On cultural perceptions of fantasy: "The direction of escape is toward freedom. Read more...
On cultural perceptions of fantasy: "The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is 'escapism' an accusation of?"
On breakfast: "Eating an egg from the shell takes not only practice, but resolution, even courage, possibly willingness to commit crime."
Ursula K. Le Guin took readers to imaginary worlds for decades. In her last great frontier of life, old age, she explored a new literary territory: the blog, a forum where she shined. The collected best of Ursula's blog, No Time to Spare presents perfectly crystallized dispatches on what mattered to her late in life, her concerns with the world, and her wonder at it: "How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us."
Well Read: Age ain't nothing but a number, anyway
Ursula K. Le Guin has long eschewed classification. Science fiction writer, feminist storyteller, novelist, poet, children’s book writer, social critic—she is all of those things, certainly. Yet, the words that best describe Le Guin might be thoughtful, engaging and engaged. At age 88, Le Guin is still writing and communicating with her readers, and for the last seven years or so she has done so through the 21st-century medium of a blog. A selection of these online writings has now been gathered in No Time to Spare. Le Guin holds court with her trademark clear-sightedness and wit on topics ranging from the realities of aging and the art of narrative to eating breakfast and adopting a new cat.
As the book’s title hints, these observations are offered from the perch of advanced age, and while Le Guin is hardly a curmudgeon, she certainly lays claim to some well-earned impatience. Disapproving of feel-good, inaccurate platitudes about the “golden years,” she writes matter-of-factly that “[o]ld age is for anybody who gets there. . . . Old age is for the healthy, the strong, the tough, the intrepid, the sick, the weak, the cowardly, the incompetent.” Looking unblinkingly at our growing cultural disconnect between the generations, she says, “In less change-oriented societies than ours, a great part of the culture’s useful information, including the rules of behavior, is taught by elders to the young. One of those rules is, unsurprisingly, a tradition of respect for age. In our increasingly unstable, future-oriented, technology-driven society, the young are often the ones who show the way, who teach their elders what to do. So who respects whom for what?”
These snippets from Le Guin’s life are inarguably delightful.
Yet Le Guin has a lot more than growing old on her mind. She considers the thorny issue of the Great American Novel, wanders into the quagmire of literary awards and bemoans the overuse of swearwords in books and movies. She savors the pleasures of a Philip Glass opera and the ambiguities of Homer. She talks about problems like hunger and the lowering standard of living with righteous indignation: “Can America go on living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country?” she asks. “I don’t know.” And any diehard Le Guin fan knows from her Catwings series for young readers that she has an affinity for felines. Spaced through the book are eight episodes of “The Annals of Pard,” Pard being the latest four-legged addition to the Le Guin household. These charming entries about the “education” of cat and master capture Le Guin at her most guileless and inquisitive.
No Time to Spare is not a major contribution to Le Guin’s impressive opus, but these short essays are sprinkled with enough doses of keen observations to keep the reading interesting and worthwhile. Le Guin is a natural storyteller, and these snippets from her life are inarguably delightful. She is certainly a lioness in winter here, as focused as she has ever been on the things that matter most to her. Old age is not for the young, she posits—and it is a slogan not intended as complaint, but rallying cry. Spend a little time with octogenarian Ursula K. Le Guin, and the prospect of growing old becomes a bit less daunting.