and highly original fictions, usually unconstrained by plots or "character development" or the twists and turns of the standard fiction of the age in which they are written. The great utopian projectors of the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries are engaged in something which writers of literary fiction have only dared to do in the modernist twentieth century: refashioning the world into fiction, replacing it with imagined worlds of their own, and peopling them with adams and eves who could exist nowhere else. I think the impulse to create utopias is not different from the impulse to create new worlds within fiction; both are aspects of a human need that is not often recognized, but which in my opinion is basic to our natures, like the need for order and for love: I mean the need for possibility. In the labyrinth of the world there is constant change -- meaningless flux, one damned thing after another; it's in the paradise of the heart that possibilities are realized.

It is this search for possibilities that inspires the ambitious writer, and it is the unquenchable thirst for possibilities that brings readers back again and again to just such writers.

Much of the rest of In Other Words is filled by short reviews written for newspapers, the sort of 800-word (or shorter) review that is little more than a consumer guide, with a lot of plot summary and a bit of summary judgment. Crowley makes the form work for him as well as he can, and it is fun to watch an accomplished writer reading around through various books, both fiction and non-fiction, most of which he appreciates to some extent or another (having noted that he seldom reads very far in books that don't interest him). Few of the short reviews fail to offer some insight even to a reader who is unlikely to seek out the book under discussion, and many of the reviews do, indeed, incite curiosity about their subject.

The ultimate effect, for me at least, of In Other Words was to make me yearn to send books to John Crowley so that I could find out what he thought of them -- I wanted to know his thoughts on so much more. This greed is the sign of a great book of criticism, a book that provokes the reader to wonder just how the critic would perceive this, that, or another thing; a book by a critic who is intelligent enough to be both insightful and unpredictable.


Deva, by M Parkes

MORE REVIEWS:

The first book of Ægypt: The Solitudes, by John Crowley

Reviewed by Abigail Nussbaum (2 July 2007)


The second book of Ægypt: Love & Sleep

Reviewed by Graham Sleight (3 July 2007)


The third book of Ægypt: Dæmonomania

Reviewed by Paul Kincaid (4 July 2007)


Genre Trouble: What stands between John Crowley and a serious literary reputation?

by James Hynes

(Originally published in the December 2000/January 2001 issue of Boston Review)

Review of BEASTS
(V Gollancz SF Collector's Editions, 184pp)
First published 1976, this ed. 2000
Review by Phil Raines


A word-magus gets his due

by Ed Park (7 October 2007, L.A. Times)


Endless Things
(Small Beer Press, 2007)
Review by Kestrell Rath


Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land
(William Morrow hardcover, 465pp)
Review by Aaron Hughes (July 2005)


Venus Maria, by M Parkes

THE SECRET HISTORY OF JOHN CROWLEY
Interview by Gavin J. Grant


(covers some of his latest books)

Going Nowhere, by M Parkes
John Crowley climbs inside Lord Byron's head as he travels through The Evening Land
Interview by Nick Gevers, on SciFi.com


(May 2005)

Indian Summer, by M Parkes
JOHN CROWLEY
by James Morrison (September 2005)


John Crowley is one of those writers whose great skill and wonderful books seem destined to be overlooked because they don’t stick to their pigeonhole. He’s a writer of science fiction, of fantasy, of literary fiction, of historical fiction… And because of this, he’s a writer whose books keep slipping out of print, or are marketed cluelessly and then remaindered, or come out as small chapbooks from obscure presses. Great reviews and a determined group of loyal fans don’t seem to generate the fame a writer of his calibre deserves.

Little, Big is the title of Crowley’s best-known novel. It’s a marvellous fantasy, loved by almost all who’ve tackled it, but because of its significant size it’ll go henceforth unreviewed in this column. Instead we’ll take a look at three of Crowley’s other books, all of them on the little side: a group of undeservedly neglected treasures.

It’s perhaps a demonstration of his relative obscurity that, at the moment, none of these books is easily available on its own (except for Beasts in the UK). Instead, they each form part of an anthology or omnibus -- one of Crowley’s early novels, one of his shorter fiction, and one a luridly covered small-press magazine. The advantage of this, of course, is that in each case you get much more great fiction for your money (the relative expense of the average novella, in terms of pages per dollar, being one of the few drawbacks of this art form).

BEASTS (1976): Perhaps as close to genuine hard science-fiction as Crowley has come. This absorbing story is set in a near-future world of environmental decay and political chaos: at first sight the kind of off-the-peg background used in many an undistinguished SF novel. But Beasts describes the adventures and natures of several genetically engineered animals, given a variety of human characteristics and forced to make sense of their divided, unsettled natures. The relationship between Painter the ‘leo’ and Reynard, the kingmaker behind the scenes, is a rich and believable one, and crucial to the unfolding complexity of that initially unexceptional background. Crowley also manages the extraordinarily difficult feat of writing believable animal characters, both genetically modified and 'normal.' These are not humans in furry suits, refugees from Watership Down or Duncton Wood, nor are they sentimentalised or patronised. Taken on their own terms, their rich lives made visible through human words, these beasts are quite unforgettable. A moving, beautiful book, it’s one of the three Crowley novellas collected in Otherwise.

