Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Books

Work is a great place to blog from -- there are so few distractions.

I've toyed around in the past with the idea of posting a new blog, strictly about books. But I think Jon has a good idea, blending everything into one blog.

My most recent book, that is, the book I've completed, was... A Wizard of Earthsea. That was January.

I bought the book at Mysterious Galaxy, a bookstore in San Diego that specializes in Mysteries and Sci Fi/Fantasy books. It's a nice niche, and they often have stellar readings by relatively famous authors. Last summer, Jasper Fforde had a reading and signing, which I really enjoyed. He's and eloquent speaker and fabulously funny individual.

I was well into the book before thinking to ask my honey, who'd recommended the book, if it was kid's lit. The fast read tipped me off. Also that it begins with the wizard as a child.

And it is. I picked up a kids book. I felt slightly small reading a kid's book, enjoying a kid's book, until someone walked by hefting the latest Harry Potter.

Speaking of Harry Potter in the context of Le guin (which many, many people have done), must it be mentioned that Le Guin, who published the original volume over 30 years ago, denounced J. K. Rowling as unoriginal? Does anyone who has read Le Guin not know this? I didn't, until Jon mentioned it.

Google is good for so many, so much of the time.

In the interview with the Guardian, Le Guin said:

"I didn't feel (Rowling) ripped me off, as some people did," she says quietly, "though she could have been more gracious about her predecessors. My incredulity was at the critics who found the first book wonderfully original. She has many virtues, but originality isn't one of them. That hurt."

And she's right. Le Guin's original ouevre starts out with a boy who discovers his own magic at a young age. Sparrowhawk, as he is sometimes called, follows a master wizard for an apprenticeship, but while alone he unleashes a terrible shadow that will haunt him for the rest of the book(s?). Rather than endanger his teacher, he goes to an enchanted school. Clearly he is the most talented wizard the school has seen in a while. Sparrowhawk spends several chapters there, taking classes, making friends and enemies, getting a familiar (some little rodent), and rising through the levels from student to magician to master wizard.

Sound familiar?

Although Rowling focuses in strictly on her subject's school years, Le Guin's book seems almost like a template for Potter. From hubris and innocence, Sparrowhawk creates his own enemy, his own death-shadow, which he must fight until one or the other is absorbed. He was only safe while at school. Once he leaves the grounds, damaged, maimed by the death-shadow, he is at the mercy of his enemy.

Creepily familiar.

Comparisons beyond that seem futile.

Both books (and their sequels) are still widely available. I heartily recommend A Wizard of Earthsea. Though surprisingly short, there is no comparison based on the quality of language. Le Guin not only fully realizes an alternate reality, she paints it with fully fleshed, literate language. She captures the rhythms and angles of a totally alien speech, speckled with exposition rich in detail -- the right details -- to create a world wholly imagined and honestly rendered.



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