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  1. Alexander, Lloyd — The Black Cauldron
  2. Anthony, Piers — Letters to Jenny
  3. Cooper, Susan — Over Sea, Under Stone
  4. Proulx, Annie — Close Range: Wyoming Stories
  5. Kincaid, Jamaica — Lucy
  6. Christie, Agatha — The Unexpected Guest
  7. Dick, Philip K. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  8. Cooper, Susan — The Dark Is Rising
  9. Cooper, Susan — Greenwitch
  10. Shaffer, Peter — Amadeus
  11. Anonymous — Go Ask Alice
  12. Cooper, Susan — The Grey King
  13. Martin, Steve — Shopgirl
  14. Cooper, Susan — Silver on the Tree
  15. Gaiman, Neil — Stardust
  16. Gaiman, Neil — Coraline
  17. Le Guin, Ursula — A Wizard of Earthsea
  18. Le Guin, Ursula — The Tombs of Atuan
  19. Le Guin, Ursula — The Farthest Shore
  20. Le Guin, Ursula — Tehanu
  21. Merton, Thomas — The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith
  22. Alexander, Lloyd — The Castle of Llyr
  23. Zelazny, Roger — Lord of Light
  24. Card, Orson Scott — Ender's Game
  25. Clarke, Arthur C. — Childhood's End
  26. Grahame, Kenneth — The Wind in the Willows
  27. Dahl, Roald — James and the Giant Peach
  28. Lewis, C.S. — Out of the Silent Planet
  29. Lewis, C.S. — Perelandra
  30. Milne, A.A. — Winnie-the-Pooh
  31. Card, Orson Scott — Speaker for the Dead
  32. Bester, Alfred — The Stars My Destination
  33. Greene, Graham — The Power and the Glory
  34. Gaiman, Neil — Neverwhere
  35. Ballard, J.G. — The Drowned World
  36. Ballard, J.G. — Crash
  37. Joyce, James — The Dubliners
  38. Le Guin, Ursula — Tales from Earthsea

I've had a craving to read more Le Guin for several weeks. Though I've had The Dispossessed sitting on my shelf these past months, I haven't considered it yet, wanting to finish the Earthsea books before exploring Le Guin's Hainish universe. However, I could find Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind nowhere in England.

Part of my goal while back in Boston (besides, obviously, the business that required me to go back) was to acquire copies of these last two Earthsea books and the last two Prydain books. I succeeded in the former, failed in the latter. (Thus, it looks like I won't be able to finish reading about Taran's adventures within a year of having started, but I will about wizardry in Earthsea.)

I think Tales from Earthsea probably re-establishes Le Guin as my favorite author. Attempting essentially the same thing as Tehanu (reclaiming the magic arts from men), it avoids that book's shortcomings. Le Guin claims in the preface that the last story is a prelude to The Other Wind. Truly, the entire book is a prelude, a skillful transition.

Through the course of these five stories and the appended "A Description of Earthsea," Le Guin explains away any inconsistencies introduced in her previous book and much more gracefully weaves into the reader's conception of Earthsea the idea that men aren't the only ones who can wield great power. Strong women figure prominently in each story.

In "The Finder" we learn of the vital role women played in keeping the scholarly and ethical teaching of magic alive during the Dark Times and in founding the School on Roke. "Darkrose and Diamond" features a man with innate power struggling to choose between wizardry with its enforced celibacy and the woman he loves. "The Bones of the Earth" shows us that Ogion and his teacher would never have been able to still the great earthquake on Gont were it not for the teaching of a woman of power. "On the High Marsh" features a woman being the only person brave enough to do the right thing, defying conventional belief and superstition. And finally, in "Dragonfly," we see a young woman shake the very foundations of Roke itself.

Though each story is different, that common theme (women can have power, wizards are an unjustly misogynistic bunch) unites them. The entire book has beautiful arc, like a well-crafted concerto, bookended by the longer stories of beginning and end with three shorter stories in the middle, playing upon the theme in different keys. This book is a fantastic achievement!

While reading these stories, in which Le Guin actively tackles literature's male bias, I often found myself thinking about bias more generally. Given a lack of further information from the author, a reader tends to associate a character's traits with his own. Therefore, male readers (and probably most readers, as the male bias in literature is so strong) probably assumed, incorrectly, that Dulce's teacher, Ard, was a man (a fact Le Guin no doubt counted on in order to make her case more strongly). Yet I found my own bias repeatedly asserting itself despite knowledge to the contrary. I kept picturing in my mind's eye, until again being reminded in the text, the people of Earthsea as white, despite having been told from the very first chapter of the very first book that they are generally brown-skinned. I found it interesting that my white-skinned bias kept asserting itself. I wonder what that says.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
rsc
Aug. 27th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
Every now and again, when I have nothing better to worry about, I worry about the fact the Ursula LeGuin is past 70, and that someday the day will come when we can't expect to see any more new books from her.
spwebdesign
Aug. 27th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
I had a similar thought this afternoon. I took a break from reading The Other Wind and looked at her picture on the back cover for a bit. I thought, "She's getting up there in age; what if this book leaves me feeling as though there ought to be more Earthsea and she isn't around to finish it?" I thought the series felt fairly complete after The Farthest Shore, but Tehanu left more questions than answers and Tales from Earthsea lay the groundwork for The Other Wind, but I don't yet know if it will give Earthsea closure. No one else could do it justice if she were to leave things unfinished.
rsc
Aug. 27th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)
but I don't yet know if it will give Earthsea closure.

I have an opinion about that, but I'll withhold it until you finish the book.
spwebdesign
Aug. 27th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
I look forward to hearing it. I have a feeling you'll be able to post it tomorrow. ;)
am0
Aug. 28th, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
Earthsea
I think I gave up on Le Guin and Earthsea after the initial set of stories was published. That was over four decades ago. My giving up probably had its roots in an incident or a controversy at one of the science fiction writing conventions rather than anything she wrote.
journeystar
Aug. 28th, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC)
Lloyd Alexander
Duuudde, I guess I've been missing youu book posts about the Prydian Chronicles. I just sold my set to the Harvard Bookstore! Which ones do you need? Maybe I can buy them back ( they'd only be like @ $2) and give them to you when next you pop over to the states?
spwebdesign
Aug. 28th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Lloyd Alexander
Thanks! The only ones I haven't read are the last two. But it may be several months before I'm back in the US.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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