BOOKS FIND ME
Some people have asked me how I find books to read and I respond, they find me. From when I first started to read, I loved to walk down the aisles of books in a library or bookstore and simply pick up whatever book my eye lights upon. Some books seem to jump out at me - READ ME!!! And most times, I do and most times, I am thrilled to have found a great new read. The authors I have discovered with this highly random method are too many to list and, so, I still use this lottery method.
The other day, I was in my local library to pick up a book I had placed on hold, the new book, Energy, by Richard Rhodes, author of the Triple Crown Winner (The Pulitzer, The National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award) The Making of the Atom Bomb, the best history book by an American in the past 50 years. As I was about to leave, I decided to glance at the shelf of new books and my eye hit on one by Ursula K. LeGuin.
For those who are 'in' to science fiction, LeGuin needs no introduction. She has written over twenty best-selling books, including The Left Hand of God and The Lathe of Heaven, and has a cabinet full of Hugo and Nebula awards. Her success as a sci fi writer is also her nemesis - she is so much more than a sci fi writer - she is simply a great writer. The recent death of Philip Roth reminds me of an interview he gave when he confessed that he hated the appellation, Greatest Jewish Writer of his time. He was a great writer. So many great writers have lost readers because they have been 'categorized' as a Black, Gay or Feminist writer. To paraphrase Duke Ellington, there are only two kinds of books, good and bad.
LeGuin's latest book is a collection of her online writing (is 'blog' still used?). It is called, No Time To Spare because LeGuin says that at 80+ years old, while she is free, her time is not - she has no time to spare.
The pieces are all just a few pages long, perfect for reading at the beach or while traveling. Each is a journey into subjects as diverse as "are you really only as old as you think you are?" to choosing a cat to the overuse of the word 'fuck' to The Great American Novel (The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck because it tells us all that is good and all that is bad about America).
Here she is on 'male group solidarity' which she sees as one of the most powerful forces in human history giving us Government, Army, Priesthood, University and Corporations:
The great ancient male institutions have been increasingly infiltrated by women for the last two centuries, and this is a very great change. But when women manage to join the institutions that excluded them, they mostly end up being co-opted by them, serving male ends, enforcing male values....Can women operate as women in a male institution without becoming imitation men? (emphasis in original)
One day, in 2012, she reads the "On This Day' feature in the NY Times about the first televised White House address by a President in 1947 in which President Truman asked Americans to give up eating meat on Tuesdays and chicken on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. She is dismayed that such an appeal to Americans by the President, today, is ridiculous to even imagine (and she was writing during the Obama presidency!). Here is what she concludes:
I have watched my country accept, mostly quite complacently, along with a lower living standard for more people, a lower moral standard. A moral standard based on advertising... American politicians didn't use to lie as if they knew that nobody cared whether they lied or not...Can America go on living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country? ...When did it become impossible for our government to ask its citizens to refrain from short-term gratification in order to serve a greater good? ...Maybe that's why I feel that I live in exile. I use to live in a country that had a future.
On January 22, 2018, Ursula K. LeGuin died. I cannot imagine what she thought of America's future under President Trump.