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Thread: Ursual Le Guin

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Eugene, OR

    Ursual Le Guin

    Ursula Le Guin is the doyenne of Oregon novelists. She's 87 years old and has written dozens of novels, as well as books of poetry and literary criticism.

    An article about her in this week's New Yorker educated me about her life. Her father was Alfred Kroeber, one of the most influential anthropologists in American history. He received the first PhD. Columbia granted in anthropology, where he studied with Franz Boaz, the most famous of all American anthropologists. For years, Kroeber's textbook on anthropology was required reading for all Columbia freshman. Kroeber went on to teach at Berkley, and write some seminal books in the field.

    Le Guin's mother wrote "Ishi in Two Worlds", a book about the remarkable Yahi Indian who was the last survivor of his tribe when he wandered in to Garberville, California in 1911. News of him reached Berkley, and he was hired as a research assistant in the Berkley anthropology museum. His story reads almost like a science fiction novel, in that the cultural shocks involved on both sides were extreme. Ishi died five years later of TB, that scourge of Native American populations.

    I met Le Guin once, at a book signing that I happened into (I had no idea it was going on) in a book store in Seattle. She graduated from Radcliffe, where some of her poems and stories were rejected by the literary magazine in favor of those of Adrienne Rich.

    Here's a link to the article, if anyone's interested:

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    A bit more about her. Her maiden name and her looks point to a German origin:
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #3
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    She is one of my favourite living people. She can be a bit... grumpy... but I think she's earned the right. When I was in my early teens I fell in love with her Earthsea books, but discovering her science fiction as an adult has just been marvellous. The Lathe of Heaven is the next book I'm going to read, once I finish the one I'm on.

    In fact, I wrote a review of The Left Hand of Darkness on this site: I think it's still my favourite sci-fi novel.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  4. #4
    Registered User Clopin's Avatar
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    I've only read three of her Earthsea books, and they were excellent.
    So with the courage of a clown, or a cur, or a kite jerkin tight at it's tether

  5. #5
    The only experience I have with Le Guin was her story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", and I really liked it. Where should I start with her novels?

    Also, I think I have that issue of The New Yorker in my mailbox now. I'll have to get on reading it.

  6. #6
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have only read The Left Hand of Darkness, which I was quite impressed with. I was impressed with the science. For example, it was made clear faster-than-light travel was not possible, but indicated communications were. I read it about the time there was a report of some communications experiment that depended on quantum dynamics effect. The article speculated that it could overcome speed-of-light limitations. While I was reading TLHOD, I wondered if le Guin was aware of the Greenhouse effect, because the planet is mostly pretty snowbound, but then she mentioned it. And this was a book published in 1967. I did not think it was very likely that humans would ever evolve into hermaphrodites, but at least the implausibility was addressed. They had technology on that planet. it was at a similar level to 60s technology but different. Technology on that planet did not advance very quickly. I was quite impressed with all the theology and folklore. Before each chapter, there would be some biblical-like story. The only other books I have read that have attempted to write a religious culture like this were Watership Down and The Silmarillion. It had quite a political plot line, and those are rare too. I also thought it was unusual that the envoy was a black man, considering the date at which it was published. Most science fiction I read during my youth tended to be pretty right wing. Le Guin seems a bit of a lefty. Like a lot of science fiction, it was a bit weird and unsettling.
    Last edited by kev67; 10-20-2016 at 01:52 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  7. #7
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    "Happened into"? I felt the seismic slide of tectonic Eeengleesh with that one. Come to think of it I've happened into as well as upon many times myself.

  8. #8
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I’ve only read the Earthsea quartet and they were good – I rather got the impression with the first book it was painting-by-numbers Jung, though.

    The one that impressed me was the third, The Farthest Shore. This is the one in which magic no longer works in the world because it is discovered that someone has somehow destroyed death. Without death, there is no longer magic or hope or joy in life.

    I’ve haven’t read it for a long time, so I don’t think I’ve shown how compelling she makes the case. On the face of it, it is completely contradicting the Christian hope in the resurrection.

    But in a way Le Guin and Christianity are both saying that without facing up to mortality and fear, we are not fully living.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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