I listened to a podcast by John Crowley, my favorite author, today and it made me mad.
The book I love the most in the world is Crowley’s Engine Summer. It’s the story (spoiler alert) of a young man who makes a terrible sacrifice. He allows his consciousness to be trapped, forever, in a crystal ball. As Crowley explains, he is trapped like a fly in an ice cube. He is only briefly and occasionally allowed to inhabit a living person’s body in order to tell his story, but this enables an entire culture to learn a deep, meaningful method of communication. It’s a heartbreaking and lovely idea, revealed only at the end of a complex and inventive plot, when all the pieces of evidence fall together like bricks into an inevitable edifice.
So, I listened to this podcast, and Crowley was kind of dumping on Engine Summer. I had read previously that, of the books he has authored, his own favorite is Little, Big. Well, I love Little, Big, too. Not long ago, I had my daughter rolling with laughter when I did a dramatic reading of the passage where George Mouse stalks and kills the changeling. But Little, Big doesn’t pierce my heart the way Engine Summer does.
I found myself wanting to argue with Crowley. In fact, I was pretty ticked off at him. He talked about Engine Summer as if it were just a silly attempt to predict the future. No! It’s a book about the nature of humanity (both animal and angel, as Otto Rank wrote), about the connections and barriers between people, about love and sacrifice, mortality and immortality.
It was an absurd experience, feeling the urgent need to debate someone I so admire, for criticizing his own creation. Pretty silly, huh?