website statistics Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

Availability: Ready to download

Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin: "I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism."—Junot Diaz "A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell st Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin: "I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism."—Junot Diaz "A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell stories, and what stories look like. She's been extremely influential on me in that area of what I, as a beginning writer, thought a story must look like, and the much more expan-sive view I have now of what a story can be and can do."—Karen Joy Fowler "She was and remains a central figure for me."—Michael Chabon Ursula K. Le Guin is one of our foremost public literary intellectuals and this collection of her recent talks, essays, introductions, and book reviews is the best manual we have for traveling the worlds explored in recent fiction; the most useful guide to the country we're visiting, life. Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Among her honors are the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a National Book Award, the Hugo, Nebula, and Kafka awards, a Pushcart Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Me-morial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Portland, Ore-gon.


Compare

Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin: "I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism."—Junot Diaz "A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell st Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin: "I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism."—Junot Diaz "A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell stories, and what stories look like. She's been extremely influential on me in that area of what I, as a beginning writer, thought a story must look like, and the much more expan-sive view I have now of what a story can be and can do."—Karen Joy Fowler "She was and remains a central figure for me."—Michael Chabon Ursula K. Le Guin is one of our foremost public literary intellectuals and this collection of her recent talks, essays, introductions, and book reviews is the best manual we have for traveling the worlds explored in recent fiction; the most useful guide to the country we're visiting, life. Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Among her honors are the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a National Book Award, the Hugo, Nebula, and Kafka awards, a Pushcart Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Me-morial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Portland, Ore-gon.

30 review for Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Nonfiction nom for the 2017 Hugos, this collection of essays and book reviews are good for what they are, being honest and rooted very firmly in Le Guin's mindset and fierce defense of Science Fiction in general. Hell, I was rooting for the same points the entire time! Mainstream Lit-fiction stealing old and traditional SF ideas and then having the nerve to say it's not SF and has nothing to do with it, all the while thumbing its nose at a long tradition is NOT COOL, yo. Give credit where credit Nonfiction nom for the 2017 Hugos, this collection of essays and book reviews are good for what they are, being honest and rooted very firmly in Le Guin's mindset and fierce defense of Science Fiction in general. Hell, I was rooting for the same points the entire time! Mainstream Lit-fiction stealing old and traditional SF ideas and then having the nerve to say it's not SF and has nothing to do with it, all the while thumbing its nose at a long tradition is NOT COOL, yo. Give credit where credit is due. Don't write SF and call it something else just because you think the genre is trash. No genre is trash. Individual writing can be trash, and that's true for EVERYTHING. But the converse is true, too. There are really fantastic examples of good writing everywhere, in any genre, lit-fic, mainstream, or any number of subcategories. Even erotica. I added the erotica point and the rest is based on Sturgeon's Law, but we share the same point. Don't be a dick. Le Guin's book reviews were fun for what they are. They're book reviews! I think there's some sort of website out there that is really popular for just this kind of thing... but I can't quite put my finger on it. Still, it's true that we like to see what others think about books both neglected and hugely popular. :) I find myself liking Le Guin more and more and more as I read this book. Still, as a work of non-fiction, it's mostly just a collection of defenses and book reviews. Pleasurable for what it is but hardly more than that. I'm not being won over to a cause because I'm already a staunch defender, and I love to read book reviews, so this was, in the end, a light read. Does it deserve a Hugo? Frankly... no. But it was fun and I'm glad to have read it. Did it serve to make me want to read more and more of her works? Yes. It did. I've just bumped up her Earthsea books. :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    It's always so nice to read essays from Le Guin. She is so intelligent, and expresses her opinions with such logic and clarity that it amazes me. If I knew her in person, I'm sure I'd be tongue-tied around her because I'm in such awe of her abilities. This is my third book of essays by her. Now to get over my prejudiced mindset of science fiction and read one of her novels. It's always so nice to read essays from Le Guin. She is so intelligent, and expresses her opinions with such logic and clarity that it amazes me. If I knew her in person, I'm sure I'd be tongue-tied around her because I'm in such awe of her abilities. This is my third book of essays by her. Now to get over my prejudiced mindset of science fiction and read one of her novels.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I respect Le Guin as an imaginative writer, feminist rule-bender, and wise crone, but I ended up skimming and skipping through many of these essays and book reviews once their sameness became apparent. I don't feel guilty about that, and she'd probably not care about my "skim and gobble" reading (as she calls it), particularly if her own disclaimers and ambivalence about writing nonfiction are truthful. Le Guin is the great defender of the science fiction genre, of course, and that is a recurrin I respect Le Guin as an imaginative writer, feminist rule-bender, and wise crone, but I ended up skimming and skipping through many of these essays and book reviews once their sameness became apparent. I don't feel guilty about that, and she'd probably not care about my "skim and gobble" reading (as she calls it), particularly if her own disclaimers and ambivalence about writing nonfiction are truthful. Le Guin is the great defender of the science fiction genre, of course, and that is a recurring theme of all her nonfiction pieces. She complains of what she sees as a 'cool' trend of mainstream novelists ("formerly deep-dyed realists") using the tropes and plot lines of science fiction without giving credit. I am bothered [...] by the curious ingratitude of authors who exploit a common fund of imagery while pretending to have nothing to do with the fellow authors who created it and left it open to all who want to use it. A little return generosity would hardly come amiss. This little screed pertained to Jeanette Winterson's Gap of Time but would apply to many of the novelists she critiques, though not Margaret Atwood, even though Atwood insists that her Oryx & Crake series not be called science fiction. Whatever. She loves China Miéville, Kent Haruf, Barbara Kingsolver; she claims not to understand David Mitchell; she's kind of petty-mean about Geraldine Brooks's historical fiction; and she seems scornful of Cormac McCarthy and Chang-Rae Lee for veering into her sacrosanct territory. Not the most elevated or insightful book reviews (nor is mine, especially), and somewhat tiresome. But I certainly came away with a sense of Le Guin's current tastes and sensibilities.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    4.5 stars I do absolutely love reading Le Guin's critical work. I had no idea she wrote book reviews, so that entire section in this collection was wonderful. She makes me want to read H.G. Wells and Jose Saramago, which I never thought I'd say! 4.5 stars I do absolutely love reading Le Guin's critical work. I had no idea she wrote book reviews, so that entire section in this collection was wonderful. She makes me want to read H.G. Wells and Jose Saramago, which I never thought I'd say!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shira

