Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ursula Le Guin

I am deeply saddened to hear that Ursula Le Guin has died.
She was both a terrific writer, and a lovely, gracious woman who was kind to a lot of people, including me, long after she had any reason to be so generous with her time.

Mrs. Le Guin wrote glorious books, poem, essays and stories that changed the SFF genre and the canon itself; she will be remembered as a pioneer, and a feminist writer. She earned those accolades the hard way: word by word.

But my favorite of her books is one that many of you won't know.  It's Blue Moon Over Thurman Street. I'm not sure if it's even in print any more.  It's about a street in Portland, the town she lived in for most of her life. I lived there too, which is how I came to know her.

The world is a darker, dimmer place today and I am going to hide under my duvet and escape for a while.



34 comments:

french sojourn said...


Wonderful sentiments, " word for word"...words to live by.

I have to make time now to re-read Nine Lives.

Be the light, cheers.

CynthiaMc said...

My condolences, Janet. There is never a good time to lose a friend.

I am always happy to know that someone I admire is as nice as they are talented. Adding more to my TBR pile.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

My daughter has been reading widely feminist literature. She does not really love sff which hurts my heart. This past Thanksgiving, I gave her The Left Hand Of Darkness. She fell in love with LeGuin as I did back when I was younger than my daughter. I would have loved to have met LeGuin. She left the world quite a legacy.

Stacy said...

CynthiaMc said it perfectly. My sentiments exactly.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Yes. As CynthiaMc wrote.

And it's time for some LeGuin reading.

Kathy Joyce said...

I'm sorry for your loss Janet.

To all of us, the outpourings for Ursula Le Guin are a testament to the power of words. Keep writing.

Soon after I met him, my now-husband handed me a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea and said, "You should read this." I did, and we talked about it. A lot. Afterward, he admitted it was a test. If I didn't like it, or couldn't talk about it, he figured we'd never be compatible.

Colin Smith said...

Virtual hugs to you, Janet, for your loss. I would love to hear some of your personal memories of her. You hint at stories to tell. We like stories... ☺

Shaunna said...

This Christmas, my brother gave my 14-year-old son a copy of The Wizard of Earthsea. A week after Christmas, my son got kicked in the face during wrestling practice and ended up with a two-hour surgery to fix his broken cheekbone.

To pass the time, and because I often introduce new series to my children this way, I started reading the Le Guin book to him out loud. Well, his left eye was swollen shut. What else could I do?

He finished it himself, often reading with one eye while he iced the other. My husband read it too, then bought the second and third books on iTunes. My son devoured those in a matter of days.

For an active kid whose surgeon said no exercise for at least a month, the series has been a godsend. Literally. I think God puts ideas in talented people’s heads because He knows someone else—many someone elses—will need that tender mercy one day.

Steve Stubbs said...

So sorry for your loss.

I looked up Ursula Le Guin on bookfinder.com, a search engine for books that I use often since it turns the whole world into my bookstore, and I was not able to find the title you mentioned. That is extremely unusual since you can find ANYTHING on bookfinder, in print or not. I thought I could find a source for you if you wanted a copy. No snnuch luck. Apparently Ursula K. Le Guin was a short story writer since she appeared in lots of anthologies, including one with the aforementioned Orson Scott Card.

Brandi M. said...

When I was fourteen, a friend loaned me A Wizard of Earthsea, and I fell in love with it. Her storytelling was so powerful and full of those wonderful layers that make a book world feel so real.

Julie Weathers said...

I was very sorry to read of her passing yesterday. It is a much dimmer world for her leaving.

Brenda Buchanan said...

Her imaginative work was a bright light to all of us who strive to create vibrant worlds. Condolences to you - her Portland sister - and all who knew her personally and loved her.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Kdjames shared the link to an interview with Le Guin over in our little Reider FB group. I'd share it here, but ya know, that mystifying linky thing.

I loved the way Le Guin responded to the questions. It seems so many people being interviewed circle around what's being asked and only reveal some highlighted version of themselves - without actually answering the question. Le Guin truly acknowledged the person doing the interview in such a refreshing and candid way. It was wonderful.

Terry said...

Ursula LeGuin was instrumental in making me a feminist. I read her passionately. When I read her short story "Sur" in The New Yorker, I sobbed. She had perfectly captured my yearning as a young woman to be able to have the kinds of adventures that men took for granted. It was later anthologized in Compass Rose. I kept the story by me for years as a beacon. I'm so happy that these days adventure is open to females, maybe not as readily as to males, but certainly better than when I was a kid. LeGuin was a gift to so many of us

Bethany Elizabeth said...

There's a quote I like from Jean Rhys: "All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."

We've lost a great river, and I'm not sure what else I can really add. Only that, speaking as a young, aspiring SFF author, I have to say: Ursula, thank you.

nightsmusic said...

So very sorry for your loss, Janet. I have never read Ms LeGuin. SFF is not really my forte, but I know how beloved she is by her readers and friends and she will be sorely missed.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Also--the book Janet mentioned is available from Amazon and Goodwill books. Also Powell's, if you really want the Portland experience.

Claire Bobrow said...

