Saturday, May 16, 2020

Inspiration from Le Guin

One of my writing heroes is Ursula K Le Guin. If I had my way, my daughter would be named Ursula, but that is another tale. I was reading today and came across a few good examples of the things I love about her and I wanted to share them.

Both are from The Left Hand of Darkness.

1. She speaks through her characters and she has beautiful thoughts...
"How does one hate a country, or love one? ...I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession..." 

"A man who doesn't detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a things as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it."

Somehow this character's words spoke to me. He is a person who committed treason against his mad king in order to save a stranger's life and try to help his entire planet. Could a real person be so selfless? What an absolutely fascinating character to read about. Le Guin does not make him a hero, though, nor does she make him an enemy. He just is.

2. Then there is her scenery...sigh...
"We are still in the ice-pass between two volcanoes. Drumner is in eruption. Worms of fire crawl down its black sides, seen when wind clears off the roil and seethe of ash-cloud and smoke-cloud and white steam. Continuously, with no pause, a hissing mutter fills the air, so huge and so long a sound that one cannot hear it when one stops to listen; yet it fills all the interstices of one's being. The glacier trembles perpetually, snaps and crashes, jitters under our feet. All the snow-bridges that the blizzard may have laid across crevasses are gone, shaken down, knocked in by the drumming and jumping of the ice and the earth beneath the ice."

"The sleet on one's lips tastes of smoke and sulphur. A darkness loured all day in the west even under the rain-clouds. From time to time all things, clouds, icy rain, ice, air, would turn a dull red, then fade slowly back to gray. The glacier shakes a little under our feet." 

So much sensory input! 

Le Guin was 40 years old when this book was published in the late 1960's. I can only imagine what writing was like in that time. I permanently keep a tab open for Google define, just so I can pull in new words and use the thesaurus. Did she keep one nearby in print form? How can I get a vocabulary like that? She always has the exact words to paint a perfect picture, and I admire it.

Interested in reading this book? Follow the link below to order your copy.

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