Words Are My Matter Preorder

October 18, 2016

A bright and wide-ranging collection of essays, reviews, talks, and more from one of our best and most thoughtful writers.

Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 with a Journal of a Writer’s Week

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of our foremost public literary intellectuals and this collection of her recent talks, essays, introductions, and book reviews is the best manual we have for traveling the worlds explored in recent fiction; the most useful guide to the country we’re visiting, life.

The Nation: Ursula K. Le Guin has Stopped Writing Fiction But We Need Her More Than Ever
Washington Post: At 86 Ursula K. Le Guin Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves — Almost

Table of Contents

Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces

The Operating Instructions
What It Was Like
Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love
“Things Not Actually Present”
A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti
The Beast in the Book
Inventing Languages
How to Read a Poem: “Gray Goose and Gander”
On David Hensel’s Submission to the Royal Academy of Art
On Serious Literature
Teasing Myself Out of Thought
Living in a Work of Art
Staying Awake
Great Nature’s Second Course
What Women Know
Disappearing Grandmothers
Learning to Write Science Fiction from Virginia Woolf
The Death of the Book
Le Guin’s Hypothesis
Making Up Stories

Book Introductions and Notes on Writers

A Very Good American Novel: H. L. Davis’s Honey in the Horn
Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle
Huxley’s Bad Trip
Stanislaw Lem: Solaris
George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin
The Wild Winds of Possibility: Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake
Getting It Right: Charles L. McNichols’s Crazy Weather
On Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago
Examples of Dignity: Thoughts on the Work of José Saramago
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: Roadside Picnic
Jack Vance: The Languages of Pao
H. G. Wells: The First Men in the Moon
H. G. Wells: The Time Machine
Wells’s Worlds

Book Reviews

Margaret Atwood: Moral Disorder
Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood: Stone Mattress
J. G. Ballard: Kingdom Come
Roberto Bolaño: Monsieur Pain
T. C. Boyle: When the Killing’s Done
Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book
Italo Calvino: The Complete Cosmicomics
Margaret Drabble: The Sea Lady
Carol Emshwiller: Ledoyt
Alan Garner: Boneland
Kent Haruf: Benediction
Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night
Tove Jansson: The True Deceiver
Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behavior
Chang-Rae Lee: On Such a Full Sea
Doris Lessing: The Cleft
Donna Leon: Suffer the Little Children
Yann Martel: The High Mountains of Portugal
China Miéville: Embassytown
China Miéville: Three Moments of an Explosion
David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks
Jan Morris: Hav
Julie Otsuka: The Buddha in the Attic
Salman Rushdie: The Enchantress of Florence
Salman Rushdie: Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights
José Saramago: Raised from the Ground
José Saramago: Skylight
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Dorset Stories
Jo Walton: Among Others
Jeanette Winterson: The Stone Gods
Stefan Zweig: The Post Office Girl

The Hope of Rabbits: A Journal of a Writer’s Week


“[W]hat she says of poetry—“Its primary job is simply to find the words that give it its right, true shape”—might well be said of all the shapely pieces in this generous, edifying, and invaluable collection.”— Michael Cart, Booklist (starred review)

“Le Guin (The Real and the Unreal), an honored and prodigious fiction writer, will delight her many fans with these 67 selections of her recent nonfiction. The wide-ranging collection includes essays, lectures, introductions, and reviews, all informed by Le Guin’s erudition, offered without academic mystification, and written (or spoken) with an inviting grace. Herself a genre-defying writer most associated with science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin frequently challenges the restrictiveness of genre-based value judgments that relegate science fiction to a “literary ghetto.” Le Guin’s book speaks both to readers, in the succinct and lucid reviews and introductions, and to writers, as in “Making Up Stories,” in which she urges writers to be readers, and “The Hope of Rabbits,” her journal of a week at a writers’ retreat. Le Guin’s nominal topic is often a book, but her subjects are more complex, reaching deeply into the nexus of politics and language, women’s issues, the effects of technology, and books as commerce. In a resonating essay, “What Women Know,” Le Guin discusses the differences between stories told by men and women, remarking, “I think it’s worth thinking about.” That’s this collection in a nutshell: everywhere something to think about.” — Publishers Weekly

“Collected nonfiction by the prolific, multiaward-winning writer.The author of novels (21), short stories (11 volumes), essays (four collections), children’s books (12), poetry (six volumes), and translations (four volumes), Le Guin (Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, 2015, etc.) also writes book reviews and occasional essays, delivers talks, and contributes introductions to other writers’ works. These short pieces comprise a volume that, like many such miscellaneous collections, is uneven, but the few minor pieces are outweighed by several gems. Among the latter is an evocative memoir of the elegant, somewhat eccentric house in which the author grew up in California and where her family lived for 54 years, designed by the renowned architect Bernard Maybeck. The house was “remarkably beautiful, delightfully comfortable, and almost entirely practical.” Not completely, however, since it lacked stairs to the basement, and those to the upper floors ended in steps so narrow, furniture movers “met their doom.” Le Guin remembers the mellow, silken redwood of the interior, which imparted a special, pleasant fragrance. In another moving piece, the author recalls “what it was like to be twenty and pregnant in 1950,” before Roe vs. Wade, risking being expelled from college and choosing to have an abortion rather than bring a child into a bleak future. Many pieces reflect her commitment to craft, her belief in the endurance of the book as physical object, and her objections to the “false categorical value judgment” that elevates “literature” above genre—which would include much of Le Guin’s output of science fiction and children’s books. “Literature is the extant body of written art,” she writes. “All novels belong to it.” One excellent piece, not previously published, rails against “the masculine orientation of discussion of books and authors in the press.” In a review of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Le Guin remarks on a character’s “humor so dry it’s almost ether.” That praise applies to Le Guin as well in a collection notable for its wit, unvarnished opinions, and passion.” — Kirkus Reviews

Reviews for the new edition of Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

“A must-read for intermediate and advanced writers of fiction and memoir.” —Library Journal, STARRED

“A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It would be churlish to deny the benefits of this thoughtful, concise volume…In essence, Le Guin reveals the art of craft and the craft of art…this book is a star by which to set one’s course.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED

“There is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin.” — Slate

“Le Guin is a writer of enormous intelligence and wit, a master storyteller with the humor and force of a Twain. She creates stories for everyone from New Yorker literati to the hardest audience, children. She remakes every genre she uses.” — Boston Globe

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received the Hugo, Nebula, Endeavor, Locus, Tiptree, Sturgeon, PEN-Malamud, and National Book Award and the Pushcart and Janet Heidinger Kafka prizes, among others.

In recent years she has received lifetime achievement awards from World Fantasy Awards, Los Angeles Times, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Willamette Writers, as well as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the Library of Congress Living Legends award. Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award.

Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, The Wild Girls, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, The Unreal and the Real, The Found and the Lost, The Complete Orsinia, and Finding My Elegy, New and Selected Poems. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and her website is ursulakleguin.com.

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