Book Review

The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin

i continue having a terrible time

cw: mental illness, suicide ideation

This is just going to be a short one.

I read this, the sixth and final book in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle, about a month ago during my brief weekend binge drinking on the south coast.

As a book to accompany binge drinking in the countryside, The Other Wind probably isn’t the sweetest possible bedfellow, as rather than the slow and sexist decline of these archipelago fantasy islands, Le Guin chooses to end the series she wrote – well, published – intermittently throughout her many decades-long career with a positive, optimistic, flourish. Optimism and binge-drinking are oppositional human experiences.

A Wizard of Earthsea (the first in the series) was published in 1968, and The Other Wind was released in 2001, at which time I was alive and literate, though had no idea that this writer and these stories existed, which is a shame as I’m sure I would have enjoyed Earthsea a lot more had I read them when I was young, non-bald and hopeful as opposed to old, bald, jaded and disaffected. I enjoyed them a lot, though, even in spite of my ancient age.

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I found my copy of A Wizard of Earthsea on a South London brick wall at some point in 2017, 5 years and many lifetimes ago.

This final book – which I bought from the worst bookshop in London, possibly this entire continent – ends the narratives of many of the characters who’ve been in the series throughout, using five distinct chapters that function more as linked, distinct, novelettes.

A major threat to life in Earthsea is exposed and then – through communication, coming together, honest directness and an abandonment of the centuries’ old misogynist tradition – everything is neatly tied up, with the potential for a hopeful future beyond the book’s pages.

I would like to feel hopeful again, too, maybe, but I really don’t.

I’ve started applying for jobs this week, but if I’m honest the only reason why I want to have a job here is so I can get out of here on the regular.

Returning to London was maybe the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life, which is a kaleidoscopic smorgasbord of poor decision making.

In returning, I feel I’ve lost the reserves of self that I built up in response to the dullness of the time I spend in Toronto. By – yet again – acting in a way that I know is against my own best interests – both short-term, mid-term and (god forbid there is one) long-term – I think ultimately what I’ve done is lose any remaining sense of faith in myself.

I got myself out of this drudge of a country before, so it’s doable, but why have I allowed myself to be back in a position which I knew I didn’t want to be in many years ago? What’s the point in wisdom and self-knowledge if one remains unable/unwilling to put them into practice?

With this failure to follow-through on not feelings but knowledge, I suppose I’ve lost the last vestige of self-respect I had, and without that I have wandered from any faith in my ability to follow-through on any decisions, interests, desires, hopes and dreams; I have, ultimately, lost interest in myself. Which is surprising given how myopic-let-focused I was able to be – I think effectively and in a manner with genuine literary merit – only a short time ago.

I don’t really have any interest in anything I have to say or think or do atm, and I continue putting words here on this blog not because I think it has any value, but because this is the thing that I do.

Also, I’ve been fucked over recently in an unbelievable and completely unexpected fashion, and I suppose the apathy engendered in me by virtue of all the fucking medication I’m still on is just yet another straw that could – should? – have been a final straw. I don’t want to be apathetic towards my own well-being, my own life, my own existence.

It’s worse being bored fucking shitless in a place I know intimately, full of people I know well, and I suppose kinda care about, it is worse being here and bored out of my mind than it was being just as bored on the other side of the ocean in the least exciting place I’ve lived as an adult. I’ve booked another months-long Spanish course starting in a couple of weeks, so that will give me a reason not to kill myself because I have to pay for it in advance and if I’ve paid for it I should at least enjoy it, right?

But, ultimately, I’ve got nothing to live for and I really can’t be asked figuring out practically what I would have to do to get that again.

lololololololol see you next time!

17th of September, 2022, Tottenham

2 comments on “The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin

  1. Well, shit – I wish I could do something to help you, but how well do I know you, really, and anyway, who am I to tell you to “hope?” Jesus, the idiotic tales people tell one another. Still! Since reading your reviews of Doris Lessing (one of my absolute talisman writers) I’ve been meaning to send you this. I am NOT trying to “cheer you up,” whatever that might mean. But this is SO GREAT! Here she is on learning that she has won the Nobel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuBODHFBZ8k

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that video, I think I first saw that before I had any idea who Lessing was! Really glad to have got so deep into her writing over the past couple of years. I’d love to see a resurgence of interest in her more generally – I worry she’s fallen into a bit of a cultural gap by being too successful for the hipsters and too experimental for the masses. So prolific, tho, so it’s the world’s huge loss rather than hers!

    Like

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