Le Guin, Ursula K. 1929–
Le Guin, Ursula K. 1929–
PERSONAL: Surname pronounced "luh-gwin" born October 21, 1929, in Berkeley, CA; daughter of Alfred L. (an anthropologist) and Theodora Covel Brown (a writer; maiden name, Kracaw) Kroeber; married Charles Alfred Le Guin (an historian), December 22, 1953; children: Elisabeth, Caroline, Theodore. Education: Radcliffe College, A.B., 1951; Columbia University, A.M., 1952.
CAREER: Writer. Part-time instructor in French at Mercer University, 1954–55, and University of Idaho, 1956; Emory University, department secretary, 1955; visiting lecturer and writer-in-residence at various locations, including Pacific University, Portland State University, University of California, San Diego, University of Reading, Kenyon College, Tulane University, and First Australian Workshop in Speculative Fiction. Guest of honor at science fiction conventions, including World Science Fiction Convention, 1975. Creative consultant for Public Broadcasting Service television production The Lathe of Heaven, 1979.
MEMBER: Authors League of America, Writers Guild, PEN, Science Fiction Research Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Science Fiction Poetry Association, Writers Guild West, Amnesty International of the USA, National Abortion Rights Action League, National Organization for Women, Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellowship, 1953; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 1968, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1979; Nebula Award nomination for best novelette, Science Fiction Writers of America (now Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), 1969, for "Nine Lives"; Nebula Award and Hugo Award, International Science Fiction Association, both for best novel, 1970, for The Left Hand of Darkness; Nebula Award nomination, 1971, and Hugo Award nomination, and Locus Award, both 1973, all for best novel, all for The Lathe of Heaven; Newbery Silver Medal Award, and finalist for National Book Award for Children's Literature, both 1972, both for The Tombs of Atuan; National Book Award for Children's Books, 1973, for The Farthest Shore; Nebula Award nomination, 1972, and Hugo Award, 1973, both for best novella, both for The Word for World Is Forest; Hugo Award for best short story, for "The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas"; American Library Association's Best Young Adult Books citation, 1974, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and Jupiter Award, all for best novel, 1975, and Jules Verne Award, 1975, all for The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia; Nebula Award, and Jupiter Award, both for best short story, 1975, both for "The Day before the Revolution"; Nebula Award nomination for best novelette, for "The New Atlantis," 1979, for "The Pathways of Desire," 1988, for Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come out Tonight, and 1990, for "The Shobies' Story"; Nebula Award nomination for best novelette, and Jupiter Award, both 1976, both for "The Diary of the Rose"; Prix Lectures-Jeunesse, 1987, for Very Far away from Anywhere Else; Gandalf Award (Grand Master of Fantasy) nomination, 1978, and award, 1979; D.Litt., Bucknell University, 1978, and Lawrence University, 1979; D.H.L., Lewis and Clark College, 1983, and Occidental College, 1985; Locus Award, 1984, for The Compass Rose; American Book Award nomination, 1985, and Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction, University of Rochester English Department and Writer's Workshop, 1986, both for Always Coming Home; Hugo Award for Best Novelette, World Science Fiction Society, and World Fantasy Convention Award for Best Novella, both 1988, both for Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come out Tonight; Nebula Award for best novel, 1991, for Tehanu; Nebula Award nomination for best novelette, 1994, and James Tiptree, Jr. Award, 1995, both for "The Matter of Seggri"; Nebula Award nomination for best novella, 1994, and Sturgeon Award, both for Forgiveness Day; Nebula Award for best novelette, 1996, for Solitude; Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Convention, 1995; James Tiptree, Jr. Award, 1997, for "Mountain Ways"; Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in Adult Literature finalist, World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Nebula Award nomination for best novel, all 2002, all for The Other Wind; named Nebula Award Grand Master, 2002; Hugo Award nomination for best novelette, 2003, for "The Wild Girls"; Margaret A. Edwards Award, YALSA, 2004.
NOVELS (EXCEPT AS INDICATED)
Rocannon's World (bound with The Kar-Chee Reign by Avram Davidson; also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1966.
Planet of Exile (bound with Mankind under the Lease by Thomas M. Disch; also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1966.
City of Illusions (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1967.
Three Hainish Novels (contains Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1967, published as Worlds of Exile and Illusion, Orb, 1996.
