What I read

  • Ursula Le Guin’s Rocannon’s World, Le Guin’s first published novel, is kind of a mess but interesting nevertheless. The opening prelude, which I take was originally written as a standalone short story (the rest of the novel being published serially as a follow-up to that first publication), was by far the best part of the novel and I would happily read it alone. Somehow Le Guin smoothly and gently tells a simple quest story, in fantasy trappings, about a noblewoman looking for a lost heirloom which ends in inevitable tragedy. Yet this story is also a post-contact story about living in a world recently visited by (human) extra-terrestials, and how the status quo has been changed forever, even if no one, especially the nobility, wants it to be. It is also a classic science fiction story about time dilation and the costs of journeying at near-light-speed to other planets and back again. It is also a post-colonial story about how invaders/colonists plunder the material wealth of the places they invade, ship it back home to be catalogued and displayed in archives and museums, and thus render a treasure beyond price for the colonized into a curious little trinket among others for the colonizer. The novel as a whole is a bit rough, but this opening prelude is a perfectly Le Guinian work. It is amazing to see in this one novel Le Guin’s real spark and unique voice and also the rough edges and clunky work of a beginner at the start of her career. People are always already excellent, not always already expert.
  • Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest was excellent. It was by far the most angry and polemical story of hers I’ve read, but I think it works because, as usual, the writing is top notch, the care and attention to story and character are top notch, and the imagination is beautiful to behold.
  • I really enjoyed Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair. I do love a good brick-shaped fantasy story, and this is just right. Interesting to see so many ideas, images, and techniques that George R. R. Martin would incorporate into his Song of Ice and Fire series.

What I listened to

  • Lots of Planxty.
  • Ekkehard Ehlers, particularly the Plays album.

What I did

I took two trips this month.

In the beginning of February I went out to West Kerry to visit some friends. My first visit to that part of Ireland, my first time seeing Dingle, and it was excellent. What a beautiful part of the world–mountains, coasts, low low low clouds, winds and rains (which I love), little lakes in the mountains and streams and trees. It is as beautiful as they say!

a photo of loch cam, in county kerry

Figure 1: An Loch Cam in County Kerry.

Towards the end of February I went to Germany to visit some other friends. From there we went to Austria to do some skiing. I grew up skiing in the small, old mountains of New England. I was not prepared for the alps.

a photo of me smiling in the snows at the top of the nordkette. there is snow and ice in my hair and beard. snow everywhere.

Figure 2: Me, up in the Nordkette.