Ursula Le Guin passed away a few weeks ago. She was my favorite author.

To Mark her passing  I read The Daughter of Odren. Set in the same world of Earthsea as her early fantasy novels.

In her later career Le Guin wrote two additional novels extending the Earthsea Trilogy that you may be familiar with. Both of these, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to fix the world she created in her early books back when she was writing as - in her own words - "an imitation man. A pretty good imitation man."

A novel to fix the afterlife, a novel to fix the patriarchy. Well... the second one wasn't quite that tidy. And it was the better for being complicated.

The Daughter of Odren is a short story, rounded up to a novella for Amazon. But I like it much better than either of the late novels. It concerns the daughter of Lord Odren, a landholder in Earthsea who is forced to go to sea to fight Pirates who are destroying the economic life of the island. During his absence, his wife takes up with a sorcerer... or is bewitched by him. The sorcerer engineers the father's demise on his return.

A traumatized son and daughter flee to the house of a nearby farmer. The son leaves to master Wizardry and seek revenge. The daughter becomes the wife of the farmer and plots revenge on the sorcerer as well.

But when her brother returns, the wizards of Roke have convinced him that his mother was the real source of the evil, controlling the sorcerer and killing their father. It is easier for them to blame a witch than imagine that one of their own has gone bad. Of course, it is patronizing to assume she was not a willing co conspirator. Or even, perhaps, a witch...

What begins as a simple family story turns into a clever commentary on the patriarchy, and the daughter's choices are real choices: limited and personal, but meaningful. I could say more, but I hate reviewers who ruin the story.

I will miss her new words. I look forward to reading more of the old ones.

2/22 '18 3 Comments
If you haven't read her collection of essays about SF&F called The Language of the Night, I'd really recommend it. I gather there was another set of more general essays published in the past few years. I'm looking forward to reading it.
I can't remember which of the later books was about silence and speech but I find myself thinking about it rather a lot.
Oh I like that thread. I MUST have read some Earthsea at some point (the name is very familiar) but nothing is springing to mind. May just add those to the List.

Just finished "Between the World and Me," by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Recommended.

There are things most "white" folks, especially white men, can't really understand if our bodies have never been at risk of being randomly destroyed. On an ordinary day. With little or no connection to our actions.

The book is by no means intended solely as a manual for understanding what that feels like. Still, it succeeds brilliantly on that level.

But it's a mistake to read it as a letter to white Americans. The book is written in the form of a letter to his son, following a model laid down by James Baldwin in "The Fire Next Time." In the end, he tells his son to struggle — to pursue a better, less fearful existence for himself — but not to struggle for "the dreamers," the people who buy into the idea of whiteness. Because our awakening, if it ever happens, will have to come from within. And from his perspective, it's not worth getting shot for that slim hope.

I felt that blow — he is saying to us, in effect: "don't wait for your victims to come save you from your own history. We can't and won't. If you're going to change, change yourselves. But I won't wait up nights." There is little to suggest that he should.

The most beautiful parts of the book concern his own coming of age, the awakening of a sense of possibility at Howard University, tasting what it means to blend into the crowd and be invisible while visiting Paris. But also the shooting death of a friend at the hands of the police, and a conversation with his friend's mother. And his son, heartbreakingly certain that Michael Brown's killer would be indicted. And... how little has changed.

2/16 '17 3 Comments
I think the most important thing he said was that "race" is an artificial construct ... "white" people are a conglomeration of ethnicities as are people with darker skin ("colored", "asian", "black"), and all of this discrimination and suffering comes from a construct that the oppressor created to keep other people down and to stay in power, to maintain privilege. He's right. And it's dizzying to think of the world as it would be if our parents told us that when we were small and our teachers taught it in school. Dizzying to think of that world and sad to think of this one ... though if it were not race, it would be something else, I suppose. Humans are shitbirds that way.
Indeed. It was really excellent.