A Wizard of Earthsea (also see below), illustrated by Ruth Robbins, Parnassus Press (Berkeley, CA), 1968.
The Left Hand of Darkness, Walker (New York, NY), 1969, with new afterword and appendixes by Le Guin, 1994.
The Tombs of Atuan (sequel to A Wizard of Earthsea; also see below), illustrated by Gail Garraty, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1971.
The Lathe of Heaven (also see below), Scribner (New York, NY), 1971.
The Farthest Shore (sequel to The Tombs of Atuan; also see below), illustrated by Gail Garraty, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1972.
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, Harper (New York, NY), 1974, reprinted, Perennial Classics (New York, NY), 2003.
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1976, published as A Very Long Way from Anywhere Else, Gollancz (London, England), 1976, reprinted under original title, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Earthsea (contains A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore), Gollancz (London, England), 1977, published as The Earthsea Trilogy, Penguin (London, England), 1979.
Malafrena, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979.
The Beginning Place, Harper (New York, NY), 1980, published as Threshold, Gollancz (London, England), 1980.
The Eye of the Heron, and Other Stories (includes novella originally published in Millennial Women; also see below), Panther (London, England), 1980, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
The Visionary: The Life Story of Flicker of the Serpentine (bound with Wonders Hidden: Audubon's Early Years, by Scott Russell Sanders), Capra (Santa Barbara, CA), 1984.
Always Coming Home (includes audiocassette of "Music and Poetry of the Kesh," with music by Todd Barton; also see below), illustrated by Margaret Chodos, Harper (New York, NY), 1985, published without audiocassette, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (sequel to The Farthest Shore), Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.
(Reteller) Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, English translation by J.P. Seaton, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1997.
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew (nonfiction), Eighth Mountain Press, 1998.
The Telling, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.
The Other Wind (sequel to Tehanu), Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.
Tales from Earthsea, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.
Solomon Leviathan's 931st Trip around the World (originally published in Puffin's Pleasures), illustrated by Alicia Austin, Puffin (London, England), 1976, Cheap Street (New Castle, VA), 1983.
Leese Webster, illustrated by James Brunsman, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
The Adventures of Cobbler's Rune, illustrated by Alicia Austin, Cheap Street (New Castle, VA), 1982.
Adventures in Kroy, Cheap Street (New Castle, VA), 1982.
A Visit from Dr. Katz (picture book), illustrated by Ann Barrow, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988, published as Dr. Katz, Collins (London, England), 1988.
Catwings, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Catwings Return, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Fire and Stone, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.
Fish Soup, illustrated by Patrick Wynne, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.
A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, illustrated by Julie Downing, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come out Tonight, illustrated by Susan Seddon Boulet, Pomegranate Artbooks (San Francisco, CA), 1994.
Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Jane On Her Own, illustrations by S.D. Schindler, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Tom Mouse, illustrated by Julie Downing, Roaring Brook Press, 2002.
Gifts (young adult novel), Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Wild Angels (collection of early works), Capra, 1975.
(With mother, Theodora K. Quinn) Tillai and Tylissos, Red Bull, 1979.
The Word for World Is Forest (novella; originally published in Again, Dangerous Visions; also see below), Berkley (New York, NY), 1972.
From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (lecture), introduction by Vonda N. McIntyre, Pendragon Press (Portland, OR), 1973.
The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
Dreams Must Explain Themselves (critical essays), Algol Press (New York, NY), 1975.
(With Gene Wolfe and James Tiptree, Jr.) The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg, Hawthorn Books (New York, NY), 1975.
Orsinian Tales (short stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
The Water Is Wide (short story), Pendragon Press (Portland, OR), 1976.
(With others) The Altered I: An Encounter with Science Fiction (includes Le Guin's play No Use to Talk to Me), edited by Lee Harding, Norstrilia Press (Melbourne, Australia), 1976.
(Editor) Nebula Award Stories 11, Gollancz (London, England), 1976, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.
The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (critical essays), edited by Susan Wood, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979, revised edition, edited by Le Guin, Women's Press, 1989.
(Editor, with Virginia Kidd) Interfaces: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1980.
(Editor, with Virginia Kidd) Edges: Thirteen New Tales from the Borderlands of the Imagination, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1980.
Torrey Pines Reserve (broadsheet), Lord John (Northridge, CA), 1980.
