Monday, 22 June 2009

U is for Usrula Le Guin

My U is Ursula Le Guin, legendary fantasy and science fiction writer. I wanted to read The Dispossessed, but the library didn’t have a copy of that, so I ended up reading Buffalo Gals, and other animal presences instead.
Buffalo Gals is an anthology of short stories and poetry, centred around animals and their effect on us humans, along with our impact on them. The first story is the most intriguing, and tells the tale of a young girl who finds herself alone and injured after the plane she was in crashes. A coyote takes her under her wing, and treats her like one of her own cubs. In the course of the story, the girl sees the coyote as human and not as a wild animal. When they go to the coyote’s house, the other animals who live nearby also appear to her as humans, but with animalistic traits and characteristics. The owl, for example, is wise, while the small mammals like the rabbits have lots of children. The other stories and poems range from a tree observing the development of roads and cars to rock sonnets. I mean, actual rocks, not like : rawk sonnets. Speaking of music, thanks to my love of It's a Wonderful Life, I couldn't stop singing Buffalo Gals for the entire book. That's not a bad thing, but it is still six months from Christmas. Boo.

Ursula K Le Guin, as she is sometimes known, was born in 1929 and has written countless numbers of books, poems and papers on a variety of subjects. According to her biography on her website, she’s also been winning awards since 1968. Now nearly eighty, she has yet to see a satisfactory adaptation of her work on the small or big screen. Sometimes I think that this is the mark of a great writer. The purpose of writing is to express something that can’t be expressed (which is probably why there are so many love songs) and ultimately, cannot be translated visually or as everyone has envisioned it. Roald Dahl has ‘enjoyed’ lots of adaptations of his work, but I have yet to see something that comes even close to capturing the spirit of his books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes close, but still no cigar.
Some of you may remember the Studio Ghibli film Tales of Earthsea, which is an adaptation of Le Guin’s series of Earthsea books. She reportedly agreed yo this as she had seen Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro. However, being the curmudgeon that she appears to be, the fact hat Hayao’s son, Goro, did it instead, did not hold well and she expressed “mixed feelings towards it”

I’ve never managed to read a whole Le Guin book before – I find them to be a bit dense and impenetrable. I’ve tried reading Earthsea, but it’s quite long, the text is quite small and her love of science fiction peppers the prose with unintelligible vocabulary. Like most authors, though, there’s a rhythm to her writing which is rewarding and almost soothing, once you get used to it. Once this challenge is over, I would like to begin with A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s strange and a bit unknown, but after reading Buffalo Gals I want to explore the world she’s written over the last forty years.

What about you? Is there a prolific writer that you’ve never read anything of because one thing put you off? Are you a Le Guin lover and have recommendations to ease me in gently?

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