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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 14 July 2005
First up - this book (and its sequels) are getting increasingly difficult to get a hold off. None are currently in print and for some reason their second hand prices are quite steep. (£75 for Love and Sleep anyone?) Is there ever going to be a reprint in the UK?
Having said that, if you do manage to track down a copy of this series you are in luck - an east coast academic, who failed to achieve his youthful promise, flees a hedonistic New York for the upstate village of Blackberry Jambs. His goal is to foreswear relationships and write the definitive guide to the hermetic history of the world.
A typical synopsis for the modern American novel but for Crowley this is the platform for an exploration of the nature of history and reality. His aims are much larger than most modern authors and reading this book you get a sense of something bigger and grander beyond one's everyday life. (It reminded me in some ways of A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys - which I'm sure is intentional on Crowley's part. It is probably open to the same criticism directed at Powys of wilful kookiness.)
I re-read Aegypt lately after a gap of ten years and to be honest I had forgotten that about half way through there was a huge chunk of exposition on the nature of the hermetic tradition. The material is in itself very interesting but stuck as it is, almost undigested in the middle of the novel, it's a definite weakness.
Aegypt's well worth pursuing to the end. I just hope you can find the rest of the sequence!
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on 28 May 2002
Ratings are invidious, equally it is difficult for most people to name any one novel, or record, or film which they value above all others. So I cant tell you that Aegypt is the best book I have ever read, or even that it is my favourite, there are simply too many others I have loved to make such a claim. However, it is one of those which will always spring to mind if anyone ever asks me.
It is not an easy novel to describe, the story is so rich, so varied and so strange as to defy easy explanations. The central character is Pierce Moffat, historian, out of work and on the verge of losing any sense of that the world is as we would think it to be. His obsession is the arcarna of late medieval Europe, and he knows that their world was so different from ours that we can hardly call it the same place. In his company and the company of Bruno and John Dee (two genuine figures from the 16th century) we are led through meeting with angels, and maybe other powers, who existence is so tenuous that we cant ever be certain they are there. As the backwards leap into the other world unfolds, Pierces actual life, changes. His leaving of his job, his city (New York) and almost all his former habits, and his move to a New England Arcadian idyll in is brought to life with such beautiful prose. Crowley's descriptive passages of the rivers and the people of this country are as delightful as anything else written.
Yet at its heart the novel is a mystery, a question about the nature of belief and truth and how one can influence, inform, or even radically alter the other. How the world is not a set of rules, but a set of perceptions that we make and change according to our needs and our desires. It sets us a philosophical conundrum and answers is with stunning elegance.
This barely begins to tell the features in the landscape of the book, as there are several other strands of the story on which I have not touched. A beautiful novel and the first of four.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 September 2009
"Whenever the world turns from what it has been into what it will be, and thus earns a different past and a different future, there is a brief moment when every possible kind of universe, all possible extensions of being in space and time, are poised on the threshold of becoming, before all but one pass into non-existence again; and the world is as it is and not as it was, and everyone in it forgets that it could ever be or has ever been other than the way it is now."

I remember when I bought this book when it originally came out in paperback in 1988. I was intrigued by the cover. And I remembered as a child hearing somewhere news that someone had supposedly found the twelve signs of the zodiac hidden in the landscape around Glastonbury. I was intrigued and the book turned out to be a damn good read. I am not a big fan of fantasy novels, but the fantasy element in this book is extremely well handled. And over the years, when I have had a clear out of some of my novels, I've always kept this in my collection and have recently had the chance to re-read it. I still think - more than ever - that it's a damn good read. It's on a par with Umberto Eco's `Foucault's Pendulum. And now I discover that this book forms the first part of a tetralogy.

It's 1976. Pierce Moffett is an unhappy teacher in the rural lands behind the east coast of the USA. He has "a glimpse of places long known to him by name but still more or less imaginary ... here was danger, and the chance for strange bliss." This may sound mundane, but soon we are taken from the bare reality of the small communities of this vast hinterland into strange lands and strange times - John Dee in Shakespearian London and Glastonbury, Giordano Bruno in Renaissance Naples and Rome - all at a steady pace, often returning to make sure that reality still has its place in the scheme of things. It's a book of histories, and one needs to have one to fully appreciate it: I think, when I first read it at the age of twenty, I was perhaps too young. The whole book's premise can be consolidated into one idea, namely "There is more than one history of the world."

