The Little People
by MacDonald Harris.
New York: William Morrow & Co., 1986.
From the Jacket:
When the young American scholar Bonner Foley comes to
visit his friends the Boswins in their English country house, he hopes only
to recuperate from a recent bout of mental illness. But he soon becomes
bewitched by the landscape of rural Waldshire, with its prehistoric
sites and its mysterious standing stones. Exploring in the nearby
forest, to his delight he encounters a race of creatures who seem to come
out of the remotest past and yet are as solid and real as the objects
of his daily existence. The Little People, who greet him as a friend,
are loving and kind, full of music, and only slightly malicious. He joins them
and becomes a leader in their mischievous games. But are they
really there or only in his imagination? Lovejoy the therapist
tells Bonner that the figures are illusory and will vanish if looked at
steadily. But by now his happiness depends in his belief in their
Bonner's host James, a retired American businessman, is engaged in his
own struggle with the world of the occult. And Bonner himself is
deeply involved with James's daughters, the virginal
Sylvie, who becomes his wife, and the
sensual Stasha. Before the drama plays itself out, it involves
a theft of honey, a ritual immolation, and a bizarre accidental death
that is also a crime. Comic, ironic, and
tragic by turns, this novel of Americans in Britain examines the borderline between
mental illness and supernatural experience.
Critical Acclaim for MacDonald Harris and
The Little People
- "Fanciful, witty, and ultimately mysterious, The Little People
brings the familiar elements of Harris' work--the intellectual playfulness, the numinous sexuality,
the disturbing sense of fatalism--together in a work of great appeal
and surprising power."
Gregory Feeley, The Washington Post Book World
- "Harris...is primarily a storyteller with a deceptively
casual way of moving along the plot. His characters spring to life
with the greatest of ease, he imparts a sense of
mystery with every page; his English countryside is as exotic as
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Latin America."
Dan Cryer, Newsday
- "Harris's range is, in fact immense. Genuinely cosmopolitan,
yet without pretensions, he deeply knows and loves the many
foreign languages, landscapes, and mythologies that figure in his books...Compared
with most modern tales of K mart angst or upscale introspection,
Harris is an erudite writer, well versed not only in the history and
arts of the past (particularly 19th-century music) but in science and
techology as well."
Michael Malone, Philadelphia Inquirer
- "In novel after novel, and again in his 12th, The Little People,
MacDonald Harris has proved himself to be an inventive teller of remarkably varied
Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal
- "Offbeat, magnetizing, funny, moving--and exquisitely written besides,
this novel--the 12th--by American-born MacDonald Harris, is not for
the computer-minded...Sophisticated, witty, brimming over with lore, this
charming tale is a perfect antidote for the horrors unrelentingly conveyed
to us by the media."
Marjorie Bitker, Milwaukie Journal
- "The Little People takes on the heightened colors of what
is popularly called magic realism, while retaining (perhaps) the formal
unities of mundane fiction."
- "There can no longer be any question whatever that
MacDonald Harris is one of our major novelists."
Arthur Zich, Los Angeles Times Book Review
- "MacDonald Harris...has been something of a bypassed talent,
having received less attention than he deserves. Mr. Harris is an
elegant and fastidious writer, a thinking man's
novelist, with a penchant for international situations and
James R. Mellow, The New York Times Book Review
- "MacDonald Harris never strains for effect or raises his
voice, but his work is both sensational and revolutionary."
Kendall Mitchall, Chicago Tribune
"MacDonald Harris is a gifted craftsman, a meticulous writer whose powers
as a storyteller are as compelling as the sexual tensions he
Elliot Anderson, Chicago Tribune Book World
- "Like Wallace Stevens, MacDonald Harris is an elegant writer,
seeking pleasure in a cheerful hedonism, yet
still aware of its transient nature."
Edward Geureschi, Newsday
"Harris is a real writer, and I don't use that phrase except of
someone who ought to be cherished and encouraged. He has
extreme exactness of language, a genuine sense of place,
and manages to say some interesting things about people."
C. P. Snow
- "Harris's talents are proved like a theorem: bright and dry
pacing, hoodwinking complexity, bumpless style, and
a patterning imagination brought dashingly to bear."
- "[Harris] has the ability to evoke the greatest emotion
from a few well-placed words that, like the 19th century stereoscope,
make everything three-dimensional when viewed through their lens."
Laurel Graeber, The Village Voice Literary Supplement.
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