And Go Like This: For readers and writers

And Go Like This by John Crowley science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAnd Go Like This by John Crowley science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAnd Go Like This by John Crowley

I don’t usually pay attention to the media blurbs on the covers of books, but the Newsday quote on the cover of John Crowley’s And Go Like This (2019) so perfectly describes this story collection that I must share it:

“Transforms the lead of daily life into seriously dazzling artistic gold.”

“The lead of daily life” in these stories comes from mostly average people going about their mostly average lives. In this collection you won’t find many of the plot fixtures we’re used to seeing in speculative fiction. There are no spaceships, battles, dragons, kings, or magic spells. There are a few speculative elements, but what makes Crowley’s fiction most compelling is the way he closely examines the souls of normal folk, portrays them in such a charming way, and gives us keen insights into the human condition. I don’t know a lot about John Crowley, but I get the sense that there are many autobiographical elements in this collection.

All but one of the stories in And Go Like This have been published before. They are:

“The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines” (2005) — At the Indiana Shakespeare Festival one summer, two teenagers meet. The boy is quiet and innocent. The girl considers herself a “free spirit.” This sparks a life-long friendship that will endure severe challenges as they age.

“In The Tom Mix Museum” (2012) — This piece of flash fiction is a powerful vignette about a childhood memory.

“And Go Like This” (2011) — Buckminster Fuller once said, “There is room enough indoors in New York City for the whole 1963 world’s population to enter, with room enough inside for all hands to dance the twist in average nightclub proximity.” Crowley’s cute title story tests this hypothesis.

“Spring Break” (2017) — A future student who’s on spring break from his virtual college visits the Yale campus and encounters his first real library and the odd librarian who governs it. I thought it was interesting to read this during COVID, while I am teaching college courses online, and to consider what my profession may look like a decade or two from now. This story, which pays homage to Edgar Allen Poe, won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story in 2018.

“The Million Monkeys Of M. Borel” (2016) — This is an interesting theoretical treatise about the question of whether a million monkeys could produce the works of Shakespeare if given unlimited time. It has something to say about the craft and purpose of writing fiction.

“This Is Our Town” (2017) — As a girl grows into adulthood, the way she thinks about her Catholic faith and practices evolves.

“Mount Auburn Street” (2017) — This novella is in three parts: (1) “Little Yeses, Little Noes” (2) “Glow Little Glow-Worm” (3) “Mount Auburn Street.” It focuses on a handful of characters who live in nearby towns in New England. Harry, whose wife has left him, has temporarily moved in with his daughter and granddaughter. Harry worries that he’s losing his memory but he still loves to write. Stan is Harry’s realtor. Stan and his wife are also dealing with some challenges as they age. There’s not much to get excited about in this story, and some readers may think it’s boring, but the characters are so deeply explored that it’s impossible not to feel empathy for them and to admire Crowley’s craft.

“Conversation Hearts” (2008) — An author is meeting with her agent about the new partly-autobiographical book she has written about prejudice. Then she has to drive home in the dark while her family worries about the snow piling up outside. The plot alternates between the story of the author’s drive home and the telling of the children’s tale she has written.

“Flint and Mirror” (2018) — This novelette is an historical fantasy about the English/Irish conflict during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The main character is Hugh O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. Hugh’s Irish kin have taught him that their land belongs to the fae and not to the Queen of England. With John Dee’s assistance, Queen Elizabeth attempts to gain Hugh’s loyalty.

“Anosognosia” (2019) — This new story, dedicated to Paul Park, was my favorite, probably because it was the most speculative. It’s about a teenager who has a head injury. When he wakes up after being in a coma, his thoughts, motivations, and behavior have changed drastically. It’s like he’s a different person.

I’m not a fiction writer, but if I was, I would study Crowley’s stories as a way to hone my craft. As he explains in his opening section titled “To The Prospective Reader Upon Opening this Book,” Crowley doesn’t have a set style. He thinks of himself as a chameleon and hopes And Go Like This will be a “tasting menu” of this style in which “there is a restless search for a proper coloration — that is, finding a way for the matter of the story to produce the language appropriate to it, as the mythical chameleon is colored by the background on which it rests… The chameleon mode doesn’t involve just phrases or sentences; it can be seen in the deployment of time, how events are contained within the recounting of other events, past moments recalled that shape present moments and even endings — what might be called reader-writer relations, a form of diplomacy…” Fiction writers could learn much from Crowley’s stories.

The audio version by Tantor Audio is narrated by Graham Rowat who has a pleasant voice and a nice cadence.

Published in 2019. And Go Like This collects thirteen stories from a master of all trades. Reading John Crowley’s stories is to see almost-familiar lives running parallel to our own, secret histories that never quite happened, memories that might be real or might be invented. In the thirteen stories collected here, Crowley sets his imagination free to roam from a 20th century Shakespeare festival to spring break at a future Yale in his Edgar Award winning story “Spring Break”. And in the previously unpublished “Anosognosia” the world brought about by one John C.’s high-school accident may or may not exist.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I got to meet him at ReaderCon a couple of years ago. Unlike the usual cautionary tale, meeting one of my idols was NOT a disappointment!

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