* ….* ….*
When I’m busy with school and don’t have time to invest in reading a novel, or when I’m between novels, I read short stories. The past few months I’ve been working through the twenty-story collection in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Compass Rose: Stories. These stories are unrelated and grouped arbitrarily into the cardinal points of the compass rose. This is the third anthology I’ve read by Le Guin thus far, and I still hold to the belief that The Wind’s Twelve Quarters is her best, but that is not to say that The Compass Rose is without its gems. The collection opens with “The Author of the Acacia Seeds, and other extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics,” a delightful mock academic journal from sometime in the future when we have begun to understand the languages of the animals around us. Another linguistic exercise is in “Mazes,” as a lab mouse attempts to communicate with its human captor. “The Pathways of Desire” takes us to the familiar universe of the Ekumen, but as the scientists wonder at the simplistic human society in the seemingly perfect paradise they’ve come across, they discover that they may be closer to Earth than they thought. “The Wife’s Story” is a werewolf story with a twist and “Some Approaches to the Problem of the Shortage of Time” is another faux-academic exercise. “The New Atlantis” and “The Diary of the Rose” are glimpses into dystopias that leave the reader puzzled, in a good way. For fans of Orsinia, “Two Delays on the Northern Line” is another story set in that fictional country, and “The Eye Altering” and “Gwilan’s Harp” may be two other stories set in the Ekumen universe, though I admit, the Ekumen has undefined edges, and these stories may be unrelated to it entirely.
I have four more of Le Guin’s anthologies to read (that I know of), but my next short story collection is going to be The Ladies of Grace Adieu: and other stories by Susanna Clarke. But, er, in the meantime, I’ll be working on Bede.