January 26, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I’m sorry to say that I’ve never read any of her work, but this obituary by Jude Karabus (especially this section) makes me think I missed out:

A lot of her work – like that of all the literary greats – had to do with thought experiments: What if the relationship between power and gender were different; what if you didn’t – for good or for bad – have to think about whether you wanted to have sex with someone when you interacted with them? What of the profit motive and humankind’s uneasy relationship with war, the environment and its own nature. Her work was, of course, unflinchingly feminist, humanist also.

There is a yellowed, slightly dog-eared copy of 1974’s The Dispossessed, complete with art nouveau-style illustration, on the shelf of the William Morris Gallery in London. It has a placard beneath it that reads something like: “This is the type of thing Morris was banging on about”. (Morris was a 19th-century English textile designer and social activist who brought art to the ‘lower’ classes by mass-producing tiles, wallpaper and other fine furnishings.)

It seems an odd choice by the curator; it’s the only book in the display that wasn’t literally written by a Morris compatriot or a known influence on him, and she was born years after he died. They were certainly of similar political bent, wanted to make art affordable etc, but only if you squint a little. The book was also written before I was born. There’s probably a connection I didn’t understand; perhaps the cover art was “a Morris” (he also painted and wrote poetry) – the terse note propped up against it doesn’t make it clear. But I like to think the curator was grabbed by the throat by her prose, like I was, and was simply looking for any excuse to say: “Here. Sit down. Read this! No really. Read this.”

A quick overview of the life and work of William Morris here.

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