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John Crowley's Ægypt

Shannon and I have been reading John Crowley's Ægypt (the first novel in a tetralogy I've been meaning to read for years) together for some weeks now, and I am thus far terribly disappointed by it. I'm a huge fan of Crowley's writing -- his Little, Big and Engine Summer are two of my favorite books -- but his style seems to have become increasingly philosophical and abstract as the years have gone on, and Ægypt is beyond what I tend to enjoy in a book. Engine Summer's style was fairly straightforward in both language and plot; Little, Big was more philosophical, with lots of flights of fancy and linguistic exuberance, but still consisted primarily of concrete scenes; and Ægypt is just ... tedious. There are few actual scenes, as most of the book consists of summary, philosophy, supposition, and other abstractions. Shannon is reading it aloud to me, and every time we finish a half-hour's snoozefest, I'm in desperate need of a nap.

Shannon and I have discussed the fact that the novel (and, presumably, the entire series) is structured around some form of the zodiac, and so this first novel is divided into three major sections, each of which is divided into four sub-sections. This leads me to believe that -- combining this zodiac framework with the traditional plot structure of beginning, middle, and end -- this entire first book may be an introduction, a way of setting up the story that will come afterward, but I'm finding that it isn't much fun to read an entire book that feels like an introduction.

It reminds me of that Ang Lee Hulk movie: you sit through an entire 2 hours of "origin story," and at the very end ... the Hulk's story finally begins. And then the end credits roll. I hated that movie, and part of why I hated it was that it consisted entirely of the less interesting part of the Hulk story, the part that gets filled in purely as the way to help you understand the actual story.

And I feel like that's what we're getting with Ægypt: nothing but the drum roll. Maybe eventually the stars will come onstage and the show will begin and cymbals will crash, but in the meantime this is one looooong fucking drum roll! And drum rolls aren't that interesting, all by themselves.

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