GREAT WORK OF TIME (1989): That time travel stories keep being written is no great surprise. The potential for playing with history, for satire, for plain old wish fulfilment, is as strong as ever. Most are quite conservative, in that they suggest that any alteration of our bitter, violent history would in fact make the world an even worse place. But in a genre more than a century old, it is amazing to find a story like this one, that takes the standard tropes of the time travel story and makes them into both a thing of beauty and a ripping yarn. Great Work of Time is only 100 pages (included as part of Crowley’s Novelties & Souvenirs collection), but looking back it’s hard to work out how so much wonderful stuff fit so neatly into so little space. Idealism and innocence aging into wisdom and disillusionment; the horrific crimes abetted by an imperialism intended only to make the world better; the intrigue of alternative histories; mystery and even fantasy with an apparently rational background; betrayal and murder; a pastiche of Victorian adventure fiction. One character, talking of a world whose history has been comprehensively messed about with, talks of it as being like "four or five different novels, novels of different kinds by different and differently limited writers… inside a gigantic Russian thing a stark and violent policier, and inside that something Dickensian, full of plot, humors and eccentricity." That gives something of the magic of Great Work of Time. It could have been a mess, but instead it’s quite literally marvellous.

THE GIRLHOOD OF SHAKESPEARE'S HEROINES (2002): The biannual Conjunctions magazine devoted its 39th issue to what it termed "The New Fabulists" (also known as "slipstream fiction" or, more pretentiously, "The New Weird"). This is a collection of writers comfortable and assured with the history and conventions of fantasy, and able to push it in surprising and entertaining new directions. Crowley was a natural inclusion, and his story is the best of a very good bunch, but ironically enough it’s one of the least fantastical things he’s done. It’s a delicate tale of young love and of growing up, of discovering the joy of acting, of the everyday tragedies that mar every life, and of the real power of just the right book at just the right time. The wealthy can buy this as a separate (hideously expensive) book, but reading the rest of Conjunctions 39 is highly recommended.


Summer - Winter, by M Parkes
by Richard Gehr
(11 July 1994)

~Three Novels (Bantam ppb)
~Little, Big (Bantam ppb)
~Ægypt (Bantam ppb)
~Novelty (Doubleday)
~Antiquities: Seven Stories (Incunabula).
~Love and Sleep (Bantam)


Until last year, John Crowley and Cormac McCarthy seemed virtual equals in terms of great dazzling craft, critical respect, and popular obscurity--yet only McCarthy has broken onto the best-seller list. Hi-fat Celestine prophesies aside, I suspect McCarthy's ferocious violence and miseries will always be more familiar to us participants in American mythology than Crowley's Gnostic play in the ghettoized fields of the fantastic. Moreover, where McCarthy eventually broke out of the literary shadows by litening (cq) up stylistically, Crowley remains immersed in a complex and ambitious tetralogy, Ægypt , whose first volume appeared under that title in 1987 while the second, Love & Sleep, descended onto shelves last month.

Crowley's earliest books--The Deep, Beasts, and Engine Summer (collected as Three Novels)--visit imaginary planets and the far future. In them he comes across as an ambitious author who'd merely overheard rumors about science fiction, then decided to put theory into practice. "That's exactly what it is," affirmed Crowley when I tried this theory out on him recently over Thai food in New Haven. "I'm not deeply inside the genre." His short stories and novella "Great Work of Time" (collected in Novelty and Antiquities ) suggest an overly delicate intellect. These stories, clever and precious, read like gauzy pencil sketches for his immensely more densely painted large canvases.

Crowley's early novels sold modestly, but the 1981 release of his Sufi/fairy-tale masterpiece Little, Big earned him fans as diverse as Harold Bloom, Peter Straub, and Terence McKenna, more general acclaim, and steady sales. Like his later books, Crowley's first major work describes a dissatisfaction for the world as it is and a quest not necessarily for something better, but for something utterly different. A complex, sprawling family history influenced stylistically by Dickens and philosophically by Attar's Sufi fable, "Parliament of the Birds," Little, Big uses fairies as humorous and complicated switchmen guiding the narrative among intersecting universes and a house of infinite rooms. Here, Crowley says, the problem he set himself was, "Can I make Arthur Rackham fairies convincingly wonderful, strange, and fully featured enough so they don't seem trivial?" The novel manifests a weblike connection to its literary legacy as well as to Rackham's grotesque illustrations, reworking a rich vein of Western esoterica and fairy lore to speculate metaphysically on connections with our spiritual legacy that have been lost to the past. (It is also, not coincidentally, one of the more oozingly psychedelic novels you could ever experience.)