Hard Words, and Other Poems, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.
Gwilan's Harp, Lord John (Northridge, CA), 1981.
The Compass Rose (short stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1982.
(With artist Henk Pander) In the Red Zone, Lord John (Northridge, CA), 1983.
King Dog: A Screenplay (bound with Dostoevsky: The Screenplay, by Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher), Capra, 1985.
(With Todd Barton) Music and Poetry of the Kesh (audiocassette), Valley Productions, 1985.
(With David Bedford) Rigel Nine: An Audio Opera (recording), Charisma, 1985.
(With composer Elinor Armer) Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts (music and text), first performed in San Francisco, CA, 1986.
Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (short stories and poems), Capra, 1987, published as Buffalo Gals, Gollancz (London, England), 1990.
Wild Oats and Fireweed, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (essays), Grove (New York, NY), 1989.
The Way the Water's Going: Images of the Northern California Coastal Range, photographs by Ernest Waugh and Alan Nicolson, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand (short stories), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction, Pulphouse, 1991.
Talk about Writing, Pulphouse, 1991.
Blue Moon over Thurman Street, photographs by Roger Dorband, NewSage Press (Portland, OR), 1993.
Earthsea Revisioned (lecture), Children's Literature New England (Cambridge, MA), 1993.
The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas (short story), Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1993.
(Editor with Brian Attebery) The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960–1990, Norton (New York, NY), 1993.
Going Out with Peacocks and Other Poems, HarperPe-rennial (New York, NY), 1994.
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea: Science Fiction Stories, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1994.
Four Ways to Forgiveness (contains "Betrayals," "Forgiveness Day," "A Man of the People," and "A Woman's Liberation"), HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1995.
Unlocking the Air: And Other Stories (includes "Standing Ground," "Poacher," "Half Past Four," and "Limberlost"), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Diana Bellessi) The Twins, The Dream-Two Voices, Arte Publico Press, 1996.
The Birthday of the World and Other Stories, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Changing Planes (short stories), illustrated by Eric Beddows, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2003.
(Translator) Angélica Gorodischer, Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, Small Beer Press (Northampton, MA), 2003.
The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2004.
(Editor and author of introduction) Selected Stories of H.G. Wells, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2004.
Author of postcard short story, Post Card Partnership, 1975, and Sword & Sorcery Annual, 1975. "The Matter of Seggri" published in Nebula Awards 30, Harcourt, 1996. Author of novelette "The Wild Girls." Contributor to anthologies, including Orbit 5, 1969, World's Best Science Fiction, 1970, The Best Science Fiction of the Year No. 5, 1976, and The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, 1978. Contributor of short stories, novellas, essays, and reviews to numerous science fiction, scholarly, and popular periodicals, including Amazing Science Fiction, Science-Fiction Studies, New Yorker, Antaeus, Parabola, New Republic, Redbook, Playgirl, Playboy, New Yorker, Western Humanities Review, Yale Review, and Omni.
ADAPTATIONS: The Lathe of Heaven was adapted for television by Public Broadcasting Service, 1979, and by Alan Sharp for A & E, 2002; The Tombs of Atuan was adapted as a filmstrip with record or audiocassette by Newbery Award Records, 1980; "The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas" was performed as a drama with dance and music at the Portland Civic Theatre, 1981.
SIDELIGHTS: Critics have often found it difficult to classify the works of American author Ursula K. Le Guin: while some consider her writing science fiction or fantasy, Le Guin herself discounts any narrow genre categorizations. As she once explained, "some of my fiction is 'science fiction,' some of it is 'fantasy,' some of it is 'realist,' and some of it is 'magical realism.'" Le Guin has also written several volumes of poetry and essays. "A significant amount of science fiction has been profoundly thoughtful about the situation of contemporary humanity in the light of its possible futures and its imaginable alternatives," writes Derek de Solla Price in New Republic, adding that, "In recent years, no [writer] inside the field of science fiction or outside of it [has] done more to create a modern conscience than … Le Guin." Critics have distinguished Le Guin's work from other twentieth-century futurists such as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, however. According to George Edgar Slusser in his The Farthest Shores of Ursula Le Guin, the author's "social analysis is acute, but its purpose is not indignation or reform. She has no social program, offers no panaceas." A Cambridge Review contributor described Le Guin as "an elegant, but not a light writer: not to be trifled with. Superficially, her work charms because it has all the glitter of high intelligence and efficiency."
Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, to prominent anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. She studied Renaissance history as a graduate student at Columbia University and, after obtaining her master's degree, married history professor Charles Le Guin. In addition to introducing her to history and anthropology, Le Guin's formative environment gave her a perspective on religion different from that of many Americans. As she once told an interviewer, "My father was a cultural relativist…. I was brought up in an unreligious household; there was no religious practice of any kind. There was also no feeling that any religion was better than another, or worse; they just weren't part of our life."
Le Guin began her writing career with short fiction, and her first short story, "An die Musik," appeared in Western Humanities Review in 1961. A later story, "The Dowry of Angyar," which was published in Amazing Science Fiction in 1964, provided the impetus for Le Guin's first novel, Rocannon's World. "I always wanted to write, and I always knew it would be hard to make a living at it," she explained to Boston Globe contributor Maureen Dezell. "I was very arrogant and wanted to be free to write what I wanted to write and see if I could get it published on my own terms. I did, eventually. But it took a long time." Le Guin has been rewarded for her persistence and her vision on numerous occasions, winning the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards for her short works, including the novella The Word for World Is Forest and "The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas."
The Word for World is Forest and the short story "The Ones Who Walked away from Omelas" introduce the themes that Le Guin threads throughout her fiction. The Word for World Is Forest looks at the use of force levied against an alien people, and many have interpreted it as a reflection on the U.S. intervention in Vietnam during the 1960s and early 1970s. "At the same time," cautioned Ian Watson in Science-Fiction Studies, "the obvious Vietnam analogy should not blind one to other relevant contemporary analogies—the genocide of the Guyaki Indians of Paraguay, or the genocide and deforestation along the Trans-Amazon Highway in Brazil, or even the general destruction of rainforest habitats from Indonesia to Costa Rica. Le Guin's story is multi-applicable—and multi-faceted."
"The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas" explains the necessity of individual morality. The society of Omelas is one of utopian happiness based on the unhappiness of a single scapegoat, who suffers for the entire community. According to Shoshana Knapp in Journal of Narrative Technique, in this short story "the world created is unfit for human habitation. The bargain on which it rests violates not only decency but logic…. To choose between torturing a child and destroying one's society (which includes other children) is a diabolical choice, not a human one."
Le Guin first began to receive extensive critical and popular attention with her "Earthsea" novels, which include A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, and The Other Wind. The "Earthsea" series, considered by Le Guin to be among her best work, displays a holistic conception of the universe. As Robert Scholes suggested in Hollins Critic, "What Earthsea represents, through its world of islands and waterways, is the universe as a dynamic, balanced system … which include[s] a role for magic and for powers other than human, but only as aspects of the great Balance or Equilibrium, which is the order of this cosmos. Where C.S. Lewis worked out of a specifically Christian set of values, Ursula Le Guin works not with a theology but with an ecology, a cosmology, a reverence for the universe as a self-regulating structure." The theme of equilibrium between opposing forces works on several levels within the series. On the most immediate and recognizable level is the integration of man with himself. In A Wizard of Earthsea it is the young mage, or wizard, Ged who undertakes the journey to maturity and self-knowledge; in The Tombs of Atuan it is the girl-priestess, Tenar; and in The Farthest Shore it is the young prince Arran, accompanying Ged on a search for the source of an evil spreading through Earth-sea. Writing in Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret P. Es-monde suggested that "all of these journeys symbolize the journey every human being must make, one through pain and fear, aided only by trust in the goodness of man, hand holding hand, to the acceptance of mortality."
While Le Guin began her "Earthsea" saga intending to write only a trilogy, eighteen years after the publication of The Farthest Shore, a National Book Award-winner in 1973, she surprised and pleased fans with Tehanu. The story continues the stories of Ged and Tenar, who are now old, as their now-quiet lives become enmeshed with that of a little girl, Therru, who has been raped and burned but survives. "The astonishing clearsightedness of Tehanu," explained Robin McKinley in New York Times Book Review, "is in its recognition of the necessary and life-giving contributions of female magic—sometimes disguised as domesticity." Although Dirda saw the novel as "meditative, somber, even talky," he acknowledged that it "builds to a climax of almost pornographic horror, nearly too shocking for its supposedly young adult pages." "The first three books lay out the answer to the problem of evil with some confidence (lack of balance)," related Meredith Tax in Village Voice; "this one asks, like Gertrude Stein on her deathbed, 'What is the question?'"
