cover image Reading Backwards

Reading Backwards

John Crowley. Subterranean, $40 (464p) ISBN 978-1-59606-946-6

Crowley, best known for his fantasy fiction (Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr), shows his colors as an insightful critic in this collection of 39 essays and book reviews. Grouped into three loosely organized sections, the selections range over a wide variety of themes and interests, from a delightful introductory memoir about Crowley’s youth as a passionate Wagnerian, to considerations of the eccentric art of Edward Gorey, the novels of Ursula K. Le Guin and Richard Hughes, the industrial design wizardry of Norman Bel Geddes, Jack Womack’s exhibition catalogue of UFO-logy, and H. G. Wells’s reaction to Fritz Lang’s futuristic film Metropolis. Crowley writes with a light touch, but he’s adept at bringing his subjects into sharp focus with a well-phrased observation, as when, in his essay “Unrealism,” he denotes the attributes of classical romance incongruously underpinning the film Taxi Driver as an example of how artists “displace romance material into their realistic worlds without knowing that they do so.” This book makes a fine companion volume to Crowley’s previous essay collection, In Other Words (2007), and it will likely send its readers to investigate more of the books and subjects it covers. [em](Dec.) [/em]