John Crowley is an award-winning author whose novels like Little,Big and The Translator have won critical acclaim. Novelties & Souveniers is a collection of his short fiction and the fifteen stories incorporated into this volume reflect the sheer breadth of his creative vision. While they frequently feature some element of the fantastic (for example, "Great Work of Time" features a discussion of time travel), the stories are grounded in literary realism and memorable prose.
For example, Crowley explores the interaction of death and memory in the story simply called "Snow." It features something one might have once truly considered fanciful: the massive recording of 8,000 hours of one's life to be stored in a huge memory vault where one's loved ones can go and visit and replay these "virtual memories." But unfortunately even the virtual memory can play tricks on you, and ends up far fuzzier than you would imagine. It's a haunting story about the longing we have for loved ones once they're gone, and how our memories of them often end up as murky as a video screen full of "snow."
"The Nightingale Sings at Night" is an interesting (if atheistic in tone) take on the idea that even if men didn't quite create their creator, they may have created the notion of heaven. More intriguingly, it touches on the what it means to have "ideas" that don't specifically relate to the perpetuation of the present, and the fact that unless you notice the passage of time, the concept may well be irrelevant. Like the other stories in Novelties & Souvenirs, each of these stories features a masterful command of language and an urbane, literary style that could be said to "elevate" topics such as time travel from their roots in "pulp" fiction.
Crowley's characterizations are deft, his dialogue reminiscent of the fanciful recreations of Victorian England in many instances. His writings are reminiscent of those of Avram Davidson, whose The Other Nineteenth Century featured a wonderful collection of his esoteric, literary tales of alternate worlds. Most of Crowley's stories feature similar themes, in which he uses the fantastic to illuminate the very real present we all face. His characters and his stories are at their core very human, and their reality is often achingly so.