    I will not rate this book because I only skimmed it, and every single point she makes is absolutely valid and necessary. So rather than taking the rest of the time to finish reading her book I'm going to take her advice and finish writing my rough draft. I will not rate this book because I only skimmed it, and every single point she makes is absolutely valid and necessary. So rather than taking the rest of the time to finish reading her book I'm going to take her advice and finish writing my rough draft.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    I don't love Ursula Le Guin's non-fiction as much as her fiction, but at least it's always a pleasure to read. This book has a rather charming diary of a writer's week when she attended a writing retreat, including some very nice observations of rabbits which chime well with what I know of my domestic buns. There's also various essays on genre, and her other usual preoccupations. And then there's her book reviews -- I could wish there weren't as many of Atwood's work, who I don't have much inter I don't love Ursula Le Guin's non-fiction as much as her fiction, but at least it's always a pleasure to read. This book has a rather charming diary of a writer's week when she attended a writing retreat, including some very nice observations of rabbits which chime well with what I know of my domestic buns. There's also various essays on genre, and her other usual preoccupations. And then there's her book reviews -- I could wish there weren't as many of Atwood's work, who I don't have much interest in, but it was interesting to see her thoughts on books and authors I know, and especially to see her glowing piece on Jo Walton's Among Others. I still prefer her fiction -- as she did herself -- but I cherished reading this, too. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  7. 5 out of 5

    SmartBitches

    Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books The collection is organized into sections: “Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces,” “Book Introductions and Notes on Writers,” “Book Reviews,” and “The Hope of Rabbits: A Journal of a Writer’s Week.” The last section, the journal of a week, is about a week she spent at a retreat for women who are artists. While I enjoyed everything in the book, the most electric section is “Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces.” When Le Guin speaks, she imparts warmth and Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books The collection is organized into sections: “Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces,” “Book Introductions and Notes on Writers,” “Book Reviews,” and “The Hope of Rabbits: A Journal of a Writer’s Week.” The last section, the journal of a week, is about a week she spent at a retreat for women who are artists. While I enjoyed everything in the book, the most electric section is “Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces.” When Le Guin speaks, she imparts warmth and humor while also conveying an unwavering devotion to fighting injustice. She is not malicious but neither does she mince words. Everyone, regardless of their feelings about abortion, should read her short piece “What It Was Like.” a transcript of a speech she made to the Oregon chapter of NARAL in 2004, about the times before abortion was legal. This speech, when read in its entirety, is so powerful that I had to take a break after reading it; it made me woozy. Le Guin’s book reviews and other commentary will mostly be of interest to long-time fans who love to see what she thinks and above all how she thinks. Le Guin’s review of Jo Walton’s Among Others was interesting mostly because I had previously read Among Others. However, although I have never read a book by Jan Morris, I’m still captivated by Le Guin’s review of Morris’ Hav, because I like seeing how Le Guin thinks. She writes conversationally enough that I almost feel like we could hang out in her kitchen, and I could reply with, “Well I think…” and then we would talk about books and also raising children and pets. The reason I open with talking about my life and my connection with Le Guin’s work is that many Le Guin fans are not casual fans. We are maybe just a teeny bit obsessive, but not in a bad way. This book is, for the most part, for fans on the obsessive-but-not-in-a-bad-way end of the spectrum. Le Guin’s books brought me comfort when I was enduring something terrible and they’ve gone on to nurture my soul and challenge my mind. So for me, this collection is solid gold. The only reason I’m giving it a B and not an A is that it’s not cohesive work (intentionally). It’s like a collection of special features on a DVD. - Carrie S.

