(Editor's Note: The following text is an excerpt from The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them, edited by Roxanne Coady and Joy Johannessen.)
by John Crowley
As I am now seventy-five and still a nonstop reader, I cannot nominate any single book as the one that changed my life. If only one, it would have to be the complete Shakespeare, with the Hebrew Bible a near rival, and a group of poets hovering not far away: John Milton, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Robert Browning, among others.
But I have written extensively about everything so far mentioned, and desire to recommend strongly a fantasy novel much too little known, though it was first published a quarter century ago, John Crowley's Little, Big (1981). I have read and reread Little, Big at least a dozen times, and always am startled and refreshed. It seems to me the best book of its kind since Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Like the Alice books, Little, Big is an imaginative masterpiece, in which the sense of wonder never subsides. Little, Big is a family saga in which several generations live on surprisingly close terms with the faery folk, hence the title. So perpetually fresh is this book, changing each time I reread it, that I find it virtually impossible to describe, and scarcely can summarize it. I pick it up again at odd moments, sometimes when I wake up at night and can't fall asleep again. Though it is a good-sized volume, I think I remember every page. Little, Big is for readers from nine to ninety, because it naturalizes and renders domestic the marvelous.
Wallace Stevens said that poetry was "one of the enlargements of life." So is Little, Big. I have recommended it to scores of friends and students, and invariably they tell me they have found wisdom and delight.
Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard, is the author of more than twenty-five books, including Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine; Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?; How to Read and Why; Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human; The Western Canon; The Book of J; and The Anxiety of Influence. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of the Academy's Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, among many other awards and honors.