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A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin I have been reflecting a lot lately on the hugeness of my own limitations. This story represents one of my most obvious limitations when it comes to appreciating books. I don’t understand world building. I think this is my limitation when it comes to historical fiction as well. I don’t understand why an author would want to make a story more complicated than just what it takes to tell what happens to characters. That’s how I experience world building in both sci fi/fantasy and historical fiction – an over-complication of what could otherwise be an interesting story. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for you), I think A Wizard of Earthsea is mostly world building (though Ceridwen and Elizabeth inform me that I'm wrong, and I would think that they probably know better than I do what the world-building thing is about. But I am still going to proceed using my arguably faulty definition of world building).

I accidentally started reading this book at the same time that Elizabeth started reading it, and in order to not add to the breaking of Ceridwen’s heart, I didn’t put it on my currently reading. I basically agree with what Elizabeth said, and I don’t have that much to add. I’m only giving three stars because my policy is to rate based on my enjoyment, and with the exception of a couple of parts, I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book. For the most part, it had that Lord of the Rings, traveling-with-no-action quality that really puts me to sleep. I liked the battle parts, though.

Anyway, I know that a lot of people look down on Siddhartha and The Prophet, but I think what people enjoy about Earthsea must be similar to what I like about those books. They all have a wise, parabolic quality. And I like the self-discovery message of Earthsea. I just think there’s a lot of elaborate hand-waiving and rigmarole to get there. I haven’t read Siddhartha since high school, so maybe it is like that, too, and maybe all of this is about the timing of reading a book.

I think I’ve told this story before, I forget where, but when I was in college I ran into this guy I had a crush on in high school and it’s possible that I ended up dating him for a little while. He used to come into the café I was working at and follow me as I walked back and forth behind the counter making sandwiches and whatnot. He wouldn’t talk, he would just walk up and down the counter when I did. I ended up thinking he’s probably brain damaged from all of the acid he always did. One day, I got tired of him just silently following me around, so I asked him to tell me a story. He quickly said, “Oh, no. I don’t have any stories,” and continued to follow me.

A minute later, he said, “Oh, I thought of a story!”

I was relieved and asked him to continue.

“Do you know where the hot springs are?” He asked.


“Oh,” he responded with clear consternation. “Well, do you know how to get to Dexter?”

“No,” I sighed, hoping he would get on to the story soon.

“So, if you’re on I-5, you take the Oakridge exit,” he explained. “Do you know where that is? I think it’s around exit [estimate of exit number] or [estimate of other exit number].”

“Oh, okay,” I said, pretending I knew what he was talking about. “I know where that is.”

“Oh good!” He said.” So, instead of following the road left, like you would to get to Dexter, you follow it right.” He proceeded to give me a long and detailed explanation of how to get to the hot springs, all of which I have forgotten now. There were a lot of “turn left”s and “then turn right”s. After quite a while of this, he stopped.

“Okay,” I said, “What’s the story?”

“Well, we went there the other day.” And that was the end of his story.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare world building to elaborate directions, but that’s how they make me feel. Or, at least, how they make my eyelids feel (heavy). Sometimes directions are a necessary evil, and I’ll admit that some world building is necessary, but I like to get there in the quickest, simplest way possible. In Earthsea once I get past the directions and to what I consider the actual story, I like it, but the directions still made me fall asleep.