So, last week when I heard the sad news about Ursula K. Le Guin's death I wanted to make a post about her and her work but found myself unable to come up with any suitable words. Having since come across some posts I made when we saw her give a reading and book signing in the area a few years ago, I thought I'd repost that as a memorial.
Thinking over what were my own favorite Le Guins, I realized that most people think of her first and foremost as a novelist while I've always thought her best works were short stories and essays -- that is, that I valued her most highly as a short-storyteller and critic. Hence those loom large in any short list of my time-tested favorites among her works:
THE ART OF BUNDITSU
--drawings of her cat in and out of ornamental pots, demonstrating the zen of cats. She kindly autographed my copy to our three cats, being careful to spell each one's name rightly.
"The Rule of Names"
--her Tolkien tribute and my favorite, bar none, of all the Earthsea stories, with a wicked little twist at the end.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE NIGHT (esp "Poughkeepsie, though I no longer agree with her thesis, and "The Staring Eye")
--the book that established Le Guin as a major critic of the fantasy genre; provided a lot of clarity at a time when the professional critics and academics were stumbling over each other in attempts to grapple with the new genre of fantasy.
And finally and most hauntingly, "The Ones Who Walk Away for Omelas"
--the most unsettling utopia I've ever come across. It stays with you, this one; I was glad to see it called out by name in the NPR tribute to her.*
current reading: THE PROUD TOWER (Tuchman),THE INKLINGS AND KING ARTHUR (Higgins)
*the other nice touch was that not only this piece but various ones from major newspapers that I saw online ALL GOT HER NAME RIGHT by including the middle initial. As someone who always uses his initial and all-too-often sees it dropped, I admire her persistence in wanting to use a specific form of her own name.