"He didn't have to be about love; he was a man, not a novel."
John Crowley, Solitudes (part 1 of the Ægypt cycle)
But however much I enjoy it, it nags at me because I've already published one book that isn't "about love" and have a couple more in the works. Well, there's a lot of love in my books, but they're not "love stories." Does that count, or does that mean that my stories shouldn't be classified as novels? This is the kind of thought-worm that wriggles into a writer's mind in moments of self-doubt.
The writer who said this does have love stories in his books. Novels. Other than that, his novels defy definition.
Once upon a time, I stumbled onto a copy of Little Big at Forbidden Planet. It was irresistible: a fat book with a lavender cover, at a science fiction bookstore. My "acquire" alarm started ringing wildly; I had to buy it. And once I read it, I was hooked on John Crowley.
I'm not going to pretend I always understand him. I've read all of the Ægypt cycle, slowly and with my full attention, but some bits were opaque to me. There were also some things that I lost track of, but this had probably do to with the long gaps between my reading the four volumes (and would probably be rectified by a re-reading splurge, someday, when I get through my own writerly undertaking and once again have time). Despite this, there is an atmosphere of Ægypt that clings to me.
Crowley excels in atmosphere. One is enveloped in his worlds. It doesn't matter if it's the world of John Dee or Giordano Bruno, or the more immediately familiar American homefront of World War 2 (in what is probably his book most likely to appeal to those of you who prefer their fiction "real," the The Four Freedoms). Reading Crowley is an immersive experience from which one surfaces in a kind of daze. To read in that way, you have to trust the writer. I do trust Crowley. And in trusting an artist who is unique, I give myself the confidence, for better or worse, to trust myself.