  8. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Q: It seems to be a fact that everybody, everywhere, even if they haven’t met one before, recognises a dragon. (c) Q: So long as we hear about “women’s writing” but not about “men’s writing”—because the latter is assumed to be the norm—the balance is not just. The same signal of privilege and prejudice is reflected in the common use of the word feminism and the almost total absence of its natural counterpart, masculinism. I long for the day when neither word is necessary. (c) I need to hang this on Q: It seems to be a fact that everybody, everywhere, even if they haven’t met one before, recognises a dragon. (c) Q: So long as we hear about “women’s writing” but not about “men’s writing”—because the latter is assumed to be the norm—the balance is not just. The same signal of privilege and prejudice is reflected in the common use of the word feminism and the almost total absence of its natural counterpart, masculinism. I long for the day when neither word is necessary. (c) I need to hang this on my wall or smth. Q: I seldom have as much pleasure in reading nonfiction as I do in a poem or a story. I can admire a well-made essay, but I’d rather follow a narrative than a thought, and the more abstract the thought the less I comprehend it. Philosophy inhabits my mind only as parables, and logic never enters it at all. Yet my grasp of syntax, which seems to me the logic of a language, is excellent. So I imagine that this limitation in my thinking is related to my abysmal mathematical incompetence, my inability to play chess or even checkers, perhaps my incomprehension of key in music. There seems to be a firewall in my mind against ideas expressed in numbers and graphs rather than words, or in abstract words such as Sin or Creativity. I just don’t understand. And incomprehension is boredom. (c) Q: I think the imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. (c) Q: the word creative can hardly be degraded further. I don’t use it any more, yielding it to capitalists and academics to abuse as they like. But they can’t have imagination. (c) Q: A people that doesn’t live at the center of the world, as defined and described by its poets and storytellers, is in a bad way. The center of the world is where you live fully, where you know how things are done, how things are done rightly, done well. (c) Q: This signifies reader addiction. The most harm I can see in it is that it may keep addicts from reading good stuff, though they might not read the good stuff anyway, because they’ve been scared into thinking that literature can’t include anything about horses, space ships, dragons, dreams, spies, monsters, animals, aliens, or dark, handsome, taciturn men who own large houses in remote bits of England. Fitzwilliam Darcy, they need you! But they’ve been scared away from Darcy, or never allowed a glimpse of him. (c) Q: Listening is an act of community, which takes space, time, and silence. Reading is a means of listening. Reading is not as passive as hearing or viewing. It’s an act: you do it. You read at your pace, your own speed, not the ceaseless, incoherent, gabbling, shouting rush of the media. You take in what you can and want to take in, not what they shove at you fast and hard and loud in order to overwhelm and control you. Reading a story, you may be told something, but you’re not being sold anything. And though you’re usually alone when you read, you are in communion with another mind. You aren’t being brainwashed or co-opted or used; you’ve joined in an act of the imagination. (с) Q: Jorge Luis Borge... His poems and stories, his images of reflections, libraries, labyrinths, forking paths, his books of tigers, of rivers, of sand, of mysteries, of changes, are everywhere honored, because they are beautiful, because they are nourishing, because they fulfill the most ancient, urgent function of words: to form for us “mental representations of things not actually present,” so that we can form a judgment of what world we live in and where we might be going in it, what we can celebrate, what we must fear. (c)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    “Listening is an act of community, which requires space, time, and silence. Reading is a means of listening.” I wanted to like this book because I respect Le Guin as an author and a person, but two stars was a gift. This drivel seems tossed together to justify the selling price. It won awards perhaps because it says all the right things. Or it was her turn. (Good heavens, this was nominated for a 2017 Hugo. That being a popularity contest, folks will vote for it without reading it.) “There seems t “Listening is an act of community, which requires space, time, and silence. Reading is a means of listening.” I wanted to like this book because I respect Le Guin as an author and a person, but two stars was a gift. This drivel seems tossed together to justify the selling price. It won awards perhaps because it says all the right things. Or it was her turn. (Good heavens, this was nominated for a 2017 Hugo. That being a popularity contest, folks will vote for it without reading it.) “There seems to be a firewall in my mind against ideas expressed in numbers and graphs rather than words, or in abstract words such as Sin and Gravity.” She has opinions and states them well, but with precious few facts. She feels rather than thinks, and she’s proud of it. Yet she perfers “the fierce reality of true fiction” over “wishful thinking.” “I’d rather follow a narrative than a thought, and the more abstract the thought the less I understand it. Philosophy inhabits my mind only as parables and logic never enters it at all.” Le Guin admits she writes fantasy because she can’t do the math for real science fiction. That’s legitimate. Others should be as honest. But then she degrades hard science fiction as elitist and reactionary. That’s hardly fair. I like fantasy--her kind of fantasy--but I like science fiction that makes me think about velocity vectors and Hohmann transfer orbits. “… the critics increasing restriction of literary fiction to social and psychological realism, all else being brushed aside as sub literary entertainment.” Skip the reviews. They’re good but she both tells you too much and tells you how to think. Many folks like to be told how to think, but even when I agree with her I’d rather find my own way. “The New York/East Coast literary scene is so inward-looking and provincial that I’ve always been glad not to be part of it.” Her defense of abortion, whatever you may think on the topic, is among the best I’ve ever read. I wonder what her child would have thought. “It’s hard to ask a child to find a way through all that [reproduced voices, images and words used for commercial and political profit] alone.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    While not being in any way autobiographical, this book gives surprising insight into Ursula K. Le Guin as a person. I like her very much. I especially liked the tentative modesty of her introduction to this rag-tag collection of essays, speeches, introductions, book reviews, and diary excerpts. She's keen to assert that she's no non-fiction writer, and doubts both her skill and her subject matter. I find her non-fiction to be skillful in just the way that her fiction is: surgically precise and u While not being in any way autobiographical, this book gives surprising insight into Ursula K. Le Guin as a person. I like her very much. I especially liked the tentative modesty of her introduction to this rag-tag collection of essays, speeches, introductions, book reviews, and diary excerpts. She's keen to assert that she's no non-fiction writer, and doubts both her skill and her subject matter. I find her non-fiction to be skillful in just the way that her fiction is: surgically precise and unnervingly insightful, so the modesty is rather endearing. Le Guin ranges across a number of topics: writing, reading, art, and being human. She issues more than one passionate defence of SF and all genre fiction; the uses and abuses of genre definitions; memories of childhood homes; the future of publishing. These selections were never intended as a collection, so there is a fair amount of over-lap, and it allows Le Guin's personality - or at least various concerns of hers - to shine through. I never knew that Le Guin was descended from people we might call 'Wild Westerners', those who won the west: cowboys, gunslingers, cattle ranchers and the like. There's a protectiveness of the desert life that emerges in her essays whenever Hollywood or the East Coast elite bowdlerise or romantise those people. She'll stand up for regionalism just as staunchly as she'll stand up for SF. There's also a thread of environmentalism running through the essays, and a deep contempt for Amazon and the goliath publishers who prefer best-sellers to honest art. I was surprised at how much of a feminist she is in these essays. Positively strident. I know her fiction touches on gender a lot, but it always seemed to me that Le Guin was occasionally essentialist, acknowledging the large difference between men and women when it comes to violence and aggression, but above all an individualist. She seemed impatient, more than anything else, at generalisations about sex, both feminist and anti-feminist. Her characters alway defy easy pigeon-holes; her utopias are ambiguous. But her essay What it Was Like is a powerful plea in defence of abortion, in defence of the children she has now who could never have been if she'd been forced to bear an earlier pregnancy and live the life of inescapable poverty that would've been a certain result of a bastard child in those days. Disappearing Grandmothers, written in 2011, reminds me very strongly of Joanna Russ's hilarious and furious How to Suppress Women's Writing. When great female authors like Le Guin and Russ point out how women disappear from print and from memory nevermind how respected and influential they were in their lifetime, it always gives me chills to think that Dale Spenders Women of Ideas: And What Men Have Done to Them is currently out of print. Her book reviews are excellent. I suppose it's hard to be objective about that. After all, the opinions of people we respect on the things we love can hardly be anything but fascinating. Nevermind the enormous pleasure to be had just from being introduced to new authors and adding them to the ever-growing TBR pile. The authors she reviews are more likely to be literary authors than SF, and as most of them are reviews for The Manchester Guardian, they're not necessarily even the authors she would've chosen, given the choice - no Virginia Woolf! I rather enjoyed that; it's very educational to see a woman so gracefully walk the line of honesty and kindness. Tact - that's what it is, and there's not enough to go round these days. I should know; I'm positively ashamed to think back on some of my reviews after reading Le Guin letting down bad books so gently. And yet, despite each item being excellent and interesting individually, it doesn't quite hang together as a whole. The only unifying factor is that everything herein was written within a certain timeframe and is nonfiction. So it can be a little repetitive, the themes are accidental, and the order occasionally feels arbitrary. This is a book for lovers of Le Guin, I think, who want to know her better - and for anyone who love writing, just for the peak into the mind of one the greatest writers: both as craftsman and as artist.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    4 stars instead of 5 because although some sections were amazing, other sections didn't grab my interest. UKLG is the QUEEN of all things. The two stars of this compilation of essays, reviews, etc. are What Women Know and Disappearing Grandmothers. Both are *PERFECT*. -----------WHAT WOMEN KNOW----------- What do we learn from women? How to be human: what to fear, what to love, social skills, culture. Basically, "the whole amazing, complicated business of staying alive and being a member of societ 4 stars instead of 5 because although some sections were amazing, other sections didn't grab my interest. UKLG is the QUEEN of all things. The two stars of this compilation of essays, reviews, etc. are What Women Know and Disappearing Grandmothers. Both are *PERFECT*. -----------WHAT WOMEN KNOW----------- What do we learn from women? How to be human: what to fear, what to love, social skills, culture. Basically, "the whole amazing, complicated business of staying alive and being a member of society." Women are life-scholars, teachers of the most complex curriculum possible. They teach their children genderless skills. Men teach their children gendered skills: how to be manly to their sons, how to be womanly to their daughters. How to fit into hierarchies, uphold the status quo. Men teach to fit into the status quo, and yet: "a very frequently repeated story tells us that women, innately unadventurous and conservative, are the great upholders of traditional values. Is that true? May it be a story men tell in order to be able to see themselves as great innovaters, the movers and shakers, the ones who get to change society's ways, the teachers of what is new and important? I think it's worth thinking about." "Women, come up out of that basement and the kitchen and the kids' room; this whole house is our house. And men, it's time you learned to live in that dark basement that you seem to be so afraid of, and the kitchen and the kids' room, too. And when you've done that, come on, let's talk, all of us, around the hearth, in the living room of our shared house. We have a lot to tell each other, a lot to learn." -----------Disappearing Grandmothers----------- Fun fact she gives: the percentage of women professors drops as the prestige of the position and institution rise. Four Ways Women's Literature is Excluded from the Literary Canon 1. Denigration: Not as obvious as it used to be, it's just as pervasive, only more subtle. For instance, critics can dismiss entire genres unread if they're associated with women (see the terrible label "chick lit" or romance- you don't see inane machismo war books being dismissed by critics as "prick lit" though God well knows I'll be using that phrase from now on). Women's writing is called "charming, elegant, poignant, sensitive" but rarely "powerful, rugged, masterful." It's as if the journalists and critics can't think about anything BUT the writer's gender (and, therefore, sexual attractiveness) if she's a woman. For instance, it's pretty rare to find a discussion of George Eliot that doesn't describe her as "plain." How often are men authors' attractiveness commented on? But "the sin of not having a pretty face is held against women even when they're dead." "Comparing a book written by a woman to work by other women, but not to work by men, is a subtle and effective form of denigration. It allows the reviewer to never say a woman's book is better than a man's, and helps keep women's achievement safely out of the mainstream, off in the hen coop." 2. Omission: Periodicals universally review many more men's books than women's, and at greater length. Books by women are grouped together in reviews, while men's books are reviewed individually. Literary prize shortlists sometimes include books by both men and women, but the prize nearly always goes to a man: from 2 times out of three, to 9 times out of 10, depending on the prize. 3. Exception: First off, reviews of books by men usually don't talk about the fact that the writer is a man. Reviews of books by women usually talk about her gender. She is the exception. A critic may be forced to admit Virginia Woolf is good, but talk about her as if she's "a wonderful fluke." The exception that proves the rule. "The woman writer's writing is "unique" but has no influence on later writers; she is the object of a 'cult'; she is a (charming, elegant, poignant, sensitive) fragile hothouse flower that should not be seen as competing with the (rugged, powerful, masterful) vigor of the male novelist." 4. Disappearance: the absolute most effective. Think of Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant. Even now they are called "Mrs. Gaskell" and "Mrs. Oliphant" to hammer home their gender. They were taken seriously when they lived, and now are nearly invisible compared to male counterparts. Gaskell has been brought back by feminists in recent years, but not powerfully so, and Oliphant not at all (despite her similarities to Trollope, who remains in the forefront of literary attention). "It won't do. We really can't go on letting good writers be disappeared and buried because they weren't men, while writers who should be left to rot in peace are endlessly resurrected, the zombies of criticism and curriculum, because they weren't women. I'm no beauty, but don't give me a headstone that says She Was Plain. I am a grandmother, but don't give me a headstone that says Somebody's Grandmother. If I have a headstone, I want my name on it."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    This lovely book is about one-third general essays, one-third essays on specific books and writers, and one-third book reviews, plus a little coda journal from Le Guin's week at a women's writing retreat in the Pacific Northwest. I found it delightful from start to finish. I've always been a fan of Le Guin essays, and these from the last 15 years of her life held up beautifully. There's some repetition of themes, especially her resentment that science fiction isn't (or didn't used to be) consider This lovely book is about one-third general essays, one-third essays on specific books and writers, and one-third book reviews, plus a little coda journal from Le Guin's week at a women's writing retreat in the Pacific Northwest. I found it delightful from start to finish. I've always been a fan of Le Guin essays, and these from the last 15 years of her life held up beautifully. There's some repetition of themes, especially her resentment that science fiction isn't (or didn't used to be) considered literature, and her responses to people who think the book is dying. But she's such a fine writer that even when she's repeating themes, she says things differently. Special treats include "Living in a Work of Art," her essay about growing up in a home designed by Bernard Maybeck; her essays on H. L. Davis's Honey in the Horn and Charles McNichols' Crazy Weather (two books and writers I had never heard of), her long essay on Jose Saramago, and a couple of reviews of favorites of mine, including the heart-wrenching review of Dreamsnake by the recently deceased Vonda N. McIntyre, a friend of mine and a very close friend of Le Guin's. You get a real feel for who she was and how she read. I was especially taken by her putting down Saramago's Blindness because it was getting dark and violent and she didn't trust him enough--so she went back and read everything else he had ever written, built up the trust, and returned to Blindness, a book I read decades ago and remember vividly. All in all, this is a window into Le Guin, into writing, reading, books, and the environments we live in.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clara Biesel

