WIR #8: A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of EarthseaLe Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea. New York: Bantam Spectra. Copyright © 1968, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin's web site:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know. Too many posts in too short a span of time. What else do you expect when I finish reading two books and then start two more in less than 24 hours? Shut up.

I first read A Wizard of Earthsea years ago. I remember when, too, because I bought the whole series of books when Tehanu, then Le Guin's latest addition to the series, first came out in paperback. It was 1991. I hadn't yet moved to the San Francisco Bay area — that puts it sometime between February that year, the month that Tehanu was released, and June, the month that I left for California, scarcely more than a year before my father's death in July of 1992.

I bought the entire set at Waldenbooks in The Mall, here in Columbia, Maryland. It was late afternoon, the Mall abuzz with people milling about, so it was either a Friday or a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon. Sunlight streamed in through the pyramid skylight above. I sat outside the bookstore with my father, books in hand, giddy at the sight of these new additions to my personal library and eager to start reading them.

Obviously, the memories tied to these books are bitter-sweet — the joy of having discovered a new and exciting series of fantasy novels I hadn't read and the pain of losing my father thirteen months later.

So, why do I choose to read this book again? (I'm going to reread the whole series, actually, sans Le Guin's even more recent additions.) Well, you'll recall that I plan to outline some novels, following Lawrence Block's recommendations in Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print, as noted in my Ideas in the Morning post. I choose A Wizard of Earthsea for two simple reasons: 1) I'm familiar with it and 2) it's a short novel (183 pages). Block said to read the book slowly, to observe what the writer is doing and how they are doing it. (I reason that both combined will also reveal why the author does what she is doing.) That done, I'm to write a one paragraph summary (roughly 100 words) of what the book is about and then I'm to go through the book a second time to write my outline, scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter.

While I pour over A Wizard of Earthsea a second time, toiling to outline its scenes and chapters, I'll continue to read the rest of the books in the series. As it is a short book, I hope to have the outline completed before I read the last pages of Tehanu.

When I think back on it, I can even remember why I chose to buy this series: Somewhere I had read that Le Guin's Earthsea novels provided an excellent example of how to handle magic in a fantasy novel. They were that and they were so much more, as well. Le Guin is one of my favourite authors of all time. Her writing and her instruction on writing are nothing short of inspirational. I'm about to have a blast!

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