"From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, and with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, a collection of thoughts--always adroit, often acerbic--on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation. Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she's in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice -- sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical -- shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula's blog, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her wonder at it. On the absurdity of denying your age, she says, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub." On cultural perceptions of fantasy: "The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is 'escapism' an accusation of? " On her new cat: "He still won't sit on a lap" -- "From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, a collection of thoughts--always adroit, often acerbic--on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation"--
It was, and so much more. Her wisdom and inner grace shines in her writing, as does her acerbic wit.
There are some that deal with her personal life, mainly her one year old cat named Pard. These are absolutely delightful and insightful. She has intelligent opinions about many things, from our government, and the corporation owned Congress, to feminism and it's results through the years.
Love this quote, which is only one of many witty comments within. She writes about the absurdity of denying your age, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub." Common sense for sure and she has plenty of it, shown again and again in her writing. She writes exceedingly well, and I think I will stretch myself this coming year, and actually try one of her shorter works. If nothing else I am sure I will enjoy her writing, will see about the plot.
I was struck
"None of this is spare time. I can't spare it. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eight-one next week. I have no time to spare."
I so related to this insight! I hate polls where I have the choice of checking 'retired' or 'housewife.' I am 'retired' because I collect Social Security, and I am a housewife because I do most, but not all of the cleaning and cooking and bill paying. But I have no spare time. I read, I write book reviews, I design and make quilts, I do research on genealogy. I am not paid for any of it, unless you call free e-books, ARCs, galleys and giveaway books 'payment.'
I was like, "You go, girl!"
The first essay I read was "Would You Please F******* Stop?" I had received the book in the mail the day of my family Christmas gathering, the Thursday before Christmas Day. I opened the book to this chapter and read it out loud. Perhaps not the best choice, but my brother laughed. Le Guin attacks the abysmal decay of American English that peppers the f-word throughout every sentence uttered. Le Guin writes that the word has taken on overtones of "dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred." She ends with, "God is dead, at least as a swear word, but hate and feces keep going strong."
My favorite essay It Doesn't Have to Be the Way it Is, which concerns imaginative literature and the nature of fantasy, and why fundamentalists find it objectionable.
The later essays did not all resonate with me, perhaps showing the generation gap between Le Guin and myself. I have no WWII idealization of service uniforms, even if my Uncle Dave's Navy whites are a fond memory. She talks about the economy, politics, the feminist movement, but many times I felt dissatisfied and even bristled, while still a little unsure of what she meant. I was not comfortable with references to slapping children or her striking the cat.
In Lying it All Away Le Guin attacks political lying. In one paragraph she mentions Hitler, Nixon, Reagen, and Obama. The essay is dated October 2012, written shortly after the Obama-Romney debate. Le Guin remarks, "What was appalling to me about Obama's false figures and false promises in the first debate was they were unnecessary." I went to the Pulitzer Prize winning PoliticFact to see their fact checking of the debate claims by both Obama and Romney. Romney and Obama both made false statements and told half-truths, which tallied up come out about even. There is a bias in Le Guin's essay in that she only mentions one candidate.
That bothers me.
Le Guin is influential, a literary light and icon. But readers, I remind you to always consider that every artist and every work of art is personal, reflecting their own experience and perceptions. We must use critical thinking every time we open a book or watch a movie or listen to a song and not assume our icon's version of the world without thought.
I will say that Le Guin never shys away from saying her piece, even when she also remarks on her incompetence in an area.
The essays were entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking.
I received a free book from the publisher through a giveaway.
The author of more than a score of novels, mostly science fiction, and several
Her book's title comes from the last line of its first essay, one called "In Your Spare Time." This was triggered by a questionnaire she received from Harvard for her 60th class reunion. (She actually graduated from Radcliffe in 1951, but Radcliffe was affiliated with Harvard.) One question asked what she did in her spare time.
Le Guin reflects on how the meaning of the phrase "spare time" changes as one ages. For younger people it means "leisure time," whatever time is left after work and after household chores and parenting and other responsibilities are taken care of. At some point, after retirement, virtually all time becomes leisure time, meaning people can use their time however they wish. At least this seems true in theory, however untrue it may be in practice. Yet because time grows short as we age, there really is none to spare.
From there Le Guin goes on to tackle a variety of subjects, some relating to aging, others to literature, nature, her cat and, in one of her most entertaining pieces, putting our soldiers in camouflage. "I find it not only degrading but disturbing that we dress our soldiers in clothes suitable to jail or the loony bin, setting them apart not by looking good, looking sharp, but by looking like clowns from a broken-down circus."
As for her cat, she writes about Pard more than any other topic: how she got him, how he misbehaves only when he has an audience, how he catches mice but doesn't know what to do with them, and so on. Another essay focuses on a much bigger cat, a captive lynx that captivates her.
LeGuin is in her eighties now, and has seen a lot of changes in the world. Always the feminist and anti-authoritarian, she has said a lot about those subjects in her novels and continues to have lots to say about them. Her essays are written in simple but elegant prose and are a delight to read. Five stars.
As a fantasy fan, I couldn't help but have heard of Le Guin though this is my first introduction to her works. I've most often seen her quoted in defending genre fiction (particularly science fiction and fantasy) as not being secondary to more literary fiction beloved by critics, so I knew I liked her. In this collection, though I often didn't agree with her political statements, I found much food for thought and enjoyed her way of expressing herself whether she was definite about something ("Old age is for anybody who gets there.") or grappling with questions ("What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion?"). The descriptions of her cat were especially delightful to me, and interspersed in some of the heavier topics were a respite and made it easier for me to keep reading "one more essay..." before putting the book down.
Whether you are already an avid reader of Le Guin or if you are not a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, this collection is thogh-provoking, full of heart and joy, and a joy to read.
The essays were written as blog posts for
She says very little directly about politics, but the basic outline of her views is clear, as are her views on eating an egg, or finding her way in places where the streets are twisty and untrustworthy. She talks about the somewhat uncomfortable experience of having to hire a secretary, when her career had reached the point where she unavoidably needed help managing her correspondence.
She doesn't talk much about her writing, here, but this is a fascinating look inside the mind of a wonderful writer. Throughout these essays, she's thoughtful, insightful, funny and kind.
Very much recommended.
I bought this audiobook.
LeGuin does not narrate the audio, but the woman that performs, captures her tone perfectly.
Recent events however, have left me ping-ponging back and forth between light reads and chewier reads in an effort not to dwell on all the things that are outside my control at the moment. One of those things outside my control at the moment is my attention span, or the lack thereof, so I thought this a perfect time to pull this one off the shelf (which was within reach, thankfully).
I enjoyed this book, with a few blips along the way, from start to finish. Le Guin was a very talented writer with a timeless voice, and even when I didn't agree with her, I enjoyed reading what she had to say. Of course, the essays about her cat Pard were my favourites, but those about ageing put things into a perspective I'd never seen better articulated, and I wanted to go back in time and hug her for her essay on belief vs. thought.
I'm still unlikely to ever read her fiction, but there's at least one more collection of essays I'd love to get my hands on, if only to visit with this wonderful author and her mind one more time.
Overall, a good read.