He knew: and now that he knew, nothing was ever going to be the same again. Here at this place, existence divided in two, before and after, though nothing, not an atom, had changed because of it, nor would.
Well how do you like that, he thought. How do you like that. In his rear-view mirror he saw the spot of light that was the Paradise grow smaller, and vanish into darkness around a curve of the road. He supposed he would soon forget this thing that he now knew, or rather he would cease to truly know it without forgetting that on this night he had for a moment been certain of it. He had begun to forget already. He wished—he even prayed—that, now and then, it might come again to him, a whisper or a call in his ear, though he supposed it couldn’t be compelled: once was more than he had known was possible, and was enough. He knew why there are things, endless things, and not nothing. And as though they had all forever been waiting for this, all leaning forward eagerly or impatiently and fixing on him, waiting to see if he would finally get it, those things now sank back, and let go, and letting go they went comfortably to sleep. It was all right.
—John Crowley, Endless Things
The vestibule, tall and polished, smelled of cool trapped night air and last winter’s fires, lavender sachets in brass-handled linen closets, what else? Wax, sunlight, collated seasons, the June day outside brought in as the screen groaned and clacked shut behind him.
I finally started reading Little, Big.
Cults were everywhere then, or seemed to be, gingerbread houses appearing on the path into which the young especially were tempted by the thousands. Cults were passage-time creatures, perhaps, compound monsters amazed at their own sudden new powers; or they were hopeless refuges to rush to in the upheaval of time, as passengers on a sinking liner rush to the uptipped stern, to cling together there; or they were symptoms of social or psychic distress that had always been there, and had only come to be noticed, or re-noticed. Or they were none of those things.
—John Crowley, Love & Sleep
Peter Milton’s astonishing images are sensual and yet wholly innocent, mysterious and yet patent; they are at once hard and soft, evanescent and marmoreal. They are unmistakable for anyone else’s, and yet each one is a surprise in itself. In the arts there are no equivalences — Tennyson really isn’t matchable with Brahms, or Ryder with Ives, or Bernini with Góngora — but I recognize many of my own impulses, especially those that shaped Little, Big, in Milton: in the way his images repeat themselves with variations, like musical themes, or like musical themes are inverted or reversed; in the way they reflect one another, or remember one another; and in the way they fade without disappearing.
However all this was understood in 1943, when I came upon it, the idea that a single reality underlies music and mathematics, art and science, expressible only in a nonverbal language of very cool hieroglyphs, was irresistible, attracting the serious psychedelic vanguard and the daily dope smokers alike. It was easy to feel that our late-night speculations in aromatic Hoboken lofts or Topanga cottages were games of the same kind, and we were players (though doubtless we more closely resembled the vain and fatuous spielers of the Feuilletonist Age). But we were drawn also by a game “played” more as music is played than as a sport is played, a game that players spend a lifetime learning and yearning to excel in, but in which they can excel only by cooperating, not competing: you triumph at the Glass Bead Game only insofar as other players do too. No one is defeated. That’s what got to me, and what I talked about with others, when I first read the book.
—John Crowley reconsiders The Glass Bead Game for Lapham’s
There ought to be – and perhaps there is – a piece of software, or an option in Photoshop, that will turn a photograph of a person into an image of the full-size bronze classically executed statue (with choice of pedestal) that it might but never will be. Of course with a graphics program it could be immediately be made three dimensional and able to be seen from all sides. Is this an app that should be created? I want a nice green patina with just the minimum of birdshit stains to give the grandeur of permanence. I would use it as my Author Photo.
The Greeks considered the best wisdom to be exoticwisdom or — to use the title of Arnaldo Momigliano’s masterly study of the phenomenon — “alien wisdom.” What better and more convenient authority than the distant — temporally and geographically — Zoroaster?
You can recover the parallel universe John Crowley novels known as The Pærsia Cycle by running %s/hermes/zoroaster/g on the Cycle we’ve got. Zoroaster As Perceived by The Greeks.
To the Greeks of those times they would have appeared less so. On the charge of fictitious biography, was it not reasonable that a prophet should be made to exemplify the religion he founded? And if data were scarce, why not fill out the portrait with touches from the picture of the generic sage? The false attribution of learned texts was a graver charge. However, the intent, it must be allowed, was seldom to deceive. What was misattributed to Zoroaster, as will be discussed below, were for the most part not original compositions, but compilations of pre-existing material for which the compilers sought a persuasive author. Their decisions to attribute their compilations to Zoroaster — because Zoroaster might have written it, might he not? — says more about their poor taste in philosophical literature than about their deceitfulness.