Pierce Moffett's historical field "lay further off, or closer in, beyond anyway, geometrical paths through emblematic arches, statuary, a dark topiary maze, a grey vista to an obelisk." He was concerned why people think that gypsies can tell fortunes. More to the point, the many histories of the world calls for Dildrum to be told that Doldrum is dead, and a rudimentary photograph of Shakespeare to be taken by John Dee.

And it's a novel of the possibilities open to a man. It's a book of much wisdom and many truths. For instance, that "the interdiction ... against wishing for such things as artistic abilities - sit down at the piano, the Appassionata flows suddenly from your fingertips - applied in a way to wisdom too, to enlightenment, to heart-knowledge, useless unless earned ..."; or that "Time doesn't return, full circle, and bring back what is past; what turns full circle is the notion that time will turn full circle, and bring back the past."

The novel sometimes reads like a Charlie Kaufman screenplay; a story is told within the framework of its very telling. Admittedly, this can lead to a certain nebulousness in the structure. For example, there are hints concerning ley-lines. Are we supposed to take this seriously? Does the author take them seriously? Are we to treat the concept with a postmodernist detachment, as curious observers? The important point, we learn, is that John Dee believes in them. Meanwhile, Pierce Moffett does not take them seriously: "Star temples and ley-lines, UFOs and landscape giants, couldn't they see that what was really, permanently astonishing was the human ability to keep finding these things?"

The Kaufmanesque concept of the book also allows for much self-referencing, such as marked Lawrence Durrell's `Avignon Quintet'. For Pierce Moffett has a literary spirit accompanying him on his journey in the form of the recently-deceased Fellowes Kraft. In his discovered memoirs, Moffett reads how Kraft planned one more book before he died, "a book composed of groups ambiguous but clear, great solitudes ...; a book solemn and darkly bright and joyous in its achievement ...; a book empty and infinite at its center." (Is not this, then, the book written by John Crowley?) Then, towards the end of the book, do we not see the opening sentences of the novel's prologue replayed as the opening sentences of Kraft's unfinished book?

The final chapter hints at what might come in the second volume: "Things would be different now ... real connections might begin to be made ..." That instalment I now await to begin.
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on 13 December 2007
This is a remarkably good book, though hard to describe. Whilst it explores the grandest themes - the nature of history, myth and reality - it remains a beautifully-observed study of its characters' thoughts and lives. The sense, described by another reviewer, of something grander lying beyond everyday life, is enhanced by the many echoes and resonances between the different strands and levels of the story. Crowley's prose, as in "Little, Big", is well worth savouring. I can only hope the rest of the Aegypt cycle lives up to this standard.
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on 16 June 2015
Nothing quite like this. Beautifully written, as one expects from Crowley. He really is akin to a master sculptor, he nails his craft and creates beauty, often.

Yet this book isn't perfect, thankfully. Nor does it make sense - thankfully. This is a book within a book. Crowley is playing a game and pushing what a novel can be, or what it wants to be. Great art, lets say painting, could solely rely upon what the eye perceives and get down on canvas just that, what we can see. Well this could seem pointless to some - when your medium, be it paint, marble or the written word - could do so much more.

Well Crowley does just that. Creates a universe of endless possibility and mystery and magic and alchemy and philosophy in which the journey is much more important than the destination. Aegypt is the first of four (in the Aegypt tetralogy).

Terence Mckenna was a fan of Crowley. This fact alone is worth giving this a shot if newbie, and fans of 'Little, Big' shouldn't harbor any inhibition about clicking buy now!!
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on 25 March 2010
I am a big fan of fantasy books and buying a book called aegypt i expected a fantasy book. What i got though was a book with a character i did not like or relate to who was, quite frankly, boring. There was only a little bit of fantasy and that was at the beginning and after that I just lost interest and found i could not get into it or finish it.
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