Sunday, December 09, 2012

John Crowley, The Deep (1975)

Okay, so now you're surely not wondering what ever happened to the notion that I was going to read Crowley's early novels, but I feel I owe it to you to clarify.  I definitely intend to return to Crowley one of these days, but here's the thing: I read this, his first novel.  And, er, it pains me to say it, but it was reeeeaaaally bad, and it sort of put me off the guy for the time being.  For the time being, dammit!  Little, Big remains one of the best novels ever.  Let's be clear about that.

So The Deep is about this really boring, impenetrable conflict between two factions, known as the "Blacks" and "Reds," and the ultimate explanation for why they have these allegorical names is probably the only sorta-kinda interesting thing in the novel.  Then there's this gender-less being who comes down out of the sky, known variously as Visitor, Secretary, and Recorder.

There aren't that many Blacks, and they're not the focus of the novel.  The focus is the Reds, and the thing is, it is apparent that we're meant to somehow care about these individual people and all their machinations and whatnot.  But the conflict is so muddled, and they're all so interchangeable, that it's just excruciating to read.  And it sure as fuck doesn't help that they all have to have "red" in their name.  Look: here's a list of them, from a "Principal Characters" page that opens the book:

Red Senlin
Red Senlin's son (later King)
Senred, Red Senlin's younger son
Old Redhand, his father
Younger Redhand, his brother
Caredd, his wife
Mother Caredd
Learned Redhand

GOOD LORD.  These people are always having conversations that are meant to be portentous, but it's all totally lost on the reader.  I can only equate the excruciating boredom I experienced with reading this book to that of To the Lighthouse.  Now, you could of course just accuse me of being a lazy reader, and it's true that I'm fairly certain that the plot isn't literally impenetrable.  But there's just no incentive to want to make sense of it all.  I think my difficult-book-appreciation bona fides are well-established, but this shit just loses me.  It's a short novel (one six six pages), but it took me far too long to read because every ounce of my being was shouting STOP.  Only misguided completionism made me persevere, and then I put off writing this for a good while 'cause I just didn't want to think about it anymore.  I feel sort of bad about hating a book so much by an author I like so much, but the truth must be known.


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