A Conversation with Ursula K. le Guin

International New York Times, August 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Conversation with Ursula K. le Guin


The author, most recently, of the updated "Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story," avoids "fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense."

Ursula K. Le Guin

The author, most recently, of the updated "Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story," avoids "fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense."

Q. Who is your favorite novelist?

A.I can't do all time, I don't even believe in it. It depends on which time, doesn't it? If I'm reading Austen at the time, it's Austen, but if I'm reading Tolstoy, it's Tolstoy. If it's 1940 and I'm reading "Black Beauty," it's Anna Sewell, but if it's 2010 and I'm reading "The Cave," it's Saramago.

Q. Whom do you consider the best writers -- novelists, essayists, critics, journalists, poets -- working today?

A.I always dodge this question, because it forces me into talking about literature as a horse race. Triple Crown winners vs. lame hacks? Nah. Of course I have opinions and favorites, but listing them seems tiresome, and anyhow, if I tried I know I'd leave out half the people I really wanted to mention.

Q. What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I read mostly novels, any kind of novels, and poetry, and all kinds of nonfiction, especially some kinds of science, biographies, some history, and books about and by Native Americans, and Tierra del Fuego, and Darwinian adaptation -- oh, give me a book and if it's interesting, I'll read it. Avoidance? At the moment, I tend to avoid fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense. This makes it hard to find a new novel, sometimes.

Q. Which fantasy novels do you consider the best of the genre?

A.Oh gee, "best" again. And "genre." Ow. I'll pretend you asked for a few of my favorite fantasies, O.K.? And I am applying the Dirri (Do I Reread It?) Test. So, for starters: "Alice in Wonderland,"? "Gormenghast,"? "The Sword in the Stone,"? "The Jungle Books,"? "The Lord of the Rings."

Q. And what are your favorite works of science fiction -- stories, novels, film? …

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A Conversation with Ursula K. le Guin
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