A Wizard of Earthsea (book review) Ursula K. Le Guin

(Earthsea Cycle #1)


??? childhood. later addition: is this the first philosophy book i have read? reading it again i can see where my interests in for example daoism starts, but truly the remarkable thing as i read it later as an adult, as i read it again, as i read it now, many decades on, is realization that le guin is both subtle and obvious, that daoism is obviously in everything- once you know some daoism- but she writes subtle fiction not philosophy, she writes what can never be expressed in any other form, and her way of magic is not spectacular, not extravagant, not 'power trip', but rooted in the very real world she creates, in 'balance', in 'yin/yang', before these were fantasy cliches. i think of the times she wrote this, the times about a decade before i read this, the times people would without awareness called ancient ‘eastern’ thought 'new age' and how probably even adults did not see, find, know, daoism inherent in everything here. is there any ya like this today? maybe copies, maybe cliches, but for me, she is the source, the inspiration, the model of philosophy and possibilities of fantasy writing, even as i have now read historical works that might have inspired her, as this is not dynastic family conflicts and politics, not war mundane and/or magic, not obvious rewriting of JRR or grimdark GRR, this is what fantasy could be...


first review: some people read lord of the rings when they are young and vulnerable, and never quite get over it… for me, it is this book, found in a paperback boxed set, unprepared and innocent, bought because i liked the cover art... i was probably 11 or 12. only later, only when i read this again and again as an adult do i notice her description of the protagonist’s training, her entire metaphysical structure of magic, the idea that original words equal real magic, the idea that words could give you power in the world but need to be used wisely- that water here in the fountain must also be defined in the negative as not the water in the river, the lake, the sea, the clouds (not identity but difference is very pomo)- that all this describes the process of finding the right words for writing and the magic of creating the real but not actual worlds of people, places, times, acts, thoughts (like most fiction?). no matter that this conceptual awareness came much later, that it was probably not in le guin’s original ideas, that she says it is daoism she knew, that she was possibly hostile to, unread in, much postmodern thought, arts, writing, it is just this streamlined but capacious little novel which got to me then as it gets to me now. i did then, i do now, want to be one of those verbal wizards...

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