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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Broken Angels
Richard K. Morgan
Progress: 56/468 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 454/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 166/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 164/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
I Am a Cat
Graeme Wilson, Aiko Ito, Sōseki Natsume
Progress: 410/638 pages
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin I first read a Wizard of Earthsea...well, I can't really remember when. All I know is I'd read it twice before I left primary school and each reading was in a different school year. The only other proper novel I can remember that being true of is Lord of the Rings...apparently I got a taste for high fantasy early. What was the appeal? Well, there was adventure, exploration, magic, dragons and a really complicated map at the front.

I've carried on reading it at intervals right up until the present. Most times I noticed something new in it. For instance, at some point I became aware of the different skin-colours of various characters and peoples. Latterly, interpretation of the novel took over from noticing details.

One interpretation I've noticed on Goodreads is that Ged, the protagonist, has to fight himself and only gains victory by accepting himself as he is. Whilst I feel there is some truth in this, I feel that it misses out a huge amount, much of which is important in the context of the series as a whole. In the novel itself, LeGuin states that Ged released the shadow of his own death. The final confrontation takes place on the shores of the realm where the dead reside. What Ged has to do is recognise that death is consequent on life and accept the fact of his own mortality - his death is part of himself and bears his name. Having done so, he is no longer haunted or hunted by that shadow. The book starts with a stanza containing the line "Only in dying life."

For a long time, I found it interesting that Ged is a victim of his own pride; he attempts to show his superiority and in doing so releases something evil into the world, something that harms him and others. This is an unusual idea in fantasy generally - more typically, evil is externalised and the motives of the evil-doer are not closely examined. This time round I noted strongly that this is not the whole story, either; Ged is, after-all, a victim of a conspiracy and he would not have known the summoning spell that caused so much trouble and suffering if this had not been the case. This is one of the (many) great strengths of LeGuin; rarely are things simply and easily encapsulated. Then there is the concept of Equilibrium - a Butterfly Effect of human action - what you do has consequences - do not act frivolously or for self-agrandisment, or out of pride or anger or fear. You could be dooming yourself - or the whole of Earthsea.

The prose is up to LeGuin's exceptionally high standard, perhaps best from the start up to Ged's arrival at Roke, perhaps weakest between Ged's second departure from Gont and his arrival at Iffish. The story is compelling through-out, never becoming too bogged down in accretion of character history as sometimes happens with LeGuin (e.g. in Gifts).

I truely love this book; Why? Well, there is adventure, exploration, magic, dragons and a really complicated map at the front. Exploration is something I love - I do some when opportunity and health allow. I don't have to be the first - exploring a city or climbing a mountain, it doesn't matter if millions have been there ahead of me. When I can't explore our world I can explore fictional ones and In A Wizard of Earthsea I can explore a whole world full of variety - no two islands are exactly the same, culturally. Each has something unique. There are other reasons - the complexity and profundity of the tale, the entirely convincing nature of Earthsea - can anybody tell me how to get there, since it is plainly a real place? - Oh, yes! Read the books again! The memories of reading it as a child and teen - the music I listened to as Ged sailed under a mage-wind in a boat made more of spells than timber and I love LeGuin for giving me a tale for children that is really a tale for everybody of any and all ages, so that it can keep me company throughout my days.

Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.