Thursday, 6 June 2013

Podcast Thursday: Ursula Le Guin

Photo copyright 2012 by Laura Anglin
Have you ever drawn up one of those ideal dinner party guest lists, where you pick six people from today or the past (or even fictional guests) and invite them for an imaginary dinner party?

I’m always revising my list, and today I added a very real, very alive writer: Ursula Le Guin.

This BBC podcast of an interview with Le Guin at her home in Portland also includes interviews about Le Guin with Margaret Atwood and Iain Banks. Wow – the heavyweights.

Le Guin’s got a giant intellect, a good heart, an eloquence that’s easy on the ear and an honesty that’s as trustworthy as an old friend.

I really love her Earthsea Trilogy. I aspire in an ever-so-humble way to her brevity, her economy of words, her ability to write plainly about profound matters.

I loved JK Rowlings’ Potter books and after reading the Earthsea books, wondered why I’d never heard about Ged/Sparrowhawk and his education at the wizarding school on the island of Roke. Le Guin wrote her books 30 years before Potter arrived. I’m not suggesting Rowling borrowed—they are very different books in many ways — but it is frustrating that the book reviews of Rowlings’ work didn’t reference or acknowledge Le Guin’s Earthsea books. Did they simply not notice the connection? Le Guin wonders about this but isn’t bitter. At the very least, it would be helpful to Potter fans if they knew about these classics, and could broaden their literary horizons.

In this podcast, Le Guin also discusses the snobbery of critics regarding science fiction and fantasy, and I love that Atwood agrees, saying: “I’m a reader of science fiction and fantasy…I’m not one of those people who think only realistic novels are good literature.” Atwood also says that she considers Le Guin among the best writers of the 20th century.

If that’s not enough of a recommendation, what is?

I haven’t read much else of Le Guin’s work other than the Earthsea books, but two of her big standalone novels, The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, which are considered groundbreakers, are on my list. But I would recommend her adorable Catwings series, which are for very young readers. I am currently haunting the second-hand shops trying to complete my collection of the slim booklets. 

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and if you haven’t already discovered her books, you are in for a treat. Ursula Le Guin is a writer who cares about our world and its people. And she cares about her readers, too. “The letters I get from readers are almost unbearably touching…they say things like, ‘You know, you turned my head around with that story’…so writing does have an effect, it does matter,” she says.

And, I will add, by correlation, so does reading. I’d like to discuss that over dinner. “Hello? Ursula?”

For a complete list of her work and more info about this great author, see Ursula's own website. 


  1. Worth a peek:

  2. Have you read anything by Mark Helprin?
    *Highly* recommended:'s_Tale_(novel)

  3. I have read Winter's Tale...but soooo long ago. I was entranced. I picked up some short stories by Helprin recently but haven't delved in yet. I love that Riddle-Master recommendation. I shall track those down. Thanks!