"One of the things I tend to write about is the solving of mysteries, or of mysterious things coming to be and people trying to understand them." The characters in Little, Big participate in a private sort of Gnostic religion passed on from generation to generation. Crowley, however, claims the novel's fantasy foil was more an artistic choice than a reflection of his own fantasias. "The idea of an Arthur Rackham fairy world as the novel's reality," he confesses, "was almost a completely objective choice."

Although Little, Big has remained in print since publication, Crowley has never paid the rent simply on his fiction. After a morning's literary endeavor, Crowley hunkers down to a more lucrative chore, his "bizarre niche" writing narration mainly for TV sports documentaries. And while we agreed to meet in New Haven as a compromise rendezvous between his home in the Barringtons and mine in Manhattan, Crowley has also recently taught courses on utopian literature and fiction writing at Yale.

Midpoints, intersections, and doublings arise often in Crowley's books and conversation. The author, in person by turns owlish and garrulous, is halfway into Ægypt, a novel about parallel eras in history. He is the father of twin girls born on Valentine's Day, the same day he received copies of his quartet's first volume. As a child he says his life was organized in an important sense around a secret world hidden behind a polite surface. "My father," Crowley recalls, "kept up this Irish jive to mask any kind of engagement with me or with feelings in general--which I can still do also. From my mother, a WASP of the deepest die, I got this sense of a double life, that I am one thing on the outside and another on the inside, and I can communicate that fact to others."

In Ægypt Crowley tells two stories at once. The older, which may or may not be recounted by a popular historian named Fellowes Kraft, concerns the magical doings of Italian heretic Giordano Bruno and English mystic John Dee between the Wars of Religion, which ended in the 1590s, and the beginning of the Thirty Years War in 1620. Meanwhile, in the 1970s, academic dropout and '60s casualty Pierce Moffett has moved to a small town in the fictitious town of Blackbury Jambs in the Faraway Hills of upstate New York, where he researches a book much like the one we are reading and becomes involved with a pair of women named Rose.

Crowley proposes the fictive thesis (reminiscent of Kuntz's paradigmatic shifts and Foucault's epistemological breaks) that gateways exist in time such that the world on one side of the gateway is utterly yet perhaps imperceptibly different than that found on the other side:

He told her Kraft's story, the core of it, how twice in the last two thousand years a slip or seam, a rumple in the ground of being, had allowed observers around the world to perceive that the net of space and time is not quite stable, but like the shifting plates and molten core of Mother Earth, can move beneath the feet of diurnality; can move, was moving, had moved before and would again. (L&S, 164-5)

Hidden in this transformation is a secret history of the world Moffett hopes to uncover for what his agent hopes will be a New Age bestseller. Love & Sleep begins in Kentucky's Cumberland mountains, where Crowley spent a few early years inventing secret societies of his own. There Moffett acquires an inkling of the magic, a "secret gospel . . . [[a]]bout the end of the world" (500) that will follow him into the Faraways, where, by the end of the book, all hell literally threatens to break loose, complete with werewolves, witches, an angelic battle, and a double alchemical wedding.

"One of the jobs I set myself," Crowley explains, "is to make it convincing that realistic and ordinary people are inhabiting fictional worlds where the miraculous and the unreal and the bizarre and the awful don't happen--then project them into a world where such things can happen. The basic idea of the book, beside the idea of time passing through a gateway, is the Gnostic mythology that we are really the gods, that human beings are final, and that the gods who come between us and the unknown, fore-existing God are really lesser than us and not our masters, although we have let them become our masters. The gods create the world by language, by imposing rules upon us; we discreate the world by language in the same way and create our own in its stead."

Through the angelic communications transcribed by John Dee, and the Brunist art of memory (Francis Yates's works on the Hermetic tradition are seminal here), Crowley attempts to tap into a divine "world of innumerable and endless processes producing an infinite number of things" (L&S, 416). The trick is to link the processes of Renaissance magic with the fairly quotidian lives of his Blackbury Jambs gang. These include an astrologer, a hardcore Gnostic, and devotees of the pseudoscience of Climacterics, which straddles biorhythms and Scientology to explain how personal growth interpenetrates with history and the feeling that the world grows older as we do.

With the late Blackbury Jambs historian Fellowes Kraft mediating between the Elizabethan and more contemporary plot lines, the two Ægypt volumes suggest numerous alternative readings and points of view as they dip into Moffett's past (his lovers have included a cocaine dealer and his literary agent), a mother's sorrow when her child unexpectedly begins undergoing epileptic seizures, the mystery surrounding Kraft's relationship to the patriarch of the family institution employing Moffett, and the numerous theosophical digressions his studies inspire. The books brim with questions (does the world have a plot? What is the relation of Hermes Trismegistus to Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing? Why are gypsies commonly believed able to foretell the future?) that inspire further mysteries, mining a rich philosophical plenitude that always evades closure.

