I am in the process of reading Le Guin’s second collection of short stories entitled, ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’, and am enjoying them profusely.
Perhaps enjoying is not the correct adjective; I am quietly being impressed and sobered by her idiosyncratic voice, her lucid and beautiful descriptions, and by the originality of her plots. Indeed, reading her work is like sitting down with a modest stranger at a party whom one comes to realize fifteen minutes into the conversation just how much smarter, self possessed, cultured and thoughtful they are than you.
What I am impressed by is how each tale is very much its own thing; by that I mean that they don’t follow such time honored plot cliches such as time traveler going back in time to kill a despot or a lone hero fighting off space pirates as he tries to save an alien queen; rather, each story is unique, a situation particular unto itself, which while written in the early 70’s still strike me as fresh and thought provoking. Furthermore, each tale is usually more complex than one first perceives; a space pirate battle is usually just that, while a story written by Le Guin has thought filled sub-layers if one is curious enough to seek them.
I particularly love her language; she has a way of structuring her sentences and descriptions that seem indelibly her own. Here is a passage chosen at random from her story ‘Things’:
On the shore of the sea he stood looking out over the long foam-lines far where vague the Islands lifted or were guessed. There, he said to the sea, there lies my kingdom. The sea said to him what the sea says to everybody. As evening moved from behind his back across the water the foam-lines paled and the wind fell, and very far in the west shone a star perhaps, perhaps a light, or his desire for a light.
Ursula K. Le Guin is the antidote to all of the negative stereotypes bandied about by the genre’s critics.