Little, Big (Book 2: Brother North-Wind’s Secret)

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I have grown so fond of these characters, felt such an affinity for Daily Alice and Smoky and Sophie, that I was a little shocked to read that Smoky had been unfaithful with Sophie. “Only three and a half times,” to be sure, but still he was unfaithful with his wife’s sister.

I guess I was even more surprised that this seemed to bother Daily Alice not at all. It seems that she and her sister have a closeness that not even a husband can come between.

Meanwhile, there is a chapter in this book entitled “Little, Big” such as the entire novel itself is called. We find the three (Daily Alice, Smoky and Sophie) holding hands all under the night sky. As Sophie watches the falling stars, Daily Alice contemplates her size within the world. Are we little? Are we big?

Daily Alice couldn’t tell if she felt huge or small. She wondered whether her head were so big as to be able to contain all this starry universe, or whether the universe were so little that it would fit within the compass of her human head. She alternated between these feelings, expanding and diminishing. The stars wandered in and out of the vast portals of her eyes, under the immense empty dome of her brow; and then Smoky took her hand and she vanished to a speck, still holding the stars as in a tiny jewel box within her.

So they lay a long time, not caring to talk any more, each dwelling on that odd, physical sensation of ephemeral eternity–a paradox but undeniably felt, and if the stars had been as near and full of faces as they seemed, they would have looked down and seen those three as a single asterism, a linked wheel against the wheeling dark sky of the meadow. (p. 178)

And another thing; I understand how it was that Smoky thought of himself as a whole crowd of people, for I’ve felt that way myself. Maybe not exactly as he does, but I’ve balanced my persons of woman, mother, wife, daughter, teacher and listened to their voices clamor in my ear each vying for undivided attention. How interesting that Smoky would feel that, too.

“Santa,” he wrote, “I would like to be one person only, not a whole crowd of them, half of them always trying to turn their backs and run whenever somebody”–Sophie, he meant, Alice, Cloud, Doc, Mother; Alice most of all– “looks at me. I want to be brave and honest and shoulder my burdens. I don’t want to leave myself out while a bunch of slyboots figments do my living for me.” (p. 165)

If Santa can fix that for you, Smoky, as you burn your Christmas Eve letter in the fireplace and watch the smoke go up the chimney into the night sky, you let me know.

As for Brother North-Wind’s Secret, it is as “simple” as the fact that after Winter, Spring comes. I think this is one of the first times that Crowley brings up the cyclical nature of the world, of its inhabitants. One generation follows another, passing down its sins and its secrets, while hope lies ever ahead.

Tomorrow, thoughts on Book 3: Old Law Farm. Please feel free to leave links to your thoughts, or comments, below.

9 thoughts on “Little, Big (Book 2: Brother North-Wind’s Secret)”

  1. The part with Alice and Sophie is where the book got so dreamy, at least the audio version, that I got lost. Why doesn’t anyone care? And then the next part, with the children? Listening, I was confused. I still mean to get some of this part read, though, because I am not an auditory learner and sometimes miss things when it’s read out loud to me.


    1. I tend to get very confused with an auditory book. That, or sleepy! I think it would be good to discuss why no body cares; I’m still thinking about that. When I have more solid ideas, and perhaps when you’ve read it, let’s talk. Right now, I suspect that everyone’s very “loving and forgiving”, not caught up in traditional norms. Like in the 1960’s, or faerie-land. 😉


  2. I don’t think I could do this book as an audiobook. I can’t even read it as an e-book! I need a physical copy so I can page back and forth when there’s a recollection of something that went before or something that changes my perspective.


  3. “not at all” does not seem quite right to me, but regardless it might help to think of the Drinkwaters as a theosophist religious cult. I take Daily Alice’s rationalizations, if that is the right word, to her sister as honest – she has to be careful about the Tale. The Tale is more important than anything else.

    Some of these characters have a serious free will / predestination paradox problem.

    “60s-ish” is also a good, relevant explanation.

    I had completely forgotten that Santa Claus is an actual character in the book. High-larious.


    1. No, I guess I can’t say that Daily Alice cared “not at all”. But, she certainly cared far less than I would have! As for the Tale, I’m a bit confused. It seems to be not a literal Tale, but a Destiny of sorts, a Fate that they’re all living out. Is Crowley saying that we are all part of a Tale, or is it specific to the Drinkwaters?

      Santa. A most wonderful elf.


      1. Wait! You’re not going to give me the answer? 😉

        I’m sure we’re all part of the Tale, although we don’t all have faeries. I believe in a Divine Tale for us all, and for that reason this Story becomes real.


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