"Two Le Guin novels of unquestionably high standing, even among readers who generally do not care for science fiction, are The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia," according to Modern Fiction Studies contributor Keith N. Hull. "In these novels Le Guin … describes herself as writing science fiction based on 'social science, psychology, anthropology [and] history,'" the critic added, noting that the result "is an emphasis on culture" rather than science and technology. The Left Hand of Darkness explores the themes of sexual identity, incest, xenophobia, fidelity, and betrayal in a tale of an Earth ambassador, Genly Ai, who is sent to the planet of Gethen, whose inhabitants are androgynous. Through his relationship with a native, Estraven, Ai gains understanding both of the consequences of his fixed sexual orientation and of Gethenian life. As in many of her works, Le Guin incorporates a social message in her science-fiction tale. Scholes maintained that "the great power of the book comes from the way it interweaves all its levels and combines all its voices and values into an ordered, balanced, whole."
In The Dispossessed Le Guin's protagonist is an alien in a strange culture; the physicist Shevek, however, is also at odds with his home planet's values. He is devoted to the spread of knowledge, but the development of his theories will inevitably bring his isolated colonial planet and its mother-planet into contact, although the two cultures bitterly oppose one another. Brian Attebery, in Dictionary of Literary Biography, described the novel's form as "slow, sober, down-to-earth. The writing verges on pure naturalistic reporting, except that the places being written about do not exist on Earth." Attebery praised The Dispossessed as "fuller than any other of [Le Guin's] stories in character and in social and political interplay."
A prolific writer, Le Guin's imagination, intellect, and wide-ranging knowledge has allowed her to vary her characters and settings widely. In addition, her novels and short fiction draws readers to different planets and different eras. While some of her novels, like the "Earth-sea" books, transport readers from the known universe and the familiar, others adhere to somewhat more familiar spatial and temporal structures, or are at least set within the parameters of human history. The works which form Le Guin's "Hainish Cycle," for example—Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dispossessed, as well as numerous short stories—are bound by a common historical context: their characters and cultures originated with a race called the Hain, whose history encompasses Earth.
Another book which features a recognizable fictional terrain is Always Coming Home, which concerns a people known as the Kesh, who reside in northern California in the wake of nuclear war. The format moves between poetry and prose and includes stories, legends, and "autobiography;" the book was originally published with an audiocassette of Kesh music. Brian D. Johnson in Maclean's described Always Coming Home as "an 'archaeological dig' into the distant future—a search for 'shards of the broken pot at the end of the rainbow.'" Samuel R. Delany, writing in New York Times Book Review, praises the work, noting that, "With high invention and deep intelligence, Always Coming Home presents, in alternating narratives, poems and expositions, Ursula K. Le Guin's most consistently lyric and luminous book in a career adorned with some of the most precise and passionate prose in the service of a major imaginative vision." H.J. Kirchhoff in the Toronto Globe and Mail praised Le Guin's world-building, and wrote that in Always Coming Home the author "has created an entire culture, not just a cast of characters—an impressive achievement from an impressive writer."
Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand and Changing Planes are two of several of Le Guin's collections of short fiction. Set in the Oregon town of Klatsand, Searoad fol-lows the outwardly unremarkable lives of its inhabitants. "In understated stories that ask the reader not to pity their marginal characters but to respect their courage," explained Yvonne Fraticelli in Women's Review of Books, "Le Guin summons up a host of visionaries, dreamers and solitaries." Reviewing the work for Belles Lettres, Juli Duncan asserted that while "the stories are uneven," "each is perfectly tailored to its characters." Searoad represents a notable achievement for Le Guin, in the opinion of Patricia Dubrava Keuning in Blooms-bury Review, who maintained that Searoad is "Le Guin's first purely mainstream book of fiction, and with it, she has accomplished squarely what few writers succeed in doing: She has liberated herself from the genre pigeonhole." Even more liberating is Changing Planes, an "unusual travelogue" that presents sixteen stories conjuring up sixteen different modes of interplanetary travel, all united by Le Guin's "dispassion, wry humor, and … keen eye," according to Booklist contributor Sally Estes. While Changing Planes serves as light airport reading, it also is enriched by Le Guin's analytical nature; according to a Kirkus reviewer her "unconventional premises are more often than not shaped into entrancing, provocative narratives."