Writing and imagination serve the same function for Crowley as the alchemical Philosopher's Stone of Hermetic lore. Science fiction and fantasies are literature's most powerful tools of transcending everyday physical reality and creating entirely new worlds whose infinite details are supplied by readers' imaginations through reading's mysteries. But does Crowley himself buy into the mystic jive?

"Maybe because I'm a Sagittarian, sad with an air of assurance, I am basically immune to mystic apprehensions," he admits with a barely noticeable sigh when I inquire as to his own spiritual proclivities. With a certain amount of embarrassment, Crowley privileges the '60s as his personal watershed. But any era will do, really, in the great Hegelian spiral Ægypt suggests. "One of the values of magic, the humanist-magical option, is to say that man is really here to learn, to understand everything, and to gain powers from nature because God has provided nature to give powers to man. In the sixteenth century that option transcended narrow Protestant or Catholic ideology. For people like John Dee, it was a way to transcend trivial sectarian differences."

Moffett, historian of the esoteric, shimmies constantly between the different strata of the historical past and a present in which the past's vestiges persist. One of Ægypt's overriding questions is whether history exists as a continuum or as a series of paradigm shifts, memory museums, or Brunist tableaux poised for revival, but never with values equal to their original incarnation. "What was it Barr said," thinks Moffett, " . . . that in the religious history of the West old gods are always turning into devils, cast from their thrones into dark undergrounds to be lords over the dead and the wicked?" [[501]] Moffett comes to realize that history is malleable and flexible. Magic used to exist; now it doesn't, and from contemporary science's point of view, never could have.

But what if a magical touchstone exists that has survived history's gateways and stratifications? Without spoiling one of Love & Sleep's major surprises, the answer turns out to be the single manifestation of magical influence nearly everyone experiences at some point in life, "the alchemical power of Eros" [501]. Moffett's erotic past, it turns out, is extracting a toll he finds difficult to pay, a return and inversion of a repressed childhood memory that takes root in his dreams before extending to a cracked reality.

In this, Moffett mirrors a world struggling to repress its own dæmons and titans--"But it turns out that the past is harder to get rid of than that," Crowley emphasizes with a jab of forked shrimp in my direction, "and that's part of the four-volume novel I'm telling, how obdurate the past really is. It persists and goes on having effects. Even its old revolutions go on having effects, being incorporated into the adventure one after another, each one the same as all the others. You know the chestnut about those who don't know history being condemned to repeat it? Well, those who do know history are condemned to recognize it when it comes around again."

As Crowley finishes his scotch and our conversation winds down, I wonder if he's familiar with Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay's seminal 1920 fantasy. Indeed he is, but it's the secondary lit that moves him more deeply than Lindsay's seminal spiritual voyage into the unknown. "One of the most wonderful explanations of heroic fantasy," he says, "is Harold Bloom's essay, "Clinamen: Towards a Theory of Fantasy" [in Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism], which is all about Voyage to Arcturus . Bloom's terrific argument moved me very much as a writer of the stuff. His basic question is: If you've got this form where anything can happen, in which anything is possible, why do the same things always happen and why are the stories all so alike? Bloom of course tends toward a Freudian explanation about fear of breaking out and obsessions and such, which is reasonable enough. But it also sets the writer a task: How do I make it not come out the same as it always does, yet make it satisfactory as a story?

"That's my quest. You can come to the same old conclusions. What's important is the effort you make and risks you take as a writer, what it costs you to affirm the same old conclusions."


Summit, by M Parkes

Read excerpt from Endless Things (ex-Amazon)

Eternity, by M Parkes
Read excerpt from Little, Big (ex-Amazon)

Three Graces, by M Parkes
Read excerpt from Novelties & Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction (ex-Amazon)

After the Storm, by M Parkes
Read excerpt from Otherwise: Three Novels (ex-Amazon)

Angel Dust, by M Parkes
Read excerpt from Novelty: Four Stories (ex-Amazon)

Daemos the Touch, by M Parkes
INTERVIEW IN ITALIAN / INTERVISTA IN ITALIANO:


Byron artista pop / Byron Pop Artist
Intervista a John Crowley
autore di La terra della sera


(da InfiniteStorie.it, 28 luglio 2006)


16 giugno 1816, lago di Ginevra, villa Diodati. Da un'animata conversazione tra letterati sui temi del soprannaturale nacquero non soltanto il capolavoro di Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ma anche un romanzo autobiografico di George Gordon Byron, un inedito di cui la figlia Ada diverrà gelosa custode. John Crowley parte da questa ipotesi per costruire un'architettura narrativa complessa, fra romanzo gotico e moderno giallo psicologico, su tre diversi piani di lettura: il gioco di analogie e rimandi al testo byroniano, le glosse scritte da Ada e la corrispondenza fra i personaggi contemporanei. Lo scrittore del Maine, classe 1942, già apprezzato autore di La traduttrice, omaggia la grande letteratura in questa sua ultima fatica, sul cui soggetto d'elezione, Byron, ci svela qualche aspetto inatteso.

