Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ægypt Becomes Egypt, But It's All Right

Finished Endless Things, the fourth and final part of John Crowley's Ægypt.

It is a strange little book, quite different in tone and structure and detail from the other three; it is almost more of a lengthy coda than a continuation of anything that came before.

In Dæmonamania, there was a climax (really, two climaxes) that had been earned and that was unexpected in shape and significance, but here there is the slow denouement of the story or of the world or of hermeticism or of youth or everything at all.

Without giving too much away, this is a book, not as those before, about the cusp of two things, but about the consequences of finding oneself on the other side of that cusp. Crowley treats that gently and humanely, as he always does, and a person of a certain age and certain settledness cannot help but find himself reflected here in ordinary triumphs and ordinary defeats, not to mention in the slow dilution of what once seemed magical or secret or rife with possibility and is now revealed to be a luxury of youth or worse - of aggressive naiveté.

What happens when the magic drains out of everything?

Well, you get on with life, for a start. And that is pretty good, too.

There is hardly a point to a review of this book, really. No one who hasn't read the other three would think of reading this one and no one who has read the other three will need to be convinced. So let me just say it like this:

I never had a book (a series of books) speak to me the way these have; I never felt so like myself reading these beautiful books. The sadness and sobriety of Endless Things feels as true and inevitable as marriage and mortgage and career and disappointment and, most importantly, as the revelation of unexpected, realer things.

So, you know, read them already so we can have something to talk about.

Me? I'm going to have to start them over again right away because I probably never missed so much in a book as I did in each of these that comprise Ægypt.

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