Little, Big is a virtuoso blending of fantasy, mythic significance, and realistic (if impressionistic) depictions of compelling characters and places. The novel is metafictive without becoming distanced or ironic. The reader, like the Drinkwaters, can accept the events as the plot of a Tale, directed from outside itself—by the author, by the fairies—and also as incidents enacted with full passion and consequence. Literary references are plentiful, from John Keats (in a City bar, Auberon drunkenly proclaims, “Trooty is booth, booth trooty”) to the Mother West Wind Where stories by early twentieth century children’s author Thornton W. Burgess. One major influence is Lewis Carroll, as shown by characters named Alice, Sylvie, and Bruno. The major text behind the text is the story of the fairies—particularly the court of Oberon and Titania—as seen in Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (1889), in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (pr. c. 1595-1596), and throughout both literature and folklore. Figures from children’s folklore, such as Mother Goose, are presented in new ways. The text is also enriched by references to Renaissance thought, something John Crowley returns to in Aegypt (1987) and Love and Sleep (1994), and to classical myth.

This mythical dimension is conveyed without losing the foibles, feelings, and quirky interior worlds of the human characters. The novel oddly lacks...

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