Novelties & Souvenirs

Novelties & Souvenirs

by John Crowley
     
 

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A master literary stylist, John Crowley has carried readers to diverse and remarkable places in his award-winning, critically acclaimed novels -- from his classic fable, Little, Big, to his New York Times Notable Book, The Translator. Now, for the first time, all of his short fiction has been collected in one volume, demonstrating the

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Overview

A master literary stylist, John Crowley has carried readers to diverse and remarkable places in his award-winning, critically acclaimed novels -- from his classic fable, Little, Big, to his New York Times Notable Book, The Translator. Now, for the first time, all of his short fiction has been collected in one volume, demonstrating the scope, the vision, and the wonder of one of America's greatest storytellers. Courage and achievement are celebrated and questioned, paradoxes examined, and human frailty appreciated in fifteen tales, at once lyrical and provocative, ranging fromthe fantastic to the achingly real. Be it a tale of an expulsion from Eden, a journey through time, the dreams of a failed writer, ora dead woman's ambiguous legacy, each story in Novelties & Souvenirs is a glorious reading experience, offering delights to be savored ... and remembered.

Editorial Reviews

John Hartl
John Crowley's range is remarkable. This addictive collection includes a twisted Hansel-and-Gretel tale about a pair of lost 12th-century children, a mystery about mummified Egyptian cats whose influence may defy the grave, a cautionary portrait of benign aliens and a Garden of Eden story presented from the perspective of a nightingale. All are told with style and authority.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Novelties & Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction gathers 15 shorter works by one of America's most original writers of the fantastic, John Crowley (Little, Big). Included is a novella, "An Earthly Mother Sits and Sings," hitherto available only in chapbook form. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Retellings of familiar stories and bizarre dystopian visions, in 15 stories by the popular author better known for such SF and fantasy novels as Aegypt (1987) and Little, Big (1981). Crowley's lucid style and mastery of linear narrative function most effectively in a lovely adaptation of a medieval folktale about fairy siblings who cannot both survive in the human world ("The Green Child") and in his unsparing version of the story of the seal-man ("silkie") who takes a mortal wife ("An Earthly Woman Sits and Sings"). Other classic figures appear, intriguingly transposed, in a reimagining of Adam and Eve's "fall" into knowledge ("The Nightingale Sings at Night"), Lord Byron's report of an encounter between humans and a beleaguered satyr ("Missolonghi 1824"), and an anecdote about an urban writer's unexpected meeting with Virginia Woolf, whose "immortality" ironically makes her an avatar of an increasingly rapidly disappearing past ("The Reason for the Visit"). Of the more purely speculative stories, "Novelty" wrestles with a blocked writer's vacillations between retaining "secure" memories of his usable past and daring to stretch it imaginatively; "Gone" wryly depicts a suburban mom's uneasy accommodation to a brave new world staffed-and alarmingly altered-by industrious extraterrestrials; and "In Blue" introduces a depressed protagonist stuck in a ruthlessly streamlined post-revolutionary future that has consigned history to oblivion. The latter story's core idea is treated more interestingly in the superb novella "Great Work of Time," which blends the tale of a mad inventor's quest to enrich himself via time travel with a fantasy about African explorer Cecil Rhodes's creation of a secretsociety ("The Otherhood") dedicated to "preserve and extend the British Empire." Even better is "Antiquities," in which Britain's conquest of Egypt stirs up malignant shape-shifting avengers. A pleasing introduction to a very interesting writer's several "worlds."Agent: Ralph Vincinanza

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061750946
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
468 KB

Read an Excerpt

Novelties & Souvenirs

Collected Short Fiction
By Crowley, John

Perennial

ISBN: 0380731061

Chapter One

Antiquities

"There was, of course," Sir Geoffrey said, "the Inconstancy Plague in Cheshire. Short-lived, but a phenomenon I don't think we can quite discount."

