Reading Le Guin

9781598534931_ef465The New Yorker just published a long profile of Ursula K. Le Guin online, and in the October 17th issue.

A tantalizing project proposed by “Neil Gaiman and some film people” is mentioned early in the article, but largely it is a review of Le Guin’s writing life and her current outlook.

Below are some highlights:

She is shaped by her environment,

She sees herself as a Western writer, though her work has had a wide range of settings, from the Oregon coast to an anarchist utopia and a California that exists in the future but resembles the past.

Her father was one of the most important cultural anthropologists of the past century and his way of life and thinking had a major effect,

From him she will take a model for creative work in the midst of a rich family life, as well as the belief that the real room of one’s own is in the writer’s mind. Years later, she tells a friend that if she ended up writing about wizards “perhaps it’s because I grew up with one.

She understands fantastic literature to not be what the article terms “McMagic,” but something far stronger,

“Imagination, working at full strength, can shake us out of our fatal, adoring self-absorption,” she has written, “and make us look up and see—with terror or with relief—that the world does not in fact belong to us at all … [it allows that] … our perception of reality may be incomplete, our interpretation of it arbitrary or mistaken.”

How she finally found a market for her work:

“I was going in another direction than the critically approved culture was,” Le Guin has said. “I was never going to be Norman Mailer or Saul Bellow.” … She was alarmed by the literary rivalries of the period; she remembers thinking, “I’m not competing with all these guys and their empires and territories. I just want to write my stories and dig my own garden … I just didn’t know what to do with my stuff until I stumbled into science fiction and fantasy.”

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