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Novelty: Four Stories

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  118 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
This collection of four never-before-published, superbly crafted novellas, includes: Why the Nightingale Sings at Night, Great Work of Time, In Blue and Novelty.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 22nd 1989 by Broadway Books
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Greg Brown
Dec 10, 2014 Greg Brown rated it it was amazing
My first exposure to John Crowley, and so enjoyable that I can't wait to read the rest of his work. All four stories are excellent, showcasing different sides of Crowley: mythic fable, plotty sci-fi, character study, and meta-fictional introspection. That last is the title essay, a short piece that recalls something like Nicholson Baker's non-X-rated fiction.

The rest are longer, with the first a fable in the vein of Calvino's COSMICOMICS short stories, describing the naming of things and what th
David Brand
Oct 18, 2011 David Brand rated it it was amazing
In Blue is my current favorite short story. The entire collection makes me shake my head that Crowley isn't better known.
Sep 05, 2007 Tracey rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of open-minded fantasy.
A pass-along book from Mom, thought I'd give Novelty a try after losing interest in Little, Big a few months ago.

The bulk of the book is an alt-history/time travel novella - "Great Work of Time". A British secret society, charged with maintaining the Empire has discovered the ability to travel back in time (using orthogonal logic, among other tools). They decide that the life and career of Cecil Rhodes is a keystone, and the story follows their interactions with him. If nothing else, this novel
May 18, 2016 Ben rated it really liked it
I don't often see John Crowley's books in used bookstores, so I bought this when I had the chance. Two of the short stories are incredible: "Great Work of Time" is a really compelling and somehow empathetic novella about at the idea of time travel being used to prop up the British Empire. The final story in the collection ("Novelty") is about a novelist struggling to find a theme for his book. The other two are not that impressive, but I'd still recommend seeking this out for the other two stori ...more
Scott Golden
Feb 04, 2015 Scott Golden rated it really liked it
A great book, although the more complete collection "Novelties & Souvenirs" gives a more complete overview of this writer's prodigious talents.
Sep 10, 2007 Bobby rated it really liked it
The short Novel "Great Work of Time" is an interesting thematic precursor to the Aegypt tetraology. Also a great time travel story.
Aug 05, 2011 Danica marked it as sadly-abandoned
not enough lyricism, too full of expository junk and self-conscious cleverness.
May 21, 2015 Jake rated it really liked it
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after colle
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“Novelty and Security: the security of novelty, the novelty of security. Always the full thing, the whole subject, the true subject, stood just behind the one you found yourself contemplating. The trick, but it wasn't a trick, was to take up at once the thing you saw and the reason you saw it as well; to always bite off more than you could chew, and then chew it. If it were self-indulgence for him to cut and polish his semiprecious memories, and yet seem like danger, like a struggle he was unfit for, then self-indulgence was a potent force, he must examine it, he must reckon with it.” 3 likes
“When he was in college, a famous poet made a useful distinction for him. He had drunk enough in the poet's company to be compelled to describe to him a poem he was thinking of. It would be a monologue of sorts, the self-contemplation of a student on a summer afternoon who is reading Euphues. The poem itself would be a subtle series of euphuisms, translating the heat, the day, the student's concerns, into symmetrical posies; translating even his contempt and boredom with that famously foolish book into a euphuism.

The poet nodded his big head in a sympathetic, rhythmic way as this was explained to him, then told him that there are two kinds of poems. There is the kind you write; there is the kind you talk about in bars. Both kinds have value and both are poems; but it's fatal to confuse them.

In the Seventh Saint, many years later, it had struck him that the difference between himself and Shakespeare wasn't talent - not especially - but nerve. The capacity not to be frightened by his largest and most potent conceptions, to simply (simply!) sit down and execute them. The dreadful lassitude he felt when something really large and multifarious came suddenly clear to him, something Lear-sized yet sonnet-precise. If only they didn't rush on him whole, all at once, massive and perfect, leaving him frightened and nerveless at the prospect of articulating them word by scene by page. He would try to believe they were of the kind told in bars, not the kind to be written, though there was no way to be sure of this except to attempt the writing; he would raise a finger (the novelist in the bar mirror raising the obverse finger) and push forward his change. Wailing like a neglected ghost, the vast notion would beat its wings into the void.

Sometimes it would pursue him for days and years as he fled desperately. Sometimes he would turn to face it, and do battle. Once, twice, he had been victorious, objectively at least. Out of an immense concatenation of feeling, thought, word, transcendent meaning had come his first novel, a slim, pageant of a book, tombstone for his slain conception. A publisher had taken it, gingerly; had slipped it quietly into the deep pool of spring releases, where it sank without a ripple, and where he supposes it lies still, its calm Bodoni gone long since green. A second, just as slim but more lurid, nightmarish even, about imaginary murders in an imaginary exotic locale, had been sold for a movie, though the movie had never been made. He felt guilt for the producer's failure (which perhaps the producer didn't feel), having known the book could not be filmed; he had made a large sum, enough to finance years of this kind of thing, on a book whose first printing was largely returned.”
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