Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via a Librarything giveaway. I did a happy dance when I found out I won.
Many of my favorite authors I have discovered due to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. John Crowley is one of those writers. I first read Little, Big. Eventually, I read his Aegypt sequence. He is one those fantasy writers that people who don’t read much fantasy put in literature because for some reason they think literature isn’t fantasy. (Yeah, I don’t know why they think that either).
This collection of short fiction includes stories that have, for the most part, been already published, and if it has a theme, it is about the power reading and the story. In some ways, it reminds me of Dinesen’s Anecdotes of Destiny, another collection of stories about stories.
The collection opens with “The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines” which starts as a story about a theatre intern and morphs into something far more powerful. But honesty, you are most likely going to want to read it for the scene where Beatrice (of Much Ado) confronts pirates. The story makes use not only of a book about the heroines, but also about the authorship debate.
It is followed by a very short story, “In the Tom Mix Museum”. While the shortest one in the collection, it is also a master class in how a story does not have to be long to be powerful and to say much.
The title story, “And Go Like This”, takes the rather interesting idea of NYC’s rooms and overpopulation. The ending sequence is just beautifully rendered. It is followed by “Spring Break” which quite frankly is disturbing on so many levels – but not in a bad read type of way. It has to do with how learning and reading have changed since the rise of the internet – in particular websites like Twitter or Facebook. It isn’t so much fake news that is being looked at but the lack of reading critically and in depth – and important aspect of storytelling.
It is followed by “The Million Monkeys of M Borel” which is a wonderful story about how we read and why the device or format we use is important. It too is one of those stories with a particularly beautiful ending. If you are a reader, this is the type of story that will speak to your story. A somewhat similar point pops in the interlinked stories that make up “Mount Auburn Street”.
“Conversation Hearts” is perhaps the story that most directly confronts storytelling. Not only because the story is about a family where the woman is an author but because Crowley makes use of tropes that populate movies but twists them.
Strangely, I found the last two stories the least interesting. They are not bad. “Flint and Mirror” has Dee in it and “Anosognosia” is a neat story about creation and reality. This is also true of “This is Our Town”.
But the overwhelming theme of the stories is that of love for stories. It makes this collection a thumping good read (to borrow a phrase) for any reader.