D. Quali sono le sfide, e i rischi, di scrivere un romanzo nel romanzo?

R. Le scatole cinesi vanno una dentro l'altra in un modo soltanto. Il divertimento di scrivere un romanzo fatto di parte interrelate è che non occorre un ordine stabilito: una scatola può essere fuori, ma anche un'altra. Spero che lo spettatore si diverta a scoprire le connessioni multiple fra le parti, alcune, mi auguro inattese e rivelatrici, come del resto lo sono state per me, che le ho scoperte mentre scrivevo.

D. In che maniera si è sforzato di imitare la prosa di Byron scrivendo La terra della sera?

R. Ho tentato di rendere il suo stile il più possibile. Adoro la prosa di Byron, quella delle sue lettere e dei sui diari, e le note acute e ricche di informazioni alle sue poesie più lunghe. Ho provato a riprodurre la maniera rapida e ironica in cui scriveva, il senso di dare con una mano e togliere con l'altra. D'altro canto non penso che Byron avrebbe scritto un romanzo nello stesso modo in cui scrisse le lettere. Ho cercato di immaginare lo stile letterario in cui avrebbe potuto scrivere una prosa narrativa. Naturalmente ognuno immagina il suo proprio Byron: qualcuno ha scritto che non c'era un rigo di quello che ho scritto che suonasse neppure vagamente byroniano (il che però mi risulta un po' strano dato che qualche riga per ogni pagina è stata presa di peso dall'opera del poeta).

D. Il romanzo epistolare gode di una lunga e nobile tradizione nella letteratura inglese. Crede che l'avvento della posta elettronica possa rinverdire, modificare ed estendere questa tradizione?

R. Non so. In effetti l'e-mail combina caratteristiche del linguaggio scritto e di quello parlato, dato che solitamente questo tipo di comunicazione è caratterizzato da una certa fretta, trascuratezza e istantaneità. In un romanzo epistolare si può distinguere i personaggi dallo stile di scrittura, mentre un romanzo di mail crea i personaggi più attraverso il dialogo. D'altro canto credo che sia piuttosto noioso doversi sorbire un intero romanzo fatto solamente di corrispondenza elettronica, con tutte quelle abbreviazione e quelle comunicazioni sbrigative. Ci vorrebbe un maestro per rendere la cosa vivace.

D. Byron è una figura letteraria di grande fascino. Quali sono gli aspetti che l'hanno colpita a tal punto da metterlo al centro del suo nuovo romanzo?

R. In effetti è una fascinazione di lungo periodo. Già nei tardi anni Sessanta scrissi un lavoro teatrale su Byron e Shelley a Pisa, e sulla morte di Shelley. Mostrava un Byron mediamente sensuale e ambiguamente realista in opposizione alla visione utopica di Shelley, e di come i due svilupparono una profonda amicizia nonostante la diversità. In questo modo ho cominciato ad appassionarmi a entrambi, ma in particolare a Byron. Così sono voluto tornare a esaminare, attraverso la chiave romanzesca, il mistero e il fascino di questa figura leggendaria.

D. In che modo sente che la vita e l'opera di Byron abbiano rilevanza per il lettore odierno?

R. Una cosa che penso possa interessare e affascinare i lettori oggi, anche se non hanno letto le opere di Byron, è il suo status di personaggio famoso. Non c'è stato, in questo senso, davvero nessuno come lui prima di allora nella letteratura inglese. Non si guadagnò la fama soltanto per quello che scrisse ma per quello che nessuno ai suoi tempi avrebbe definito (ma oggi tutti chiamano così) stile di vita, i problemi in cui si trovò coinvolto, le voci sulle sue abitudini, il fallimento del matrimonio, lo sperpero del denaro, la morte prematura. Per di più è sempre stato molto consapevole di essere una celebrità: aveva un atteggiamento moderno di guardare con disprezzo alla fama e ai suoi fan, e nello stesso tempo di farsi influenzare da questi aspetti per costruire il suo personaggio. Inoltre mi affascina molto il modo in cui questo autore apprezzava e usava ciò che oggi chiamiamo cultura pop: prima di lui c'era, da una parte, la cultura alta, gli scrittori eruditi custodi consapevoli della tradizione letteraria e narrativa, e dall'altra la cultura bassa, i racconti e le canzoni popolari, le ballate e le feste... Con Byron, e il tempo della borghesia, i confini diventano meno netti: il teatro, il romanzo vanno incontro ai gusti del lettore comune. Byron ama questa produzione culturale e vi fa continuo riferimento nella sua opera, come uno scrittore moderno fa riferimento alle canzoni, al cinema, alla pubblicità. Lui si rende conto di far parte della cultura pop.


