Tagged: reading
re-reading Earthsea: ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ (Le Guin. 1968.)
chris. | 13 February 2013 | 10:04 pm | (consuming) 2013 | Comments closed

I don’t want to write too much about Tehanu before i actually get to that book in my re-reading, but i do want to mention up front that i feel very lucky to have first encountered the Earthsea trilogy in about 1989/1990 because it meant that Tehanu was published very shortly thereafter and so there was only about a year or so in between when i read the trilogy and when i read the 4th book.  I say that this makes me feel lucky because i feel that the short distance between the Trilogy and Tehanu for me made the 4th book feel as tho’ it was a natural, organic progression of the stories of Earthsea.  I am not one of those who hates Tehanu and everything else after it that Le Guin has written in the world of Earthsea.  Quite the contrary: i can’t imagine Earthsea without Tehanu.  I, in fact, absolutely loved Tehanu.

I mention this now because it’s hard for me to not keep Tehanu (and all the stories that have come after that novel) in mind as i re-read the Earthsea trilogy this time thru’.  And especially, returning to the original 3 Earthsea stories as a 40-year-old who has had decades to think about their place in the world as a woman — to re-think their gender entirely –, it’s impossible for me to not think about the genders of Earthsea, to not think about the expectations of and limitations on the women of this world.

And … Earthsea is a completely male world.  Women are typically mentioned only because of a connection they have to a man.  Any magical power a woman has is immediately put into context as being lesser/stupider than the true magic that men wield.  It really bothers me a lot.  I do keep finding myself hoping that beyond the farthest Reaches, beyond the open sea is a land on the other side of the world where women have power that’s valued, that gives them status and worth that isn’t tied to the men in their lives.  I start The Tombs of Atuan tomorrow and i can’t wait to meet Arha/Tenar again.  I’m curious how her world will strike me on this re-read.

Other thoughts on A Wizard of Earthsea:

*)  It’s interesting to me that the main character is referred to in the narrative by his true name, whereas everyone else is referred to by their use-name.  Whenever anyone calls Ged “Sparrowhawk” — or, more jarring still, “Lord Sparrowhawk” — i am momentarily thrown out of the story as i try to reconcile the use-name with the main character.

*)  I am caught between 2 sides of Ged that i can’t quite reconcile in my mind.  On the one hand, he so easily moves into the role of wizard where he simply accepts/expects that people will give him things solely because he’s a wizard and carries a staff — something i noted most keenly when he met the castaway prince and princess on the uncharted island and he simply commanded the old man to build up the fire, and then helped himself to clothes and several nights’s rest, as tho’ all this were his due.  Yet, on the other hand, the narrative makes it clear when he’s in the village in the Hands that he feels most at home amongst poor folk.  This is simply my own set of U.S. class issues pressing against the story, i know, but nevertheless they are 2 attitudes that don’t quite sync up for me.

*)  Reading this now that i’ve lived in Seattle for over a decade one thing is very clear to me:  This is a deeply Pacific Northwest story/world.  The inland sea, the wild coasts, the islands.  And, over all, my god — THE WEATHER.  Is this world ever not grey?  Is there no sun??  DOES THE RAIN NEVER END?!?!

‘Telegraph Avenue’ (Chabon, Michael. 2012.)
chris. | 20 November 2012 | 7:12 pm | (consuming) 2012 | Comments closed

I have read most of Michael Chabon’s fiction over the years.  (With the notable exception of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay — y’know, the one that one the frickin’ Pulitzer.  Neither Andy nor i can seem to get into it past a handful of pages.)  I’ve really enjoyed his fiction, tho’ i’m loath to draw any comparisons between Telegraph Avenue and any of his other works because, frankly, my memory about the particulars just ain’t that good.

But, inability to get into Kavalier & Clay aside, i don’t recall actively disliking any of Chabon’s previous works of fiction.  I started reading this on a road trip this weekend and really only finished it because (a) i needed something to read these past few days while trapped in bed with a head cold, and (b) i was curious to see how things turned out with Gwen.

I shall now commence my litany of complaints.  Be warned, there are spoilers here.

