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Monday, December 01, 2008

Ursula K. Le Guin on fantastic literature

The old lady is still sharp! Ursula K. Le Guin, probably the best author of fantastic literature of the last four decades of the previous century, and, so far, in this one, occasionally writes on her craft. One such essay, "The critics, the monsters, and the fantasists. (critics' opinion of fantasy fiction)," was published in the Winter-Spring, 2007, issue of Wordsworth Circle, which article is not, at least currently, freely available on the Internet. (Le Guin is well aware that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote famously about his craft, using some of those same words in his title.) I present a few choice quotes from Le Guin's essay:
I venture a non-defining statement: realistic fiction is drawn towards anthropocentrism, fantasy away from it.

Tolkien's Middle Earth is not just pre-industrial. It is also pre-human and non-human.

In my school for magic on the Isle of Roke in The Earthsea Trilogy, we say that children's books must be included in serious discussion of literature, and one reason we give is that many of the great works of imaginative fiction can be understood and appreciated by a child as well as by an adult--and vice versa. The understanding and appreciation may be different in kind, but its quality is the same, and deserves critical consideration. To throw a book out of serious consideration either because it was written for children, or because it is read by children, is in fact a monstrous act of anti-intellectualism. But it happens daily in academia.

Thanks for reading!


Julana said...

I confess, Martin, I read Ursuala's fiction in my teens, and maybe early 20s, and not since, although I did later read some of her writing about writing, which was always fascinating. Good to hear from her again.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Julana.

She's still out there in Portland, writing, as far as I know.