The Iris original, by M Parkes
in Italian:

Copertina dellibro / Italian coverLA TERRA DELLA SERA, JOHN CROWLEY
Il romanzo di Lord Byron


(La terra della sera, Ed. Ponte alle Grazie, trad. Guido Calza, pagg. 494)


CHE BELLE PAROLE, “LA TERRA DELLA SERA”, PER INDICARE UN LUOGO POSTO ad Occidente, là dove tramonta il sole, dove scompaiono gli eroi mitici verso un limitare che si sposta di continuo insieme all’astro, simbolo di una morte che forse non è la fine di tutto ma un perenne inizio. “La terra della sera”, sottotitolato “Il romanzo di Lord Byron” e scritto da John Crowley, è il titolo dell’unico romanzo in prosa di Byron, quello che avrebbe iniziato la famosa sera delle scommesse sul lago di Ginevra, quando Mary Godwin Shelley aveva lanciato la sfida che lei avrebbe vinto con “Frankenstein”. Del romanzo di Byron- se c’era stato- non era rimasta traccia e adesso viene casualmente ritrovato da Alexandra Novak, giovane americana in Inghilterra per perfezionare un sito internet dedicato alle donne scienziate e fare delle ricerche su Ada, unica figlia legittima di Byron.

Già nell’ottimo romanzo precedente, “La traduttrice” [vedi sotto], John Crowley aveva dimostrato la sua duttilità, la capacità di variare registri stilistici in composizioni attribuite a diversi personaggi. In questo nuovo romanzo Crowley segue tre filoni diversi che in apparenza hanno poco in comune al di là dell’occuparsi del poeta romantico, in realtà ci si accorge alla fine che hanno tutti a che fare con gli stessi temi, sfasati nel tempo: il rapporto padre e figlio che è diverso da quello di madre e figlio e ancora diverso da quello di un padre o di una madre con la figlia, l’amore lecito e illecito, il senso di colpa o il marchio imposto della colpa, l’esilio forzato o volontario, e infine il doppio che è in ognuno di noi.

Chi inizia a leggere “La terra della sera” si accinge dunque a leggere tre romanzi- il primo è quello, fittizio, di Byron, una storia avventurosa che riprende molti elementi dei suoi romanzi in versi nell’atmosfera “gotica” di un castello il cui proprietario, Lord Sane, viene trovato morto e suo figlio Alì è accusato dell’omicidio. La vicenda di Alì inizia lontano, in Albania, prosegue e andrà avanti fra moltissime peripezie, lui stesso di frequente vittima delle circostanze, trascinato da forze che non può padroneggiare, manovrato da personaggi oscuri, seguito da un’ombra- suo fratello? il suo doppio? La scrittura di Crowley ricalca una possibile stesura byroniana, con il passo lento che, purtroppo, è anche quello dei romanzi in versi del poeta (d’altronde Byron deve la sua fama alla leggenda della sua vita quasi quanto ai suoi meriti artistici), ma i capitoli de “La terra della sera” si alternano a quelli delle altre due sezioni del libro in cui l’autore adotta uno stile più vario e vivace, alleggerendo la narrazione.

Alexandra Novak scambia messaggi di posta elettronica con la sua partner, una professoressa di matematica il cui aiuto è sostanziale per decifrare il manoscritto che la figlia di Byron ha “salvato” trascrivendolo in un codice cifrato, e con suo padre, studioso di Byron che Alexandra non ha più rivisto da quando è stato accusato di aver violentato una minorenne. I legami di questa trama con la vita di Byron sono evidenti, sottolineati dai motivi simili che ritroviamo nel terzo registro del romanzo, le note che Ada Lovelace Byron scrive in calce al romanzo di suo padre. Non sono svelte, spicce e frizzanti come le e-mail, ma concise e chiare, dapprima neutre e poi, mentre procede il racconto insieme alla malattia di Ada, sempre più coinvolte e sofferte, quando Ada ritrova nel manoscritto la storia personale del padre e il suo rapporto con la madre, rivelando un’acuta nostalgia e il senso di un’assenza, un vuoto che non può essere colmato. Come quello provato da Alexandra.

Marilia Piccone, StradaNove 05-07-2006


The Peony, by M Parkes
in Italian:

LA TRADUTTRICE, JOHN CROWLEY

No alla guerra


(La Traduttrice, Ed. Ponte alle Grazie, pagg.335)


FA UNO STRANO EFFETTO LEGGERE QUESTO BELLISSIMO ROMANZO DELLO SCRITTORE AMERICANO John Crowley. Perché è ambientato nel 1962 nel college di una cittadina del Midwest americano e le voci dei notiziari televisivi sono quanto mai simili a quelle dei nostri giorni. E' il culmine della guerra fredda, aerei da ricognizione statunitensi hanno individuato missili nucleari sovietici posizionati a Cuba e puntati sugli Stati Uniti, il governo americano è per un attacco totale e un'invasione dell'isola, la gente costruisce rifugi e accumula alimentari, gli universitari marciano - non ancora numerosi come per la guerra del Vietnam di cui peraltro si incomincia a parlare - cantando "Dona nobis pacem".