Read more »

readings from the week — 2012-1-14
chris. | 14 January 2012 | 4:48 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism), (deconstructing) sexism, glosses | 2 Comments

women on book covers

Jim C. Hines: “Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers)”.

A while back, we had a discussion on the blog about the cover art for my princess novels. For the most part, I really like these covers, but they’re not perfect.

Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. I opted for the latter, in part because it helped me to understand it better. I expected posing like Danielle to feel a little weird and unnatural. I did not expect immediate, physical pain from trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do the hip thing she’s got going on.

Pictorial hilarity ensues.  But don’t forget to ask yourself:  If Jim looks so funny in these poses, why in the world are they treated as normal for women on book covers??

I was a little disturbed, however, by the number of people in comments who congratulated Jim on his bravery.  Again, why in the world is it brave for Jim to pose for and post these pictures, but it’s normal for women characters on book covers??

a chav costume party sanctioned by Leeds University Union

Rachel: “Not your costume: Leeds University and chav parties”.

But imagine what it’s like to be a working class kid, already struggling to fit in and watching Leeds University Union promote this shit as acceptable and unproblematic.   Imagine how it would make you feel about your right to be at that institution at all.

And now tell me again why you think it’s funny.

on being asexual (and how it’s awesome!)

s.e. smith: “I Am Asexual (And It’s Awesome!)”.

There’s a devaluation that happens with relationships that are intimate, but not necessarily sexual in nature, and I hear that devaluation every time I get asked if I have “someone special” in my life. The answer to that question, of course, is “YES!” I have several special people in my life. People whom I love deeply and am very intimate with, rely upon for support, support in turn, and consider very close partners. They are not romantic or sexual partners, but that doesn’t make our relationships less valid or less strong.

sewing: So easy MEN can do it
chris. | 21 August 2011 | 4:40 pm | sewing | Comments closed
'Coats & Clark's Sewing Book' (cover)

'Coats & Clark's Sewing Book' (cover)

A few years ago i found this book, copyright 1967, at a used bookstore:  Coats & Clark’s Sewing Book: Newest Methods from A to Z.

It’s by the Educational Bureau of Coats & Clarks, which in itself is amazing enough.  A sewing notions manufacturer with its own educational bureau??  You know that shit got axed in the ’80s.

The information inside is useful enough.  But the most amazing thing about this (thank god i found it used) find?  It has a thoroughly condescending introduction.  Which i will now present to you in its entirety, via photograph:

'Coats & Clark's Sewing Book' (intro) {Click for a larger version.}

'Coats & Clark's Sewing Book' (intro) {Click for a larger version.}

I think it’s fairly safe to assume that in 1967 the target audience for this book was probably women sewing at home.  Why, in the world, did the Educational Bureau of Coats & Clark’s decide to take the tactic of insulting them??  “Listen up, ladeeez, sewing is nothing more than following instructions.  Look how this man followed instructions and made a dress for his wife!  Now man up and SEW!!1

So, so awful.

Then i bought the Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing and life was much better.  I do so hate being insulted by my how-to books.

  1. Also insulting to men, y’know? []
‘If on a winter’s night a traveler’ (Calvino, Italo. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1980.)
chris. | 11 March 2011 | 1:22 pm | (consuming) 2011, favorite things | Comments closed

Upon finally completing Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, i realized that it was entirely appropriate that it took me months to work my way thru’ it — about 4 total, i believe.

Actually, i should say that i finally “completed” If on a winter’s night a traveler, because, the way the novel works, altho’ you begin with If on a winter’s night a traveler and sort of end with it, you never actually read the work by that title, nor do you ever really finish it either.

I’ll try to explain.  No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Read more »

‘Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer’ (Howard, Jonathan L. 2009.)
chris. | 26 January 2011 | 8:33 pm | (consuming) 2011 | 2 Comments

The 2nd book in this series, The Detective, is our Mithlond selection for february, but i hate reading a 2nd book if i haven’t read the 1st book.  Others in our book group assured me that the 2nd could easily be read without the 1st, and that the 1st really wasn’t as good as the 2nd anyway.  Psh.  Like that‘s going to dissuade a completist like me.

Read more »