    What a pleasure. This book is repetitive at times, as it is a collection of her nonfiction works, most of which are speeches and so have some overlap with each other. She champions the imagination, and its work and growth, and opposes stifling genre snobbiness. She thinks that nonfiction gets too much respect and that fiction of all sorts is underrated, but especially fiction which is especially imaginative: fantasy or science fiction. One of the reasons for this she insists begins with schoolin What a pleasure. This book is repetitive at times, as it is a collection of her nonfiction works, most of which are speeches and so have some overlap with each other. She champions the imagination, and its work and growth, and opposes stifling genre snobbiness. She thinks that nonfiction gets too much respect and that fiction of all sorts is underrated, but especially fiction which is especially imaginative: fantasy or science fiction. One of the reasons for this she insists begins with schooling, and what we consider important, we write, “what I did on my summer vacation” rather than “what I did not do on my summer vacation” focusing our energy and attention on our limited experience, rather than spreading your imagination wide to consider all the things that might have been. Another thing I found especially interesting was her thoughts about the messages that people find in literature. She is often asked, “do you think of the story first and then add in the message or do you start with the message and then make a story to hold it?” and she says this question does not even make sense. The story is the message-- that there isn’t a particular message she wants her readers to take away from it. She doesn’t make a jar full of candy, she makes the jar, and her readers both bring and find candy in it. Anything else is putting the art as servile to a project, it gets to be not art but preaching, and she doesn’t like to preach.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kentgen