Dude, seriously. Zoroaster the Thrice Great? I’m going to start pretending these words are actually cognates, like “That mustard can’t have gone bad! The jar was zoroastrically sealed!”
There was a sound that hadn’t been there before, a varied, subtle sound, like wind in a cave, Pierce thought; or no it sounded not entirely natural, but not like a mechanical sound either, not a distant Cessna or a far-off factory humming. And it was sweet.
[They] stood beneath it, their hands extended and their fingers spread, mouths open too, as though every part of them could hear if it listened.
– John Crowley, Endless Things
After all, what exists in books is what the characters see and know; the characters possess and embody it, it extends outward from them in auras, but there is no more of it than the characters can hold, and the only reality it has is its power over the reader via the feelings and fates of the characters. Don Quixote and Odysseus are as large as we are, even though nothing more can happen to them and they can do nothing more than they do in their stories, wherein they have endless lives extending infinitely in all directions. But this endlessness and eternity are also not things, are nothing but effects of the words “endless” and “infinite,” and they withdraw into a true vacuum when the book is shut, like a slide projector turned off, all the things shown in all their color and detail extinguished.
—John Crowley, “In the Midst of Death”
She turned, orienting herself. As she did so, she sensed Time as an enormous conical spiral. She sensed it tightening as it rose, tightening toward some furious stasis of immediacy. Time is compressible; it was quite simple really, she could compress it to a point. She could compress it all into the tiniest of compasses– into a day, into an evening –no, into an hour, even into the turning of a head: the single half-turn of a single great-eyed head.
—John Crowley, “The Reason for the Visit”
That amazing rolling thunder a big band could make when it started a song with the thudding of the bass drum all alone, like a fast train suddenly coming around a bend and into your ear: a kind of awed moan would take over the crowd when they did that, and then all the growling brass would stand and come in, like the same train picking up speed and rushing closer, and the couples would pour onto the floor, the drumming of their feet audible in the more bon ton nightclub downstairs, where the crooner raised his eyes to the trembling chandelier in delight or dismay.
—John Crowley, Four Freedoms
Indeed they could hardly, any of them, exactly remember these things, only the bare names of them. Gone.
—John Crowley, Endless Things
Endings are hard. Everybody knows. It’s probably because in our own beginningless endless Y-shaped lives things so rarely seem to end truly and properly–they end, but not with The End–that we love and need stories: rushing toward their sweet conclusions as though they rushed toward us, our eyes damp and breasts warm with guilty gratification, or grinning in delight and laughing at ourselves, and at them too, at the impossible endings; we read and we watch and we say in our hearts, This couldn’t happen, and we also say, But here it is, happening.
—John Crowley, Endless Things
From an article in the WSJ:
Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder. The typical response to being startled – muscles tense, heart pounds, senses go on alert – lasts only a few seconds. But in this disorder, first observed in 1878 among French-Canadian lumberjacks in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine, the reaction is greatly exaggerated. Sufferers jump, twitch, flail their limbs and obey commands given suddenly, even if it means hurting themselves or a loved one. It’s also been observed in factory workers in Siberia and Malaysia. Some experts believe it’s a genetic mutation that blocks glycine, a neurotransmitter that calms the central nervous system’s response to stimuli. Others think it’s more psychological than neurological, and perhaps part of a heightened defense mechanism from living and working in close quarters.
Paris Syndrome. This variation of Stendhal Syndrome primarily affects Japanese tourists; about a dozen a year experience a psychiatric breakdown in the City of Light. In the 1980s, a Japanese scientist theorized that the disorientation is brought on by the combination of exhaustion, the language barrier and difficulty some Japanese have reconciling their idealized vision of Paris with the modern reality.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Named after Lewis Carroll’s famous novel, this neurological condition makes objects (including one’s own body parts) seem smaller, larger, closer or more distant than they really are. It’s more common in childhood, often at the onset of sleep, and may disappear by adulthood. The prevalence and origin are unknown, but it sometimes accompanies migraine headaches, epilepsy, brain tumors or the use of psychotropic drugs.
I saw this mentioned on John Crowley’s blog, which is quite fitting, as Alice in Wonderland syndrome immediately brough to mind a passage describing an episode one of his characters suffers in the Aegypt quartet.
I also remember coming across an old drawing mapping the body based on importance (similar to the world maps we see with countries scaled to show population). Unfortunately, I have no idea where I saw it or in what context.