Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Telling"


I'm rereading Ursula K. le Guin's book "The Telling." Something that has been really intriguing me is how well the cover of the book matches the way the book is written. You might want to click on it to get a better look at it, by the way.

But first, I need to give you an idea of what the book is about. Don't worry, I won't give any of the plot away! All I'll share is what's on the back of the book:

"Once a culturally rich world, the planet Aka has been utterly transformed by technology. Records of the past have been destroyed, and citizens are strictly monitored. But an official observer from Earth named Sutty has learned of a group of outcasts who live in the wilderness. They still believe in the ancient ways and still practice its lost religion -- the Telling. Intrigued by their beliefs, Sutty joins them on a sacred pilgrimage into the mountains...and into the dangerous terrain of her own heart, mind, and soul."

Look at the cover. There are solid things, like the space ship, flowers, and most of the butterflies that look very real. But then you have Sutty, that one butterfly, and the stalks of grass. They aren't so solid. They're...difficult to grasp. You have to stop and take a second look at them. And maybe another. And another.

The book is like that. There are a few things that are easily grasped. But most things in it aren't. It's difficult to get a grip on them.

To begin with I'd thought that le Guin had messed up on this book, and that she didn't didn't put enough effort into it. But then today I realized that that probably isn't the case.

Sutty is learning about the Telling. The Telling is an ancient tradition, and it is something that she can barely even begin to understand it. And whenever she thinks she does understand it she finds yet another aspect to it that completely upends her ideas about it, so that she almost has to start over at the beginning again.

The Telling is something just out of reach. She can see it, she can study it, but she can't grasp it completely. The book reflects this, in that most everything in it feels a little out of reach, and you have to stop and think about it.

Then there are also solid things which are easily grasped, such as the very controlling government which has burned all the libraries and done other fun stuff (please note the sarcasm) to destroy its past.

My point here is that the cover of the book reflects both parts of the book: you have the central part of the picture which is blurred and difficult to get a grip on, but then other parts of it are solid.

It's a fascinating book with many layers to it. I think I would need to reread it several more times before I could begin to grasp all of it.

2 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

It sounds like an excellent book. Reading some of Ursula le Guin's work is on my "to do" list when I have more time to read (at least, to read anything other than blogs, ha ha!)

Sarita Rucker said...

She's a great writer. My favorite book of hers is "Left Hand of Darkness."

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