    This is a difficult book to review because it is not what I was hoping it would be. It provided a few gems of insight and I am grateful for them. I am delighted to have finally picked up a book by Ursula Le Guin and, frankly, it was an unusual first book to use as an introduction to her work. I started reading it a few days before she died and intend to read something else by her. There are two primary sections to this book. The first I'll put into the category of discussions of genre and the pu This is a difficult book to review because it is not what I was hoping it would be. It provided a few gems of insight and I am grateful for them. I am delighted to have finally picked up a book by Ursula Le Guin and, frankly, it was an unusual first book to use as an introduction to her work. I started reading it a few days before she died and intend to read something else by her. There are two primary sections to this book. The first I'll put into the category of discussions of genre and the publishing world. In this section there is also a lovely essay written as a call to develop the imagination. The latter section consists of her introductions to various scifi books. Since scifi is not in my wheelhouse, reading all of these pieces would not have enriched me. (It is typically difficult for me to skip sections of a book.) I did read about half of them and am now curious to read a couple of scifi classics. I don't think I would have chosen this book had I better known what was between the cover. And, like most things that end up different than what we imagine, I'm glad I didn't know. Also, as a writer now writing to a new audience, her insights into the publishing world empowered me to keep forging my own unique path.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mafalda Fernandes

    Lidos os seguintes Ensaios e Outros The Mind Is Still The Operating Instructions What It Was Like Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love “Things Not Actually Present”: On Fantasy, with a Tribute to Jorge Luis Borges A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti The Beast in the Book Inventing Languages On David Hensel’s Submission to the Royal Academy of Art On Serious Literature Teasing Myself Out of Thought Living in a Work of Art Staying Awake Great Nature’s Second Course What Women Know Disappearing Gra Lidos os seguintes Ensaios e Outros The Mind Is Still The Operating Instructions What It Was Like Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love “Things Not Actually Present”: On Fantasy, with a Tribute to Jorge Luis Borges A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti The Beast in the Book Inventing Languages On David Hensel’s Submission to the Royal Academy of Art On Serious Literature Teasing Myself Out of Thought Living in a Work of Art Staying Awake Great Nature’s Second Course What Women Know Disappearing Grandmothers Learning to Write Science Fiction from Virginia Woolf The Death of the Book Le Guin’s Hypothesis Making Up Stories Freedom Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle Huxley’s Bad Trip Stanislaw Lem: Solaris George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin Examples of Dignity: Thoughts on the Work of José Saramago H. G. Wells: The First Men in the Moon H. G. Wells: The Time Machine Italo Calvino: The Complete Cosmicomics

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Samples of Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces: Teasing Myself Out of Thought Living in a Work of Art Learning to Write Science Fiction from Virginia Woolf Le Guin's Hypothesis Samples of Book Reviews: Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood Roberto Bolano: Monsieur Pain Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks Stefan Zweig: The Post Office Girl Samples of Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces: Teasing Myself Out of Thought Living in a Work of Art Learning to Write Science Fiction from Virginia Woolf Le Guin's Hypothesis Samples of Book Reviews: Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood Roberto Bolano: Monsieur Pain Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks Stefan Zweig: The Post Office Girl

