Ursula LeGuin at Eighty-Five

Ursula K. LeGuin Photo by K Kendall

Ursula K. LeGuin
Photo by K. Kendall

Ursula Kroeber LeGuin, the all-time Great Lady of science fiction and fantasy and winner of the 2014 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, is turning eighty-five.

There are two best ways for devoted readers of her incomparable work to celebrate the occasion, the humanity of her words, and the power of their impact on literature.

The first is to see and hear her fearless, at times searing, comments on the occasion of the award’s presentation, in which she addresses both the challenges faced by writers in the evolving world of publishing, and the greater world’s deepening need to receive their messages.

The second is to hear the interview, Ursula LeGuin at 85 on BBC Radio, as well as comments from Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell and others, a brand new drama adaptation of the first three Earthsea novels, the first ever broadcast of The Left Hand of Darkness, and much more, all available here courtesy of BBC

Thought you’d like to know.

3 thoughts on “Ursula LeGuin at Eighty-Five

  1. Paula, I have a confession – haven’t yet read LeGuin – but I will!! Okay, if you were going to recommend a really good place to start where would it be???
    Lynn 😀

  2. Hi, Lynn. Thanks for stopping by. I am so happy that you want to read LeGuin!

    I have three most favorite reading experiences from her.

    The first, and the best place to begin IMO is the entire Earthsea series, which will give you a sense of her magnificent mind and wisdom and humanity and imagination. It started out for children, but for such children as LeGuin herself would raise, smart, inquisitive, observant, and discerning. The series consists of the three original books (the trilogy) followed, in order, by three more volumes written over the course of some 30 – 40 years, with the original wise characters maturing and growing ever wiser over time. The titles are, in *proper* order: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind. Note that Amazon insists on listing The Tales as the last of the six, but it is not. It comes logically between Tehanu and Other Wind. There is now, I have just this minute discovered, a seventh volume, published last year and described as for children: The Daughter of Odren. I am hoping that it continues from The Other Wind. (The Other Wind, set in her main characters’ near-old-age, moved me more deeply than any other book I have ever read,)

    My second favorite is the Left Hand of Darkness, solid science fiction, set on a world of human-like people who can be either male or female, depending on the whims of a monthly period of estrus and somewhat contingent on the current gender of any potential partners. Be prepared to have your brains thoroughly scrambled.

    My third favorite, considered by most to be her masterpiece and a truly masterful work, is The Dispossessed. It is rather cerebral, but not in an overpowering way, The main character is a genius-level mathematician who is regarded as unduly self-involved for the “ambiguous utopia” (LeGuin’s term) in which she has placed him. It is moving in ways much different from her fantasies.

    From there, just read whatever comes to hand, she never wrote anything bad or even seriously mediocre in her life. Her learning curve from the earlier (not bad, just early) science fiction works through the whole of her oeuvre is steep indeed.

    Among the brilliant short stories I might mention are “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea,” and “The Day Before The Revolution.”

    Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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