A Tribute to Ursula Le Guin

Le Guin showed that a writer could write seriously, and with serious literary heft, about other worlds. And as what happens when you take such worlds seriously, she showed us our own. Among other things, she spoke for women, and she spoke for hope, and she spoke about how hopeful women didn’t have to give a crap about things that didn’t matter. She found the numinous without ever naming it. She just showed it in the beauty, and the imagination, and the variety that resides in character, predicament, and place. Perhaps not least, she knew how to write about love. I will miss her. I’d like to have met her. And in the world of my doorstop of a book, I think I’ll make her a saint somewhere—never encountered, or even described, but revered: Ursula the Dreamer.

(Originally posted January 23, 2017)

Insidious

From Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness:

[The politician] wanted his hearers to be frightened and angry. His themes were not pride and love at all, although he used the words perpetually; as he used them they meant self-praise and hate. He talked a great deal about Truth also, for he was, he said, “cutting down beneath the veneer of civilization.

It is a durable, specious metaphor, that one about veneer. . .hiding the nobler reality beneath. It can conceal a dozen fallacies all at once. One of the most dangerous is the implication that civilization, being artificial, is unnatural: that it is the opposite of primitiveness. . . . Of course there is no veneer, the process is one of growth, and primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war.

(Originally posted October 7, 2016)