Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was the daughter of the University of California, Berkeley anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber, and writer Theodora Kracaw. She was born October 21, 1929, and died on Monday, January 22, 2018. Her writing has always challenged me and enthralled me.
Le Guin’s worlds are rich and varied, nd seem so real that you feel like you would know them if you were suddenly transferred there. Her characters are complex, and often seem to be trying to figure life out. She creates many characters of color, which are, or at least were, not usual in science fiction. Her later works especially reflect how women react with the world, when so much of science fiction is from the male point of view.
If you have never read her before, probably her most accessible work for a newcomer is the young adult Wizard of Earthsea, about a young wizard, Ged, who lives in a world with no major land masses but rather only islands. He is very talented, but has to learn the lessons of life the hard way, including accepting his shadow side.
Probably her most famous adult novel is Left Hand of Darkness, which explores the themes of sexuality on a distant planet where the inhabitants are androgynous. We learn about them gradually as the outsider studying their culture does.
One of her most ambitions works is Always Coming Home, which is a multimedia novel, including with the story a tape of songs and poetry from the novel’s world. Set in Northern California, the tale recounts the history of several peoples in the distant future. The society is peaceful, and matriarchal.
Le Guin has written short stores, novels, nonfiction works, poetry, book reviews, and screenplays. If you have never read her, do check her out. When she died this week, we lost a special storyteller.
Quotes by Ursula Le Guin
You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to unbuild walls.
As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.
The creative adult is the child who has survived.
We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.
The light is the left hand of darkness.
Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.
Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.
I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.
To be oneself is a rare thing, and a great one.
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
Besides, when you say you’re a feminist it annoys the bigots and the old farts and the prissy ladies so much, it’s kind of irresistible.
There are no right answers to wrong questions.
What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?
The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
What goes too long unchanged destroys itself.
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