Sunday, December 1, 2013

Completed: Little, Big

Dear Jenny,

I finished this book a few weeks ago and I don't really know what to say about it. It was strange, which can be okay, but just kind of missed the mark for me this time. I thought a bit of distance would give me some clarity, but what was already a sort of murky reading has become murkier with time.

Here is the synopsis of this book from Wikipedia (because I can't really come up with one myself):
Little, Big is the epic story of the Drinkwater family and their relationship with the mostly obscured world of Fairy. It is set in and around their eccentric country house, called Edgewood, somewhere north of "the City" (implied to be New York). The story is dreamlike, quiet, and meandering, spanning a hundred years of the intertwined family trees of the Drinkwaters and their relations—from the turn of the twentieth century to a sparsely-described dystopian future America ruled by a sinister despot. The magical elements are subtle rather than overt, with only occasional glimpses of the fairies themselves, although their presence is felt throughout.
I guess that covers it. Oddly enough, this description really does help me put some of my thoughts into words. It's the "mostly obscured world" and the "subtle rather than overt" parts of this book that really turned me off. I found myself constantly re-reading passages to figure out what the hell just happened which, for me, is a tiring way to read a book.

The house (Edgewood) is awesome and some of the characters are interesting and genuinely likable, but the inscrutable aspect was a slog. And even when I *thought* I was figuring stuff out, I'm still not 100% sure that I did, which isn't very satisfying. I actually wrote pretty lengthy plot summary notes for myself after every section of this book, which is something I never do. For these TBR books, I use post-its for stuff I want to tell you later and some pencil markings, but 5 pages of notes? Um, no. And even reading them over right now, I feel like, "Waaait... is that what happened?"

But here is one of the "notes" that I took in the book -- it cracks me up every time I see it:

Curious about the passage referred to there? Here it is:
The athenor of the alchemists, for instance, the Philosopher's Egg within which the transformation from base to gold took place -- was it not a microcosm, a small world? When the black-books said that the Work was to be begun in the sign of Aquarius and completed in Scorpio, they meant not those signs as they occurred in the heavens, but as they occured in the universe of the world-shaped, world-containing Egg itself. The Work was not other than Genesis; the Red Man and the White Lady, when they appeared, microscopic in the Egg, were the soul of the Philosopher himself, as an object of the Philosopher's thought, itself a product of his soul, and so on, regressus ad infinitum, and in both directions too. [250]

That's exhausting, right? Other than dialog scenes (which were so refreshing!) this was the entire book.

Also... there was one character who took photos of his sisters in the woods naked (And... kissing each other? Not sure. Glossed over it.), a weirdly veiled probable rape of a sleeping teenage girl by her cousin aaaaand... some guy might have had sex with his own estranged daughter (he suspected she might be his daughter, and he didn't care. She might have known too. Unclear.).  These were areas that I actually didn't look too carefully at to figure out what the hell was going on, as I'm sure you can understand. So that was all creepyville.

Finally, I think the book was building to some sort of epic battle and, for the life of me, I cannot remember how it ended, although I do remember having a more interested feeling as we headed toward the finish, like, "What's going to happen next?!" Buuut... I guess that didn't pay off.

So yeah. Little, Big. Not for me.


PS -- In related news...  2014 is going to be my year for abandoning books. You read it here first: I vow to give up on books that don't interest me. The entire time I was reading this book, Bill kept saying, "Is that the book you should have stopped reading weeks ago?" Yes. Yes it was. Onwards!

1 comment:

  1. Oh no. That actually sounds terrible! My eyes glazed right over as I was reading those passages. that might go down as the best annotation I've ever seen. I might need to show that to my students (but I need to figure out a way of doing it without showing them this blog!).

    What the!, Indeed.

    These confusing books are just the worst. I don't even have anything more to say except...sorry.