Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea (Hardcover)
A book on the experience of reading Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels. What makes readers fall in love? You might want to start your answer by explaining Ursula Le Guin. She owned John Plotz at age eight, on the overlit and understaffed second floor of the DC library. Four decades and who knows how many re-readings later, her Earthsea owns him still. The reasons to love her Earthsea are many. Le Guin sets readers adrift among worlds: peripatetic but somehow at home. She sublimely mixes comfort and revelatory, emancipatory unsettlement. Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea aims to do justice to both Le Guin's passionate simplicity and her revenant complexity. Small wonder the inspiration she has been for later speculative writers like Neil Gaiman, Kim Stanley Robinson, and N. K. Jemisin. The boldness and coldness of the later three books of Earthsea is a revelation. In Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind, she turned a cold eye, a dragon's searching eye, back on the comfortable green world she herself had made decades earlier. They unfold a distinctive vision of the writer's task: worldbuilding as responsibility plus openness. Call it invitational realism. She builds a world that leaves the real task of building, of creating of imagining and of reimagining, with her readers. Drawing on his own crooked path--from a DC childhood to teaching in Prague to San Francisco journalism to graduate school and then parenthood--Plotz maps the ways that readers young and old find in Earthsea a kind of scholar's stone, a delightfully mutable surface that rewards recurrent contemplation.
John Plotz, Mandel Professor of Humanities, Brandeis University John Plotz is Mandel Professor of Humanities at Brandeis University and editor of the B-Sides feature in Public Books as well as B-Side Books (Columbia University Press, 2021). He co-hosts two podcasts: Novel Dialogue and Recall This Book. His books include The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics (University of California Press, 2000), Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton University Press, 2008), and Semi-Detached: Aesthetic Experience from Dickens to Keaton (Princeton University Press, 2017) He is among the co-founders of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.