A Wizard of Earthsea was one of my favorites when I was a kid. Farewell, Ms. Le Guin - you're irreplaceable.

Elissa M said...

Some days we all have a need to hide under the duvet. When I feel a loss, I try to console myself by thinking I would not know such loss if the person had not first touched me with some form of joy. If easing the pain meant erasing my memories, I'll take the pain.

I would suggest to anyone who thinks they don't like SFF or "feminist" literature that they give Le Guin a try anyway. You'll be glad you did.

Taryn Tyler said...

How incredibly sad. Le Guin has been one of my favorite authors forever. Her books have such a deep love and wisdom to them. Such a strong awareness and respect for the world. I am sorry to hear that we won't be hearing from her anymore.

debi o'neille said...

My condolences to you and to the world.

roadkills-r-us said...

Hugs, and prayers for peace and joy. Celebrate the good times.
I loved almost everything I read by Ms. Leguin. She's the only one of my favorite authors (I have many) that I ever met. She spoke at a symposium at Ga Tech when I was working at a startup in an incubator there. She was brilliant, witty, gracious, and funny.
I wrote her (and Natalie Goldberg) a few months ago. I got a form postcard back from one and nothing from the other. And while I would have loved to have heard back, I get it. And the main point was to tell them thank you, anyway.
One of my goals is to write the people who have impacted me who are still alive. Far too many of the older ones- from both personal life and entertainment/media/etc- are gone.

Cynthia Paige Aaron said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Janet.

I was saddened to hear of Ms. Le Guin's passing. Just last week, needing to pull myself out of writer doldrums, I visited her website. Reading the advise and encouragement she offered for writers lifted my mood. I could persevere. I was not so alone as I thought. Her words were comforting.

Left Hand of Darkness sits on my shelf, unfinished reading. Better get back to that. I enjoyed her interview in The Wand in the Word by Leonard S. Marcus.

Sam Mills said...

I've had "Words Are My Matter" on my TBR pile since last year, time to bump it up. Except now I'll have a hard time staying composed while I read it. What an icon.

Megan V said...

Condolences Janet. The world had lost a wonderful writer but others, like yourself, have lost a friend, lost family.

So many of the comments today express my like admiration of Le Guin.

I happened upon her Earthsea books when I was about 8. I became a Tombs of Atuan girl through and through.

AJ Blythe said...

It's amazing the impact an author can have on a reader. I've never heard of Ms LeGuin until news of her passing and am left wondering why that is?

Janet, for you the loss is much more personal (((hugs))).

Janice Grinyer said...

:(

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the written interview Melanie mentioned. It's from 2008, in Guernica magazine, Alexander Chee interviewing Le Guin. I greatly admire Chee, both his writing and intellect, and he does a good job with this.

And this is a the audio of a phone interview of Le Guin, by Paul Holdengraber, over at LitHub. I had listened to it just last week, but couldn't remember where it was until Gaiman tweeted the link yesterday. The piece is dated January 3 of this year but doesn't specify when the interview happened, although it seems quite recent. I listened to it again just now and parts of it were significantly more difficult, in light of her death. Around the 35 minute mark, she recites a poem titled "Looking Back" that she says she wrote about a month earlier, and then the conversation turns to aging and hope and dread, before ending on a more positive note. Well worth a listen.

Janet, my condolences. I'm sorry the loss is such a personal one for you. Maybe one day you'll listen to the audio interview when hearing her voice will be a comfort.

Steve Stubbs said...

Well, it looks like I told you a lie (innocently.) If I search on Ursula le Guin in bookfinde.com, the book does not come up. But if I search on the book title, it does come up. So it is available after all.

Lesson learned for future use.

Craig F said...

Pulp sci-fi turned me into a habitual reader but Le Guin turned it to addiction. Discovering her was like discovering technicolor. The depth of her perceptions, the layering of "high" language and the concepts moved her to the top of some of my lists. I, too, will miss her.

Timothy Lowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bonnie Shaljean said...

One of my all-time favourite books on writing & reading is a collection of her pieces, titled The Language of the Night - Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is now ridiculously hard to get ahold of. I read it years ago, and one passage has always stuck in my mind. I copied it out at the time, on a slip of paper which has long since disappeared into some alternative universe. But I pored over it so often that I can pretty accurately quote at least one bit of it. I’m writing from memory so this is partly paraphrase, but... here goes...

[U.K.leG] When people find out I’m a writer, they always want to know the same thing. How did I do it? How do you become a writer, they say to me. So I tell them. How to become a writer:

You write.

Honestly, why do people ask this? I give them the one answer I have, and it’s never what they want to hear. Rules, they say. There must be some rules. What are the Rules to becoming a writer? But the only rules I know of are those for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. So the discussion never gets off the ground, and we all stand around on the ruins of the launch pad, arguing.



Lennon Faris said...

She kind of reminds me of my Grandma, voice and all. Wish I could've known her. Think I'll write my Grandma a letter instead. And maybe write. Peace out, friends.

Dena Pawling said...


I've heard of her but never read anything by her. My library has A Wizard of Earthsea as an e-book so I checked it out and will begin reading it tonight. I'm not much of a SFF reader, but I'm game to give it a try. You all have said many wonderful things about her.