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susanna Sturgis

    Ursula Le Guin is fluent in fiction (short, long, and children's), poetry, drama, and nonfiction, but she notes in the foreword to this, her 2016 nonfiction collection: "Writing fiction or poetry is natural to me. I do it, want to do it, am fulfilled in doing it, the way a dancer dances or a tree grows. . . . Writing talks or essays, however, is always more like doing schoolwork. It's going to be assessed for style and content, and rightly so. Nobody knows better than I do what my stories are ab Ursula Le Guin is fluent in fiction (short, long, and children's), poetry, drama, and nonfiction, but she notes in the foreword to this, her 2016 nonfiction collection: "Writing fiction or poetry is natural to me. I do it, want to do it, am fulfilled in doing it, the way a dancer dances or a tree grows. . . . Writing talks or essays, however, is always more like doing schoolwork. It's going to be assessed for style and content, and rightly so. Nobody knows better than I do what my stories are about, but my essays may be judged by people who know a lot more than I do about what I'm talking about." Given Le Guin's perceptive abilities, her ability to make connections, and the wisdom she's got stored in her head, it's hard to imagine anyone knowing more about what she's talking about than she does. More facts, perhaps, or maybe another perspective, but not more. Not surprisingly, most of these writings deal directly or indirectly with writing, reading, books, and/or publishing, but also not surprisingly, they're dealing with the wider world at the same time. So (to take a random example) "Great Nature's Second Course," about sleep, moves from "When a character actually goes to sleep, the novelist tiptoes quietly out of the room . . ." to sleeplessness to Macbeth murdering sleep to the innocence of sleep -- to this: "I wish war could cease with darkness, as it used to until less than two centuries ago, so the people under the bombing planes and the people who fly them could be allowed some hours of innocence out of every murderous day." Most of the pieces in this collection are short enough to read at a sitting -- if you're willing to sit for a while with the book open in your lap, letting the words sink in, resonate, reverberate in your mind. As a sometime book reviewer, I especially admire -- hell, I'm in awe of -- Le Guin's ability to convey the essence of a work in a thousand words or less. Her reviews and intros to other writers' works are like good travel writing: they arouse my curiosity enough to want to go there myself, but (because in many cases this won't ever happen) they give me a taste of what would greet me if I did so. And if I've been there already, they show me wonders I didn't notice the first time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Pretty much required reading for UKL fans, although you can count on being annoyed from time to time, which is probably her intention. Best read a bit at a time, or that's how I did. Now it's due back, and I didn't quite finish. That's OK -- I'll get it out again, later. The essay that's pretty much worth the price of the book is "A Report, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti": her reactions to critical reactions to her work, especially academic crits: For anyone who's been driven "slightly lunatic" by for Pretty much required reading for UKL fans, although you can count on being annoyed from time to time, which is probably her intention. Best read a bit at a time, or that's how I did. Now it's due back, and I didn't quite finish. That's OK -- I'll get it out again, later. The essay that's pretty much worth the price of the book is "A Report, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti": her reactions to critical reactions to her work, especially academic crits: For anyone who's been driven "slightly lunatic" by formal academic criticism of SF/F. (It's not online, btw; I looked.) Specifically, "The Dispossessed", her "ambiguous utopia". For which book Darko Suvin [!] was her first reader & first critic. Anarchist vs. Marxist; see below. If you aren't smiling when you're reading this, you're in the wrong book. UKL is such a good writer, you won't mind her bosky bolshy excesses (much). In the salad days of rec.arts.sf.written, there was a years-long running discussion of "Good Ursula" vs."Bad Ursula." I don't recall her participating, but I suspect she'd have found this entertaining.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I've never read a Le Guin book, but I really enjoyed her essays and book reviews. I mean, there was some repetitive content and some that just didn't interest me at all, but I really enjoyed her voice and felt invigorated and angry at the same time--especially when she talks about the hidden female writers, the discrimination on literary genre (she hates Cormac McCarthy and JK Rowlings, apparently). I am not a sci-fi reader, but so many of her essays made me think that perhaps I am being narrowm I've never read a Le Guin book, but I really enjoyed her essays and book reviews. I mean, there was some repetitive content and some that just didn't interest me at all, but I really enjoyed her voice and felt invigorated and angry at the same time--especially when she talks about the hidden female writers, the discrimination on literary genre (she hates Cormac McCarthy and JK Rowlings, apparently). I am not a sci-fi reader, but so many of her essays made me think that perhaps I am being narrowminded and am missing something essential. Also, I've always hated Wallace Stegnar and her essay on him stealing a woman's work to create Angle of Repose was super validating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Koeeoaddi

    Review of The Bone Clocks worth the price of admission.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    This is a collection of nonfiction by Le Guin, a combination of essays (mostly texts from speeches and presentations) and book forewords and reviews, with a diary excerpt finale, all written between 2000 and 2016. I found everything but the diary interesting. There’s two main themes I found running through this book, both of them aimed directly at those who would guard the gates of literature. Unlike some others who began their career writing imaginative literature, Le Guin never apologized for i This is a collection of nonfiction by Le Guin, a combination of essays (mostly texts from speeches and presentations) and book forewords and reviews, with a diary excerpt finale, all written between 2000 and 2016. I found everything but the diary interesting. There’s two main themes I found running through this book, both of them aimed directly at those who would guard the gates of literature. Unlike some others who began their career writing imaginative literature, Le Guin never apologized for it, tried to hide it or call it something else, and continued to write it, and publish under that label, even after she had acquired enough fame that she could basically write what she wanted to. As a writer who grew up in California and made her home in Oregon, she also decried the literati who thought Western literature was all horse opera. I can’t disagree with either sentiment, but the problem with a collection like this that pulls all of these diversely published (in places, for the essays, and in time, for the review, which mostly appeared in Britain’s Guardian newspaper) pieces is that these complaints, repeated at the beginning of most of these, or even the main subject of some, becomes somewhat tiresome. Le Guin shines when she finally gets to actually discussing the book or subject in question, and is genuinely effusive and generous about many other writers. When she does decide to deride a book, she provides a caveat about how it might just not be to her taste, while others may enjoy it (in one case, a review of Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, wherein she ends the review by saying, “Readers who find anachronism and implausibility easy to swallow will enjoy the story and perhaps find in it the fresh vision, the new take on dreary old Dystopia, that I could not.”). A couple of the essays have some controversy attached to them. “On Serious Literature” was a quick response she wrote in regard to a review on Slate in 2007 in which the reviewer described genre fiction as a “decaying corpse” that “writers of serious literature” and abandoned in a “shallow grave.” The piece, which Le Guin posted on her own website, portrayed genre fiction coming to visit that reviewer like a zombie, and is quite funny. So funny, that one of the editors of the blog boingboing reproduced it there without her permission, and were roundly thrashed by the e-literati once she complained about it, not the first time that that publication was hoisted by its own petard. “Freedom,” the speech it took her a year to write and which she agonized over the most, was given in acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in November 2014. It was a shot fired across the bow of contemporary publishing, notably the rise of Amazon, and laments the control of sales over editorial following Amazon’s feud with the publisher Hachette over the pricing of ebooks. It is a manifesto for writers who see themselves as artists, not merely creators of a commodity to be hawked. The one truly surprising essay to me, and the one that I still think on, was “What It Was Like,” a talk given at a meeting of the Oregon NARAL in January 2004. In it, Le Guin revealed that she had gotten pregnant in 1950, when she was twenty, and what that was like before Roe vs. Wade. Looking back, 54 years later, she described how her entire life would have been different, had she not had that abortion; how she would have had to drop out of college, depend on her parents through the pregnancy, birth, and infancy of that child until she could obtain work and gain some kind of independence for herself and the child. And, in doing so, she wouldn’t have been a Fulbright student heading to France on the Queen Mary in 1953, she wouldn’t have met her husband on that voyage, and she wouldn’t have born the three children she had with him. As she puts it, “If I had not broken the law [against abortion in 1950] and aborted that life nobody wanted, [her current three children] would have been aborted by a cruel, bigoted, and senseless law. They would never have been born.” It’s a tough argument, one that balances unborn life against unborn life, and one that I’m still trying to digest. But that’s the kind of thing Le Guin was good at: putting you in a position to question your beliefs and biases and confront the difficult choices in life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Dhu

