Book Review

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula le Guin

reading more earthsea, hating everything else

cw: depression, mental illness, suicide ideation

July 2nd, 2022

I’ve now been in England for a full month and absolutely nothing has happened.

I’ve seen some people, I’ve written a few blogs, I’ve had a few panic attacks and I’ve read a few books, but nothing that matters, y’know, nothing that facilitates me getting back out of this place I do not want to be in and into a sustainable present/future. Every time I head into central London or anywhere else, really, that I’ve ever been to here before – and tbh whenever I see people who I associate with my time here in this city – I feel this overwhelming fucking cacophony of dread, which has resulted in the only people I’ve seen more than once since I arrived being someone I hadn’t previously spent time with for about 13 years and someone else who I only really knew previously from the internet. Whoops.

I spent so fucking long yearning for the life I was leading in London to be over, there’s just not a single part of me willing or able to do anything towards the recommencement of it. I don’t want to get a job here because I don’t want to be here.

I don’t want to do anything.

I wake up, I walk my dog, I exercise, I try (and mostly fail) to do something constructive related to my creative practice, then I read and drink sparkling water and herbal teas until the anti-psychotics kick in and I start to fall asleep.

I wrote a sentence last week that sums up a lot of what I’m feeling: “there’s so little to do when you’re not trying to do everything”.

I could rail and fight and push for something bigger but I did that before and it nearly killed me. What I need to do, actually, what I *actually need* to do is figure out what visa I need to be able to go back to Spain and be an English tutor again. My Spanish isn’t good enough for bureaucracy, I don’t think, so changing that needs to be my first priority. The hundreds of cheap face-to-face Spanish tutors that used to be listed on gumtree are no longer there, COVID exacerbating the racist & xenophobic foreign policy demanded by my piece of shit compatriots.

God, I don’t want to be here.

This is why I’m struggling to read anything that isn’t explicitly escapist.

///

Several years ago, I found a lovely paperback copy of A Wizard of Earthsea in the street and though I wouldn’t say it necessarily changed my reading life, it was certainly one of the major contributing factors to my total re-evaluation of genre fiction.

Other things were going on, too, i.e. ageing out of the point where I had a reverential and university English literature department-led belief in the sanctity and power of the literary canon; giving up on trying to write a novel; becoming a poet; seeing a way to build a more satisfying life beyond traditional, normative expectations… either way, A Wizard of Earthsea was a key text for me at a key time of my life.

I read that book, and relatively soon after I also ploughed through The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu – all of which I found, cheaply, in secondhand and/or remainder bookstores. Knowing there were only two more Earthsea books and given the ease with which I’d found those first four, I presumed the rest would quickly fall into my hands, too.

Yet, they didn’t.

I did not see Tales from Earthsea or The Other Wind in any of the many bookstores I would habitually frequent in Toronto and Montreal, despite these being basically the only things I would ever explicitly look for, HOWEVER I was absolutely thrilled to see both – and multiple soon-to-be-pulped copies of each – in one of the first bookstores I frequented when back in the UK.

I won’t name it or allude to its location beyond saying it was in this fair city, as it was one of the worst bookstores I’ve ever been to (books were not alphabetised and not all spines were visible, the only two things a bookshop 100% needs to do to be able to function) in my fucking life and I will never return, but it afforded me the opportunity to pick up the remainder of Le Guin’s perfect fantasy cycle.

As you can probably guess from the title, Tales from Earthsea contains short stories, essentially two novellas, three shorter fictions and an “essay” on the history and culture of Ged’s archipelago.

The stories go back from waaaaay before the events of A Wizard of Earthsea and the final piece occurs after the events of Tehanu, sketching in details about the history of these islands and, in particular, the shifting gender politics of the place, a key theme in Tehanu and, I presume, a key theme in The Other Wind, too.

Le Guin writes about love and desire across Earthsea, about the introduction of the imposition of celibacy on wizards and the simultaneous realisation of the pointlessness of sexist gatekeeping regarding the use and education of magic.

The stories are all about different characters, with Ged/Sparrowhawk making a pleasing little cameo in the fourth piece, just under ¾ of the way through the book.

Le Guin describes islands and locations that had previously only been dots on her ((obviously) fictional) map, and it’s again a pleasure to return to this magical environment and its strange and inconsistent ways.

Do I love to visit Earthsea? Yes, I do, and I will be going back there again soon, though that time will be for the very last time.

I wish I could visit in the flesh, actually, no, that’s not true. There’s nowhere I wish to visit, just one particular place I wish to depart.

Honestly, I just wish I’d killed myself years ago lol, it’s such a hassle being alive!!!

See ya soon!


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sad prose book the pleasure of regret from Broken Sleep Books.

Humour ‘n’ Full Frontal Nudes in Because Earth Is Flat (with Sean Preston)

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Order my sad prose chapbook via Selcouth Station Press.


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1 comment on “Tales from Earthsea by Ursula le Guin

  1. Pingback: The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin – Triumph Of The Now

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