One of America’s best kept literary secrets (Little, Big may just be the great American novel), John Crowley returns to the printed page in 2017 with what is truly a fan’s collection in Totalitopia. Reprinting a few shorts stories, two-and-a-half essays (I don’t know whether to call the review of Paul Park’s oeuvre an essay, paper, article, etc.), as well as a new, in-depth author interview, it makes for an excellent sampler platter that includes fiction but likewise goes beyond to offer a behind the scenes look at some of the realities behind said fiction—a fan’s collection.
Looking at the fiction in Totalitopia, “This Is Our Town” is a nostalgic piece, and opens the collection with one man’s reminiscences of his upbringing during America’s Golden Age, particularly his relationship with the Catholic church and how it relates to his present day life. An open-ended story rather than a definitive view on religion, Crowley uses his subtle powers of prose to ask personal questions that touch upon the larger, social realm. “Gone” is one Crowley’s most well known and reprinted stories. A moody, minimalist piece, it is about a woman whose partner has run away with their children on an Earth where a space ship orbits, sending peace-loving Elmer robots do housework and common chores. A bizarre story for the robot premise, it nevertheless manages to draw strong yet mysterious emotional resonance through the portrayal of the woman’s life. Proving flash fiction is also in Crowley’s bag of tricks, “In the Tom Mix Museum” is shows the power of excellent writing technique in the process of relaying a vignette of a person’s visit to the museum. More happening in its three pages than some writers can pack into a story ten times as long, the “story” is interesting as a specimen and as fiction. What I would call a one-off conceit, “And Go Like This” takes a Buckminster Fuller quote and runs with it. The entire population of the world migrates to New York City, and answers the question, once there, what to do?