    What a joy it is to read anything by Ursula Le Guin. In this instance, the "anything" is a collection of non-fiction writing - occasional pieces, book reviews, forewords to other people's books, essays on writing and writers and life. Given the somewhat lengthy title and subtitle of Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016 with A Journal of a Writer’s Week, this collection is a smorgasbord of delights from one of the finest writers and clearest thinkers of our time. The essay What a joy it is to read anything by Ursula Le Guin. In this instance, the "anything" is a collection of non-fiction writing - occasional pieces, book reviews, forewords to other people's books, essays on writing and writers and life. Given the somewhat lengthy title and subtitle of Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016 with A Journal of a Writer’s Week, this collection is a smorgasbord of delights from one of the finest writers and clearest thinkers of our time. The essays presented here are collected into three sections. The first, titled Talks, Essays and Occasional Pieces, offers exactly what it suggests. Most of these essays deal in one way or another with writing, publishing, writers, books. About genre vs. "literature" and the effects of the new media on reading - she is optimistic about the future of the book, in some form or other. One essay that does not focus on the worlds of words - her account of choosing to terminate a pregnancy during her university years, well before Roe v. Wade, and the importance of being able to make that choice - was difficult to read. In it, she says: "I can hardly imagine what it’s like to live as a woman under Fundamentalist Islamic law. I can hardly remember now, fifty-four years later, what it was like to live under Fundamentalist Christian law. Thanks to Roe vs. Wade, none of us in America has lived in that place for half a lifetime." But I could not stop thinking about the very real possibility that American women will face that reality again. The second section, Book Introductions and Notes on Writers, contains an assortment of mostly commissioned pieces in which she briefly discusses - as is appropriate for an introduction to the text - authors and books she respects and loves. From Huxley's Brave New World to Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic to Vonda McIntyre's Dreansnake, Le Guin's insights into these books are both profound and inviting. The final essay section of the book collects Le Guin's critical reviews, most of which were published in the Manchester Guardian. These reviews cover books both literary and genre, by such authors as Margaret Atwood, Italo Calvino, Doris Lessing, Salmon Rushdie, Jo Walton, Jeannette Winterson and others. Le Guin's critical eye is discerning and unflinching and she delivers both praise and critique with thoughtful analysis. The last section of the book consists of journal entries made by Le Guin during a week spent at a writers' retreat for women. In her introduction to the journal, she talks about the practice of gender segregated events: "I hold it self-evident that so long as we live in a man’s world, as we still do, women have a right to create enclaves of learning or work where, instead of obeying or imitating what men do and want, women can shape what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, in their own way and on their own terms. No enclave is the whole reality, no exclusivity is entirely rightful, but when a great injustice prevails, any opportunity of counteracting it, undoing it even temporarily, is justified. Intellect and art have been so wholly owned by men, and that ownership so fiercely maintained, that no woman can assume society will simply grant her a rightful share in them. Many women still find it difficult, even frightening, to name themselves thinkers, makers, to say I am a scholar, a scientist, an artist. A place where such fear has no place, and a period of time given purely to doing one’s own work, is for many men a perfectly reasonable expectation, for many women an astounding, once-in-a-lifetime gift." In her journal she writes about the environment of the retreat - the natural world around her, the animals she observes - and about the other people in residence during her week's visit. She talks about the writing, the reading, the thinking and the drawing that she does. It is a small window into the creative process of a great artist under 'ideal' conditions - solitude, no distractions, nothing to dilute the flow of ideas and words. All four sections of the book highlight slightly different aspects of Le Guin the wordsmith - the thinker, the lover of literature, the critic, the artist, while serving to demonstrate the truth of the volume's title - words are her matter, and her opinions and insights are, as always, well worth reading and thinking on.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    I seldom have as much pleasure in reading nonfiction as I do in a poem or a story. I can admire a well-made essay, but I’d rather follow a narrative than a thought. With that somewhat odd opening sentence Ursula LeGuin introduces this new collection of her essays, reviews, public talks, and other occasional pieces. A few pages later she is even more to the point. When it comes to sustained abstract thought, my attention span is slightly above that of a spaniel. She says she struggles with her nonfi I seldom have as much pleasure in reading nonfiction as I do in a poem or a story. I can admire a well-made essay, but I’d rather follow a narrative than a thought. With that somewhat odd opening sentence Ursula LeGuin introduces this new collection of her essays, reviews, public talks, and other occasional pieces. A few pages later she is even more to the point. When it comes to sustained abstract thought, my attention span is slightly above that of a spaniel. She says she struggles with her nonfiction, but as she has demonstrated in previous collections, signs of that struggle are subsumed in the precise, thoughtful, and engaging prose of her finished work. She is a pleasure to read as she ranges over those topics that have come under her gaze before but whose relevance has not faded. She often returns to the continued relegation of genre fiction to a sub-literary category identified with either children’s stories or male adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy. (The fact that that situation is becoming increasingly fluid must be due in some part to her own writing.) She welcomes the blurring of genres, but has no patience with those mainstream writers whose forays into fantasy and SF arrive with little knowledge of the field or suffused with the notion that writing about the fantastic provides a holiday from logic and narrative coherence. She both worries over yet has faith in the survival of the book, and she when she addresses the concern over the dwindling number of readers in the world she makes the argument that their numbers were never really that large. Feminism, when not the topic itself, informs everything she writes. Given her preference for narrative, it is not surprising that one of her finest pieces is a the autobiographical essay, “Growing Up in a Work of Art.” Her family lived outside Berkeley, California, in a house designed by Bernard Maybeck. In architectural literature, the house is still known as The Schneider House, the family for whom it was built in 1907. LeGuin’s family, the Kroebers, lived there from 1925 – 1979. When they added onto it to accommodate four children, they did not face the opprobrium of architectural purists. Maybeck himself approved the changes when he visited late in his life, because he acknowledged his work was meant to be family home and not a monument to his genius. LeGuin’s essay combines family anecdote with thoughts on how aesthetics can form the basis of an ethical sensibility. Her selection of short reviews, written mostly for The Guardian over the past twenty years, range from the enthusiastic to the devastating. Reading them makes you appreciate that the authors under review have to work hard for her qualified praise. In the longer introductions she has written to new editions of works she admires, you share her pleasure in novels famous and obscure. She is at her best when she made me want to read books I’d never heard of, or set aside time to reread the short stories of H.G. Wells.

