Audible is having a 3 books for 2 credits sale, and I noticed that all 3 books of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy were in it. Sold. I didn’t even care whether the narrator, Robert Inglis, was any good (he is).
I have read these books many, many times over the past *cough* 35 *cough* years or so. I have taught A Wizard of Earthsea in my Children’s Literature class. So I know them well, and I admire them deeply. I think Le Guin is a great writer and story-teller. But I never understood what a great prose stylist she is until I heard her words in Inglis’ deep, somewhat sonorous voice.
Many of the sentences have the rhythm of epic or saga, The Odyssey or Beowulf. And what style could be more fitting for a story about a boy who goes on a journey to defeat a monster that turns out to be part of himself? The sentences aren’t pretentious or difficult–I first fell for this book when I was about 10, and though I understand it differently now, I wouldn’t say I understand it better. But they are poetry. I am enraptured.
Here are some examples, lineated as if they were poetry, sort of:
Ged boards a ship for the Isle of Roke:
The oarsmen cam leaping aboard,
sturdy men with great arms,
while longshoremen rolled water barrels thundering
out the dock
Rowing through a storm at sea:
so they laboured among the waves
that ran like smoking mountains under the wind,
while the rain beat hard and cold on their backs,
and the drum thumped through the noise of the storm
like a heart thumping
The Archmage Nemmerle, Warder of Roke:
His voice quavered like a bird’s voice when he spoke,
welcoming Ged kindly.
His hair and beard and robe were white,
and he seemed as if all darkness and heaviness
had been leached out of him
by the slow usage of the years,
leaving him white and worn as driftwood
I can’t make you hear what I’m hearing, of course. What joy to find new pleasures in an old favorite.
P.S. This is not a new recording. At one point, I was informed I had reached the end of cassette one, and should fast forward to the end before I started cassette two. Is that the digital audio equivalent of a badly OCR-scanned ebook?