Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Missive

Dear Mrs. Le Guin,

A long time ago, I first read your Earthsea trilogy. I was young when I read it through the first time, fourth grade (nineteen years ago, now). I remember finding the boxed set at a library book sale earlier in the year and they reminded me of the boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia I got for Christmas a month or so before, and they looked to be about the same size as the Narnia books; I still wasn't ready for four and five hundred page books back then. I figured when I was done with Narnia, I'd start a new set of fantasy books and they'd be yours.

With Narnia finished, a few weeks later, I eagerly started in on A Wizard of Earthsea. I was confused. There was some stuff going on in there, Ged getting his true name and learning the true names of things, but it was so dense. The Narnia books were pretty straight forward; I knew who was bad, who was good, and the heroes started in a weaker position and worked hard to defeat the evil. Earthsea wasn't so easy; Ged was the hero, but he made some big mistakes and the bad people he faced weren't necessarily evil, just people; and he may have been growing up in that first book, but the story of his life didn't always work in an A to B to C way, rather it bounced from one moment to another to another with Ged as the only real connection, until he moved to Roke.

By the time I finished the trilogy, I was baffled. I found some interesting things in the books, but there was so much more that I didn't understand. So, I put the set on my small bookshelf next to Narnia, but whenever I looked at them the Narnia set made me happy and your set made me feel confused and frustrated.

I moved on to other books. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, in fifth grade, opened me up to science fiction. I remember going through science fiction books at the store and the library and seeing your name on novels that seemed to be science fiction rather than fantasy. Some looked interesting, but there was always something nagging in my head, reminding me of how hard a time I had reading Earthsea, so I passed them by for newer authors or names I recognized, or back to some fantasy setting.

In high school, around my sophomore year I think, I had some friends who had just read Earthsea and kept talking about how wonderful it was. I listened to the conversations, but I didn't join in because I could only remember feeling frustrated with them. The books got passed around and more people started talking about them, so I pulled out my old set and read them again.

Reading them was easier that time. The story was more clear. Characters seemed more real. Life on the islands was complicated and interesting. When I finished the first book, this time I understood that Ged was his own enemy. In the second book, I understood that the girl in the tomb had to free her mind before she could free herself and Ged from the tomb. And I watched all of Earthsea come together in the third book. I enjoyed the books that time. I saw what my friends had seen.

Still, when I went to a bookstore and saw your name on a science fiction novel, I wouldn't pick any up. In the back of my mind my worry voice would still remind me of the trouble I'd had with Earthsea the first time around and I really didn't want to go through that again.

In college, though, I took an English class that focused on science fiction and we were assigned The Left Hand of Darkness. Scheduling conflicts made me drop the class, but eventually I read everything on the syllabus, including your book. I read it and only felt like I understood part of it. I enjoyed trying to understand the people of Gethen along with Genly, but wondered if I was missing something because the book felt deeper than that. Maybe I just needed to discuss the book with someone to work out exactly what was happening in the background of the story of the potential war and how it was interacting with the main plot. Some times I still think that way because I never have discussed the book with anyone.

After reading it, I didn't go run and pick up anything else you wrote.

Well, not for a while, at least.

Last year, at the supermarket, I picked up the collection The Birthday of the World for only $2.99. I figured, what the hell?

I didn't start reading it until last week.

I finished it on Sunday night.

After reading the last page in the story "Paradises Lost," I knew I had to find more from you. "Paradise Lost" was especially amazing. Thank you.

Yesterday, I bought The Word for World is Forest. I started it this morning. I can't wait to really delve into it.

I wanted you to know that.

Also, I felt like apologizing for waiting so long. I made a mistake listening to that voice in my head for so long. I think it's gone now, or it has started to sing a different tune.

Thanks for all the writing,

ticknart
A New Fan

10 comments:

Jazz said...

I've never read her. I really should.

the mooooooo said...

You should send her your letter.

ticknart said...

Jazz -- As a new fan, I agree.

Mooooooo -- I was thinking about it.

the moooooo said...

Yes, you really, really should send it. It is a well written, well thought out letter.

ticknart said...

I brought an envelope with a stamp today. Now I just have to get her address.

the mooooo said...

Here you go:

Ursula K. Le Guin
P.O. Box 10541
Portland OR 97296-0541
U.S.A.

the mooooo said...

I found it on her website-
http://www.ursulakleguin.com

ticknart said...

Mooooo -- I found it, on my own, this morning. In fact, while you were writing here, I was putting it in with the outgoing mail.

the moooooo said...

Well fine then Mr. Smartypants.

I suppose I should have known you'd figure out how to google. :-P

ticknart said...

I've been doing that for a while, actually.