Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Magic is Back: Reading Novels Again

things change
     authors and wizards are not always to be trusted
           nobody can explain a dragon

Ursula K. Le Guin - "Tales From Earthsea" (2001)

I was afraid that the change had been definitive. That I would never be able again to read books the way I would read them in my 20s, as an avid reader of science fiction. Recently, when I had tried to reread the "Trilogy of Earthsea" - a book that has deeply shaped my view of the world - I found myself reading in the "skipping mode" that I had to develop to read internet pages full of links and advertising. The daily exposure to the Internet social media seemed to have destroyed my capability of reading a novel line by line, the way a novel is supposed to be read.

So, I had to work on it and, in the end, the magic returned. It took a certain effort, but not so much as I had feared. This morning, I looked at the low sun of a clear and chilly winter day and I told myself that I wouldn't turn on anything (no PC, no cell phone, not even the TV) until sunset. And I did just that.

I sat in the sun with the "Tales of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin in my hands and, as I went through the novel, the magic returned. Yes, I could read again a novel, one line after the other. And every line brought a description of the world of Earthsea with its oceans, islands, boats, towers, trees, wizards and everything. Every line was an invitation to imagine the world that Le Guin has imagined (and where, I think, she has lived. It cannot be otherwise.). Every line was a glimpse of a world that I thought I had lost but that was still there, that greeted me back as if I had been the prodigal son of the Bible returning home.

I was an elation that almost made me fall from the chair where I was sitting. And it was an incredible sensation of freedom. The Internet hogs all your time: no Internet means plenty of time. It means that you don't have to worry about answering mails, about writing blog posts, about following the comments. It is an unexpected freedom. When I was not reading Le Guin's book I walked around the house, noticing many small things I had to fix and to do, and that I had the time to fix things and do things. I took a walk to the woods near my home, to pay homage to the Great Oak that rules on the hills nearby, just as the Magic Grove rules on the Island of Roke, in the World of Earthsea.

I cant' say if this little Internet Ramadan is enough to cure all of us of Internet addiction. Maybe, even in my case, it was possible only because it involved some spell casting on the part of the wise wizards of Earthsea. But I'll try it again next Saturday. And I hope that the Wizards will help me again.


  1. What a great book, one of my favorites, too. I especially like the first tale - the thing about guessing the name of the porter to leave the magic school is a reat find, as is fleeing this relentless monster who is no less than his own hubris materialized. Some food for thought for our own "magicians", I guess, scientists that do not always understand the forces they are unleashing.

  2. And I cannot agree more about the Internet pause. Every year, I try to go on camping for two weeks. I do some hiking, but most of my time is spent reading. Last time I read 10 books in 14 days _ I wish I could go on more of these reading binges is the splending isolation of the woods.

  3. I have been taking the Odyssey camping for years and have just switched to Moby Dick.