Ursula Le Guin, a brilliant author of science fiction and what I might call exploratory, inspirationally prescriptive fantasy for every age died on January 22nd. As an author, she was committed to finding new ways in which we humans might make a better, healthier society. I know that I read some of her early books, borrowed from the library, aloud to my four children in the early eighties: probably some of the Catwings series, suitable for ages “4 to 8,” and this title, The Tombs of Atuan, from her Wizard of Earthsea series chimes a distant bell in my vague memory of those times.
A couple of CBC podcasts paid tribute to her in January, and I was excited (in listening to an address she gave at the National Book Awards in 2014 featured on The Sunday Edition on January 28th) to learn Le Guin’s deep commitment to righting the wrongs of present day society.
Here are excerpts from her talk:
Hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and who can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being…
Developing written material to suit (publishers’) sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profits and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing and authorship…
We live in capitalism; its power seems inescapable. So did the Divine Right of Kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings… and very often in our art: the art of words.
(At the end of my career) I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river.
… the name for our beautiful reward is not profit; its name is Freedom!
In 1993 Le Guin was interviewed by the superb Eleanor Wachtel on the CBC program, Writers and Company. Wachtel is perhaps the best literary interviewer on the planet.
Trolls in Akureyri
Strokkur, son of Geysir
Gullfoss from my perch
Humpback blowholes and dorsal
We visited Iceland for 10 days in July. Above are a few photos I selected to send to my granddaughter who is 3 going on 7 and intensely involved in our holiday. Did you see a volcano? A geyser? A waterfall? A glacier? Are there trolls there?
She asked her preschool teacher to show her where Iceland was on the globe. Think her mother put her up to that… My first encounter with a map happened at the front of a class of kids I didn’t know – 3rd grade in a new school… But that is to digress…
Politics is pretty depressing these days. Envy that infectious child-like innocence.
Miguel Cervantes, in a brilliant, caustic reaction to the addiction in Spain in the early 17th Century to a huge crop of silly, chivalrous romances, published Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part 1 in 1605 and Part 2 in 1615). It is considered by some authorities as one of the first, and possibly the very best, novels ever written. Cervantes had a keen nose for farcical BS.
The knight-errant, Don Quixote, having read way too many such trashy stories, loses his mind and decides to take issue with almost anything he encounters in the desolate flatland of Spain called La Mancha. Suffering constantly from delusions of grandeur and hallucinatory visions, he sets off to right all imaginary, unchivalrous wrongs, accompanied by a tired old horse, Rocinante, having persuaded a humble neighbouring farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his squire.
As a Canadian surveying the political scene in February 2017, the comic analogy described in the above photo has burrowed rapidly into my consciousness. Where the metaphor breaks down a little:
Sancho Panza possesses a sharp, entertaining sense of burlesque, whereas “Sancho” Trudeau is comparatively dull-witted and a trifle narcissistic.
But, does the darkness of the surroundings ever work…