In questa atmosfera scompare Innokentij Falin, il poeta russo esiliato in America e professore all'Università. L'ultima ad averlo visto è stata la studentessa Kit Malone, e lei non crederà mai che lui sia morto. A Kit lui aveva lasciato un foglio con una poesia, versi profetici che Kit allora non aveva capito e che parlavano degli angeli delle nazioni, di come esista sempre un angelo minore che si oppone a quello che fa l'angelo maggiore, "perché anche quest'ordine sia preservato".

Si erano incontrati in università, Kit e Falin. Erano diventati amici. Forse perchè anche Kit scriveva poesie, forse perché era nata un'intesa che veniva da una comune sofferenza di perdita, forse perché erano l'uno il traduttore dell'altro. Traduttore di parole e di sentimenti. Se Kit aveva ridato a Falin la voce prestandogli la sua per interpretare le sue poesie, Falin aveva restituito a Kit la capacità di parlare del nulla che non può essere detto. Un dolore privato e circoscritto, quello di Kit, la morte del fratello e quella del bambino che non aveva avuto il tempo di vivere; il dolore di tutta una nazione in Falin che era stato uno dei bambini besprizornyi, uno dei milioni di bambini abbandonati dai genitori, fatti orfani dalla Rivoluzione e dalla guerra civile, vagabondi la cui vita è descritta in uno dei capitoli più belli e più dickensianamente neri del romanzo.

A questa infanzia era seguita la guerra, la morte di moglie e figlia, il lager. La vita di Falin viene raccontata da lui stesso a Kit e poi è Kit, ormai poetessa famosa, a raccontarla agli ammiratori di Falin, quando si reca a San Pietroburgo nel 1993 per una commemorazione del poeta. Ed è solo adesso, quando un russo traduce e interpreta l'ultima poesia di Falin, che Kit capisce quale possa essere stata la portata della sua scomparsa.

Il romanzo di Crowley non è una banale storia d'amore e di sesso (che forse non c'è neppure) tra un anziano professore e la sua studentessa, o almeno, non è solo quella. E' la storia di un legame dai contorni sfumati che segnerà per sempre la vita di Kit, ma anche storia della forza delle parole che danno voce a verità altrimenti indicibili. Crowley riesce a fare quello che la Byatt aveva fatto in "Possessione", creare il personaggio di un poeta e attribuirgli dei versi indimenticabili che lo qualificano come - nelle parole del presidente Kennedy- uno dei "misconosciuti legislatori dell'umanità".

Marilia Piccone, StradaNove 09-03-2003


Water, by M Parkes
~ESTRATTO DA LA TRADUTTRICE


Copertina del libro / Italian cover
le prime pagine:



1


La prima volta che Christa Malone sentì il nome di Innokentij Isaevic Falin, fu dalle labbra del Presidente degli Stati Uniti, John F. Kennedy.

Nel febbraio 1961, Christa era in fila d'attesa alla Casa Bianca con altri venti studenti dell'ultimo anno di liceo, le cui poesie erano state scelte per essere incluse in un'antologia di giovani poeti intitolata Ali di Canto. Erano tutte ragazze, a parte quattro maschi, una turba di goffi vividi uccelli in completo e tailleur, tutti con cappelli e perfino guanti bianchi. Un assistente austeramente cortese li aveva messi in fila, dando istruzioni circa il modo di rispondere e poi farsi da parte, e adesso guardava l'orologio da polso e una porta lontana; e Kit Malone sentiva il battito frenetico dei cuori di tutti loro. L'antologia era patrocinata da un'importante fondazione.

Lui si sarebbe fermato a conoscerli mentre si recava a un incontro più importante — Kit, in seguito, non avrebbe ricordato quale fosse e, quando la lontana doppia porta si aprì, lui era in abito da sera; la moglie al suo fianco indossava un vestito lungo di qualche strano tessuto che scintillava come la tonaca di un cardinale di El Greco. L'assistente guidò la coppia lungo la fila di giovani poeti: il Presidente strinse la mano di ciascuno, e lo stesso fece la First Lady; il Presidente fece a ognuno una domanda o due, parlando un po' più a lungo con un'alta ragazza di Quincy.

Un po' più a lungo anche con Kit, facendo una battuta scontata col suo buffo accento ma con l'aria di fissarla come un gioiello o un oggetto di particolare interesse. Quando lei gli disse da quale stato veniva, lui sorrise.

" So che lì avete un nuovo poeta " disse. " Sì. Il nostro nuovo poeta russo, Falin. Ne ha sentito parlare? "

Lei non lo conosceva e non disse niente, limitandosi a sorridere, un sorriso sovrastato da quello immenso dell'altro.

" Falin, sì " ripeté lui. " È stato esiliato. Da là. Ed è venuto qui".