It was quite late at the Travellers' Club, and Sir Geoffrey and I had been discussing (as we seemed often to do in those years of the Empire's greatest, yet somehow most tenuous, extent) some anomalous irruptions of the foreign and the odd into the home island's quiet life -- small, unlooked-for effects which those centuries of adventure and acquisition had had on an essentially stay-at-home race. At least that was my thought. I was quite young.

"It's no good your saying 'of course' in that offhand tone," I said, attempting to catch the eye of Barnett, whom I felt as much as saw passing through the crepuscular haze of the smoking room. "I've no idea what the inconstancy Plague was."

From within his evening dress Sir Geoffrey drew out a cigar case, which faintly resembled a row of cigars, as a mummy case resembles the human form within. He offered me one, and we lit them without haste; Sir Geoffrey started a small vortex in his brandy glass. I understood that these rituals were introductory -- that, in other words, I would have my tale.

"It was in the later eighties, Sir Geoffrey said. "I can't remember now how I first came to hear of it, though I shouldn't be surprised if it was some flippant note in Punch. I paid no attention at first; the popular delusions and madness of crowds' sort of thing. I'd returned not long before from Ceylon, and was utterly, blankly oppressed by the weather. It was just starting autumn when I came ashore, and spent the next four months more or less behind closed doors. The rain! The fog! How could I have forgotten? And the oddest thing was that no one else seemed to pay the slightest mention. My man used to draw the drapes every morning and say in the most cheerful voice, 'Another dismal wet one, eh, sir?' and I would positively turn my face to the wall."

He seemed to sense that he had been diverted by personal memories, and drew on his cigar as though it were the font of recall.

"What brought it to notice was a seemingly ordinary murder case. A farmer's wife in Winsford, married some decades, came one night into the Sheaf of Wheat, a public house, where her husband was lingering over a pint. From under her skirts she drew an old fowling piece. She made a remark which was later reported quite variously by the onlookers, and gave him both barrels. One misfired, but the other was quite sufficient. We learn that the husband, on seeing this about to happen, seemed to show neither surprise nor anguish, merely looking up and well, awaiting his fate.

"At the inquest, the witnesses reported the murderess to have said, before she fired, 'I'm doing this in the name of all the others.' Perhaps it it was 'I'm doing this, Sam [his name], to save the others.' Or possibly, 'I've got to do this, Sam, to save you from that other,' The woman seemed to have gone quite mad. She gave the investigators an elaborate and horrifying story which they, unfortunately, did take down, being able to make no sense of it. The rational gist of it was that she had shot her husband for flagrant infidelities which she could bear no longer. When the magistrate asked witnesses if they knew of such infldelities -- these things, in a small community, being notoriously difficult to hide -- the men, as a body, claimed that they did not. After the trial, however, the women had dark and unspecific hints to make, how they could say much if they would, and so on. The murderess was adjudged unfit to stand trial, and hanged herself in Bedlam not long after.

"I don't know how familiar you are with that oppressive part the world. In those years farming was a difficult enterprise at best, isolating, stultifyingly boring, unremunerative. Hired men were heavy drinkers. Prices were depressed. The women aged quick what with continual childbirth added to a load of work at least equal to their menfolk's. What I'm getting at is that it is, or was, a society the least of any conducive to adultery, amours, romance. And yet for some reason it appeared, after this murder pointed it up, so to speak, dramatically, that there was a veritable plague of inconstant husbands in northern Cheshire."

"It's difficult to imagine," I said, "what evidence there could br of such a thing."

"I had occasion to go to the county that autumn, just at at the height of it all," Sir Geoffrey went on, caressing an ashtray with the tip of his cigar. "I'd at last got a grip on myself and begun to accept invitations again. A fellow I'd known in Alexandria, a a commercial agent who'd done spectacularly well for himself, asked me up for the shooting ..."

Continues...

Excerpted from Novelties & Souvenirs by Crowley, John Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

John Crowley lives in the hills of northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of ten previous novels as well as the short fiction collection, Novelties & Souvenirs.

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