I completed my second reading of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” Saturday night. A young wizard named Ged struggles with the consequences of his early, untutored, foray into magic. I am aware, though uncertain how, this tale is considered groundbreaking for it’s non-white main character. Or maybe it’s just considered a good story and happens to have a non-white character.
The first time I read the story I found it passable but not compelling. Despite being set in an extensive and (we’re told) diverse archipelago the plot clings tightly to the young wizard. Essentially Ged’s story is a quest unencumbered with a motley troupe of characters and nothing unexpected occurs. Sure, Ged overcomes a trial or two, but in the end he whacks the big evil on the head and lives to make book two.
I describe Ged as non-white, because I know Le Guin told me her character possessed dark skin, but I never got a definitive picture of what exactly that meant. I know people who develop a mental image of folks they’ve only met over the phone: blonde, slightly overweight, and jovial. I don’t do that, to me the voice is the person. My style of reading mirrors my phone style. It accounts mostly for plot, dialogue, tempo, and emotion but it doesn’t linger on what color a dragon is, how long a sword might be, or the subtle difference between glowing magefire or gleaming magefire.
In any case, Ged’s color played no part in the story. Maybe that’s the groundbreaking part. I don’t know.
I read the book a second time for three reasons: it wasn’t bad the first time, it was short, and I was convinced that I might come to understand the importance of the book. It still wasn’t bad, it still was the same length, I still don’t comprehend. I feel bad about the last one, but I’m not sure what more I can do.
All this is really preamble for me to tell you that I’m now finally reading that book I bought a couple weeks back: the complete short stories of John Steinbeck.
Wrote about nothing on Tuesday. Wrote about a camera on Wednesday. I predict third day slump.
Last night a friend encouraged me to read or possibly reread some of the classics. She suggested I sit with my oldest daughter and we read Alice in Wonderland together. I’ve never read this story. I’ve seen the Disney movie adaptation in full as a child–I think–and then again in parts and pieces while my kids watch it in pieces and parts on the DVD player in our living room. What I recall and what I’ve seen scare me two ways.
First, it raises an discomforting shiver up from my defenseless underarms like the threat of a tickle that quickly attacks my core. I shake it off of course–it’s just a movie–but the light ting of fear lingers.
Second, the story presented by Disney makes no sense. Disappearing cats, a deck of cards, and commands to drink or eat me? How could such nonsense flow sensibly if only I read the book?
Next up was some light brain candy for me: Atlas Shrugged. I gagged down most of The Fountainhead before I gave up on Rourke as some Bartlbyesqe prick come architect well before a plot of any kind emerged but not before I read more than half of the book. It’s been a while so I don’t recall the details, but ambling through life don’t a plot make. I’ll pick up Atlas–eventually–but I’m not expecting it to do much for me. Right now I don’t need books with a point.
Maybe I could fire up Hemingway, I hear he’s good. Please leave your classic recommendations in the comments below.
Crap! I wrote yesterday, so I must write today if I’m going to write tomorrow. Remember, I promised mechanical prose for a couple of days while I work out the cobwebs.
Early in mid-December we bought a new digital SLR. A Canon XSI. This model sits at the top of the first tier of digital SLRs for Canon. Of course I wanted to go higher–that’s why the marketing folk make tiers–but I resisted such inclinations. I’m starting to realize that features I can’t understand or determine when I’d use are features I don’t want to buy.
We’re pleased with the camera overall, but haven’t given it much of a workout. We pushed the envelope on volume around Christmas. We both ran into a flash-bound “Busy” warning indicating we’d better slow the heck down, but never hit a “Card Full” indicator on the new 4gig SD. Most of those shots relied on the pre-programmed settings, not the creative ones.
For right now creative means slower.
After some practice I’m sure I’ll shoot as swiftly as I did with my first SLR. I’m still frustrated the f-stop and speed information appear along the bottom of the screen and not the right-hand side. This is the second camera that frustrates me in this regard. I’ve still not overcome that vertical layout habit I nurtured with my Minolta from the early 80s. It doesn’t help that the finer steps between each setting look so unfamiliar to me I can’t always figure out which is an aperture size and which is a shutter speed–I bet the book could help me. Since creative means slower and a passel of kids means I need agility I’m sticking with the no-brainer side of the knob for now.
As a low-grade photo hobbyist paying for each frame twice drove me to be cautious with film. Sadly, this caution did not inspire me to take better pictures by learning to think through a shot before making it, it taught me to just take less photos–to develop fewer. With this digital I disregard frame counts and lighting. I shoot from the hip as often as not and delete the bad ones as I go.
The freedom to capture images poorly and without thought, to rely on volume more than skill, I will employ as a luxury and not a crutch as much as I can. Maybe I should tuck that thought away as I write?