Jackie gli toccò il braccio, sorridendo a sua volta a Kit, e lo portò verso il poeta successivo.

Poi furono scattate fotografie e il Presidente disse poche parole sull'importanza della poesia per la nazione, per lo spirito. Disse che i poeti erano i misconosciuti legislatori del mondo; ricordò di aver invitato Robert Frost a parlare il giorno della sua nomina a Presidente. La terra era nostra prima che noi fossimo della terra. I suoi occhi chiari si fermarono di nuovo per un momento su Kit, penetranti o indagatori.

Quella notte in albergo, fra le luci e i rumori insoliti della città, con la ragazza di Quincy inquieta nell'altro letto, Kit sognò una tigre: camminava con una tigre nei corridoi di un palazzo indefinito (quello di lui?) e guardava i possenti muscoli guizzare sotto il sontuoso manto, proprio come si vede nelle tigri, e parlava del più e del meno, consapevole del fatto che lei, Kit, ascoltava, più che parlare, rispettosa e vigile ma non impaurita.

In quel mese scrisse una poesia, " Una tigre mi disse", l'ultima prima di un lungo periodo di silenzio. E in seguito, anni dopo, si domandò se il Presidente si fosse attardato un po' di più con lei e l'avesse studiata con sorridente ingordigia perché aveva percepito un'aura o un essudato sessuale che si sprigionava dal suo corpo. I sensi dell'uomo parevano straordinariamente acuti, in proposito, forse allertati da una cosa che lei non aveva ancora scoperto: di essere incinta.

Nel gennaio di quell'anno, in viaggio verso gli Stati Uniti, Innokentij Isaevi_ Falin aveva cominciato a scrivere una serie di poesie idealmente collegate, che avevano per titolo delle date. La prima l'aveva buttata giù sulla carta da lettera di un albergo di Berlino con la sua nuova stilografica tedesca, e rivista sull'aereo per New York. L'originale — poi perduto con tutti gli altri — è un sonetto, quattordici versi con lo schema metrico peculiare di Falin. La scabra traduzione in versi sciolti che Kit Malone ne fece in seguito con Falin era la seguente:

1961

Fa' ruotare quest'anno sul fulcro del suo svolazzo finale
Rizzalo per gradi da orizzontale a verticale
Come un'asta ritta di bandiera senza bandiera
O un fondale alzato sul palco di un teatro vuoto,
Davanti al quale verranno di lì a poco recitate storie.
Ora abbassalo, metti o giù del tutto
Come la statua di un capo destituito è buttata
Supina, il dito guantato che puntava in avanti
Ficcato ora a terra verso il basso.
Capisci cos'hai fatto?
Una cosa rara che si dà una volta soltanto nei secoli:
Un anno che può essere rovesciato ma non annullato,
E nonostante tutti i nostri sforzi sembra poi tornato se
stesso.
Così non è. Come sempre, non saremo mai gli stessi.


© 2003 Ponte alle Grazie Editore



Nota sull'autore:


John Crowley è nato nel 1942. Prima di dedicarsi alla narrativa ha realizzato documentari per il cinema e la televisione. Ha ricevuto il prestigioso American Academy of Arts and Letters Award per la letteratura e il Premio Flaiano nel 2003. Attualmente insegna all'università di Yale. Vive con la moglie e le due figlie gemelle nel Massachusetts.


Eternity - full plate, by M Parkes
JOHN CROWLEY'S SHORT BIO IN FRENCH:

(ex-Wikipedia)


John Crowley, né le premier décembre 1942 à Presque Isle, Maine, est un écrivain américain de fantasy, de science-fiction et de littérature générale.

Il fit ses études à l'Université de l'Indiana et poursuivit une carrière parallèle d'assistant documentaliste pour le cinéma.

Son premier roman, L'Abîme (The Deep, 1975), mêlait déjà SF et fantasy. Il se fit ensuite connaître par ses romans de science-fiction L'Animal découronné (Beasts, 1976) et L'Été-machine (Summer Engine, 1979). Mais c'est son roman de fantasy Le Parlement des fées (Little, Big, 1981), qui lui octroya la célébrité en obtenant le Prix World Fantasy du meilleur roman. Un de ses admirateurs, le professeur Harold Bloom, invita John Crowley à l'Université de l'Indiana pour donner un cours sur la littérature utopique.

Un recueil de nouvelles est paru en français : La Grande œuvre du temps (Great Work of Time, 1989). Il a depuis publié la tétralogie Ægypt, le roman d'espionnage The Translator et un roman uchronique sur lord Byron.


Fearlessness, by M Parkes
~POSTER FOR THE 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF LITTLE, BIG
(from Incunabula, 2007)

Little, Big - poster - CLICK TO VIEW ENLARGED

Esclusive John Crowley Interview
on this new special edition of Little, Big


Model and her monkey, by M Parkes
art by Michael Parkes]

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