“if you want excess and risk and intelligence, try Le Guin.”
-The San Francisco Chronicle
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (or Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-, as per her name authority file) joins a small group of distinguished science fiction and fantasy writers who are as beloved by mainstream critics and readers as by SFF followers. A serious artist often working within sub-literary genres, she is considered by iconic scholar Harold Bloom and writer-critic John Updike to be one of America’s classic authors.
Our collection includes Le Guin’s most famous fantasy novels, the Books of Earthsea, which have sold millions of copies and been translated into over a dozen languages. The Earthsea books, often compared to the imaginary territories of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle or C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, lay out the culture and landscape of a world imbued with magic. As children’s entertainment the books are suspenseful, adventurous fantasies, concerned with the theme of good versus evil, order versus chaos. For adults, elements of Jungian psychology, symbolism, feminism, and myth make for serious study.
The Earthsea Cycle begins with the award-winning novel A Wizard of Earthsea, which is the coming-of-age story of Ged, the greatest sorcerer of Earthsea. In his immaturity, Ged sets loose malevolent forces that threaten the balance of good and evil in Earthsea.
The second novel of the cycle, The Tombs of Atuan, is a Newberry Medal Honour Book. True to Le Guin’s feminist ideals, the story chronicles the coming of age of Tenar, High Priestess of the Nameless One.
Volume Three, The Farthest Shore, which won the National Book Award for Children’s Literature, presents a prince who is tested many times before becoming a king.
The final book Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea examines the life of Tenar, the brave princess who has relinquished her position to become a farmer’s wife. She overcomes daunting challenges with traditional feminine values of benevolence and with magic.
Le Guin’s first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, is considered ground-breaking in its dissection of gender roles and its moral complexity.
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974) makes a significant contribution to utopian literature. In her depiction of Sheavak, the physicist torn between the anarchic planet Anarres and it mother planet Urras, Le Guin delves deeply into the impacts of socialism and anarchism on an idealistic personality.
Always Coming Home (1985) is a masterpiece of imagination and vision, creating the rich, peace-loving culture of Kesh. Interweaving fiction, myth, poetry, art and music, Le Guin has created one of the most fascinating pieces of utopian literature ever written.
Other important fiction in our collection include the three Hainish Cycle novels, realistic stories such as Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand (first edition), and the Catwings children’s stories.
This collection would not be complete without its share of curiosities. Ursula Le Guin’s Science Fiction Writing Workshop: The Altered 1 comprises the experimental work of 20 writers exploring the limits of science fiction under the leadership of Le Guin.
We have small press books of limited runs, including Nine Lives and Dreams Must Explain Themselves
There is also the wonderful compilation of essays by Le Guin: Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. It includes reviews on books by C.S. Lewis, Doris Lessing, and Italo Calvino, and intriguing articles such as “Is Gender Necessary?”, “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be”, and “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”.
Finally, there is Ursula K. Le Guin, Poet. Hard Words and Other Poems is much like her writings as a whole, comprising a profound exploration of both the fantastical and the highly realistic.
Here is a moving poem that says something about the artist and her Art:
For Karl and Jean
Consider the action of writing
short lines as the action
of grabbing at straws, of drawing
as hoping you draw the long straw,
of carving as bringing the world
to be by short hard repeated
blows: consider the act
of considering as will to continue
to be. The old violinist
has crossed the gulf of the decades
on a highwire of catgut. Consider
the lovely devices of living
to which we are driven, driven.