Crowley, John, 1942-....

Alternative names
Birth 1942-12-01

Biographical notes:

American writer of novels, short stories, and film and television scripts.

From the description of John Crowley Papers, 1962-2000. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122492204

John Crowley, son of Dr. Joseph and Patience Crowley, was born December 1, 1941, in Presque Isle, Maine. He spent his youth in Vermont and Kentucky, attending Indiana University where in 1964 he earned a BA in English with a minor in film and photography. He has since pursued a career as a novelist and documentary writer, the latter in conjunction with his wife, Laurie Block. In 1993, he began teaching courses in Utopian fiction and fiction writing at Yale University.

Although Crowley's fiction is frequently categorized as science fiction and fantasy, Gerald Jonas more accurately places him among writers who feel the need to reinterpret archetypical materials in light of modern experience. Crowley considers only his first three novels to be science fiction. The Deep (1975) and Beasts (1976) take place in futuristic settings, depicting science gone wrong and the individual search for identity and purpose. Engine Summer (1978) amplifies these themes with history, odd lore and arcane knowledge, and extends his work beyond the genre into the hilly country on the borderline of literature (Charles Nichol).

Crowley's best known novel, Little, Big (1981), weaves magical elements with a long family chronicle, encompassing all of 20th century history. Set at the intersection of the real world and Fairyland, he said of the work, To me fairies represent the sense we all have that there's a story being told about us, that there's a larger meaning or a plot of life. Little, Big was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards and received the World Fantasy Award in 1982.

Crowley's investigation of this secret history of the world continued in the Ægypt series: Ægypt (1987), Love & Sleep (1994), and Dœmonomania (2000). Here Pierce Moffatt, a young historian, in pursuing the research of an historical novelist, initiates a spiritual quest for a new understanding of Universe by way of the Renaissance occult. Michael Dirda suggested the term philosophical romance might best describe these later novels, characterizing the first volume as a strange, even recondite book, though an immensely readable one: Crowley's prose remains bright and beautiful, absolutely assured, no matter how teasing his purpose.

During this same time period Crowley won the 1990 World Fantasy Award for his novella Great Work of Time, published in a quartet of short stories entitled Novelty (1989). A second collection, Antiquities (1993), includes seven short stories written between 1978 and 1993. He also has produced numerous book reviews, articles, and presentation papers. In 1992 Crowley received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

Crowley's name is most visible through his fiction, but he also has written more than 30 documentary films, primarily for the Public Broadcasting System. Many of these have received awards and been screened at international film festivals. The Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995) contextualizes the 1989 events in Beijing that led to the occupation of Tienamen Square, and was a 1995 New York Film Festival selection. Other works receiving film festival recognition include World of Tomorrow (1984), a feature on the 1939 World's Fair in New York, America and Lewis Hine (1985), a documentary (written with Laurie Block) about the great social photographer, and America's Cup 1987: The Walter Cronkite Report (1987), which garnered a CINE Golden Eagle award in 1988. Crowley also contributed to scripts for The Restless Conscience and The Liberators, two documentary shorts which received Academy Award nominations in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

Additional information on John Crowley is available in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1982, volume Y82.

From the guide to the John Crowley Papers TXRC01-A1., 1962-2000, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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  • Authors, American--20th century


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