  24. 4 out of 5

    E.P.

    Ursula K. Le Guin has moved from the fringes of sci fi to the mainstream of literary fiction, finally garnering the respect that she deserves. This collection of essays and reviews, while in places repetitive, gives the reader some of the nuts-and-bolts of Le Guin's thinking, and is beautifully written and often breathtakingly insightful. It isn't the same as reading her regular stories and novels, or any other kind of novel, as it is all nonfiction essays, with very little that could be called Ursula K. Le Guin has moved from the fringes of sci fi to the mainstream of literary fiction, finally garnering the respect that she deserves. This collection of essays and reviews, while in places repetitive, gives the reader some of the nuts-and-bolts of Le Guin's thinking, and is beautifully written and often breathtakingly insightful. It isn't the same as reading her regular stories and novels, or any other kind of novel, as it is all nonfiction essays, with very little that could be called a "story" to it, but it is of considerable interest to Le Guin fans and those interested in writing in general. The book is divided into three parts. The first, and in my opinion by far the best and most interesting section, is titled "Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces," and it is there that Le Guin lays out her philosophy of writing and publishing. She touches on all kinds of issues, including several discussions of gender in literature, the importance of genre fiction, and the necessity of freedom to publish. The final essay of the section is in fact "Freedom," her acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, in which she warns that "Hard times are coming, when we'll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now," and says the now-famous line, "We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable--but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words." That essay is probably the high point of the book. The next section, "Book Introductions and Notes on Writers," is, while perhaps less inspiring than the essays of the first section, full of interesting thoughts about some very interesting writers, some of them well-known, some of them forgotten by time. Combined with the third section, which is made up of book reviews, it gives the reader plenty of ideas for further reading and demonstrates just what a thoughtful and voracious reader Le Guin herself is. All in all, an excellent collection for book lovers to dip into for inspiration and ideas.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Le Guin herself says in the first pages of this collection that she greatly prefers fiction to nonfiction and I often tend to agree, which means I was already primed not to enjoy this collection as much as her recent fiction collections. She's such a wonderful writer though that even though for me this never caught my interest as strongly as her fiction it was still nothing but a joy to read. The book is divided into four general sections: the first a collection of talks and essays covering a var Le Guin herself says in the first pages of this collection that she greatly prefers fiction to nonfiction and I often tend to agree, which means I was already primed not to enjoy this collection as much as her recent fiction collections. She's such a wonderful writer though that even though for me this never caught my interest as strongly as her fiction it was still nothing but a joy to read. The book is divided into four general sections: the first a collection of talks and essays covering a variety of writerly topics, the second a collection of introductions for published books or commentary on particular authors, the third book reviews, and the fourth a journal she kept of a week at a women's writing retreat. As a fervent reader and fan of much maligned "genre" fiction, we really couldn't have a better or more eloquent spokesperson for its virtues and worth than Le Guin, who addresses the topic throughout all four sections of the book. One of the most valuable pieces of this for me was the exposure through reviews to many books I hadn't heard of, mainly classic sci-fi, that I'm now eagerly looking forward to reading. I also privately thrilled when her assesment of a book I'd read aligned with mine (including (in a generous review overall) the world's kindest dragging of David Mitchell: DRAG HIM!!!!!!). I really enjoyed this entire collection.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I found this to be a varied and interesting collection of short pieces, most of which caught and kept my attention quite well. The author certainly is able to shape with words, and has an excellent feel for which ones to call upon in a given commentary. One of my favorites was the piece on Sylvia Townsend Warner, which, despite its brevity, brought her to life for me. The piece "What It Was Like" was moving in a way I didn't expect, and brought home the point most effectively. While I tend to ag I found this to be a varied and interesting collection of short pieces, most of which caught and kept my attention quite well. The author certainly is able to shape with words, and has an excellent feel for which ones to call upon in a given commentary. One of my favorites was the piece on Sylvia Townsend Warner, which, despite its brevity, brought her to life for me. The piece "What It Was Like" was moving in a way I didn't expect, and brought home the point most effectively. While I tend to agree with most of Le Guin's criticism of authors who avoid the genre label while working (most very obviously) within genre, I did feel there was some repetition on that theme - but that's to be expected in a collection such as this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    In particular I enjoyed the wit and wisdom in the "Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces" portion of this book. I decided, after reading just a few of each, that I would not continue with her "Book Introductions and Notes on Writers" or the "Book Reviews." Her later book "No Time to Spare" (which I read first) spoke to me more directly than this book. I fear that for the most part the sections of this book, the Book Introductions and Reviews were more erudite, and in some cases beyond my capacity In particular I enjoyed the wit and wisdom in the "Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces" portion of this book. I decided, after reading just a few of each, that I would not continue with her "Book Introductions and Notes on Writers" or the "Book Reviews." Her later book "No Time to Spare" (which I read first) spoke to me more directly than this book. I fear that for the most part the sections of this book, the Book Introductions and Reviews were more erudite, and in some cases beyond my capacity to appreciate.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Le Guin continues to prove herself one of the most insightful writers in the field, being just as sharp and fascinating in the 21st Century as she was in the 20th Century. I do feel some of the book reviews are a little to heavy on authorial history and not enough about the actual content but that is more a reflection of personal taste. Recommended for anyone who wants witty and thoughtful insight into the state of fantastic fiction and indeed the world today

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2903021.html I found this collection of essays full of wisdom and wit, often making fun of people who deserve it. It made me feel like I was in conversation with a vastly intelligent and immensely compassionate old friend. https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2903021.html I found this collection of essays full of wisdom and wit, often making fun of people who deserve it. It made me feel like I was in conversation with a vastly intelligent and immensely compassionate old friend.

  30. 5 out of 5

    kari

    It's great to know that you can both agree and disagree with one of your favorite authors. This collection, I think, made me understand LeGuin better, and then be able to go on and do my own thing with my fiction. What does it say of me if I feel a little like exorcising a ghost? It's great to know that you can both agree and disagree with one of your favorite authors. This collection, I think, made me understand LeGuin better, and then be able to go on and do my own thing with my fiction. What does it say of me if I feel a little like exorcising a ghost?

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...