Le Guin's excursions into the world of children's fiction have included Solomon Leviathan's 931st Trip around the World, Catwings, and Catwings Return. In Catwings, four flying cats—Harriet, James, Thelma and Roger—escape city dangers to live in the country, where they are adopted by two children. A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, a book for younger children, looks at the issue of avoidance of responsibility. In it, a young girl learns that her little brother has been taken by trolls, and she goes out alone to rescue him, taking only a toy red horse, a warm scarf, knitting needles and yarn, and a bit of bread. Once she locates the boy in the trolls' castle, she finds that he has changed: he now wants to become a troll. "The boy's desire is an old one," Michael Dirda explained in Washington Post Book World: "Is it better to be a happy pig or an unhappy Socrates? Most of us don't get the chance to be quite either." Dirda went on to praise A Ride on the Red Mare's Back as "indisputably suspenseful, thought-provoking, and beautifully illustrated."
In addition to fiction, Le Guin has authored numerous nonfiction works, among them essays, poetry, and criticism. Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places collects several of her essays, addresses, and reviews, creating what Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Nancy Mairs described as "a trove of delights: insightful, impassioned, sometimes lyrical, often funny." Le Guin's shorter works also expand readers' understanding of the author's fiction; as Mairs explained, Dancing at the Edge of the World provides "insight into the writer at work." Elizabeth Hand, writing in Washington Post Book World, maintained that the selections shows Le Guin "at her best: insightful, funny, sharp, occasionally tendentious and nearly always provocative."
Another collection of nonfiction, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination focuses on the writer's craft as Le Guin has performed it, and also contains critical commentary on such writers as Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Jorge Luis Borges. Praising Le Guin's commentary as "incisive," Library Journal contributor Carolyn M. Craft noted that in revealing prose that encompasses the author's recollections of family, reflects upon her personal values, and explores her opinions, the author "engages and challenges her readers' minds and values while … modeling good prose style." Hailing The Wave in the Mind as a "piquant, morally lucid, and enlivening volume," Donna Seaman added in her Booklist review that Le Guin, in addition to being a widely heralded fiction writer, "is also a forthright, incisive, and funny essayist."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 9, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Bittner, James, Approaches to the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin, UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1984.
Bucknall, Barbara J., Ursula K. Le Guin, Ungar (New York, NY), 1981.
Children's Literature Review, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 3, 1978; Volume 28, 1992.
Cogell, Elizabeth Cummins, Ursula K. Le Guin: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1983.
Cogell, Elizabeth Cummins, Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1990.
Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: Broadening Views, 1968–1988, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Volume 52, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 8, 1978, Volume 13, 1980, Volume 22, 1982, Volume 45, 1987, Volume 71, 1992.
Contemporary Novelists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996, pp. 602-5.
Cummins, Elizabeth, Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1990.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 8: Twentieth-Century American Science Fiction Writers, 1981, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, 1986.
Jones, Libby Falk, and Sarah Webster Goodwin, Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative, University of Tennessee Press, 1990.
Keulen, Margarete, Radical Imagination: Feminist Conceptions of the Future in Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, and Sally Miller Gearhart, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1991.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Reginald, Robert, and George Edgar Slusser, editors, Zephyr and Boreas: Winds of Change in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: A Festschrift in Memory of Pilgrim Award Winner, Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Borgo Press (San Bernardino, CA), 1996.
Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth, Ursula K. Le Guin, Twayne (New York, NY), 1997.
St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Short Story Criticism, Volume 12, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993, pp. 205-52.
Slusser, George Edgar, Between Two Worlds: The Literary Dilemma of Ursula K. Le Guin, 2nd edition, Borgo Press (San Bernardino, CA), 1995.
Slusser, George Edgar, The Farthest Shores of Ursula K. Le Guin, Borgo Press (San Bernadino, CA), 1976.
Spivack, Charlotte, Ursula K. Le Guin, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1984.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989, pp. 569-571.
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Wayne, Kathryn Ross, Redefining Moral Education: Life, Le Guin, and Language, Austin & Winfield, 1994.
Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, February, 1985, pp. 183-184; January, 1996, p. 273.
Atlantic, October, 1995, p. 129.
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