The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination

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Overview

Join Ursula K. Le Guin as she explores a broad array of subjects, ranging from Tolstoy, Twain, and Tolkien to women's shoes, beauty, and family life. With her customary wit, intelligence, and literary craftsmanship, she offers a diverse and highly engaging set of readings. The Wave in the Mind includes some of Le Guin's finest literary criticism, rare autobiographical writings, performance art pieces, and, most centrally, her reflections on the arts of writing and reading. ...
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The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination

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Overview

Join Ursula K. Le Guin as she explores a broad array of subjects, ranging from Tolstoy, Twain, and Tolkien to women's shoes, beauty, and family life. With her customary wit, intelligence, and literary craftsmanship, she offers a diverse and highly engaging set of readings. The Wave in the Mind includes some of Le Guin's finest literary criticism, rare autobiographical writings, performance art pieces, and, most centrally, her reflections on the arts of writing and reading.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Essential reading for anyone who imagines herself literate and/or socially concerned or who wants to learn what it means to be such."—Library Journal

"What a pleasure it is to roam around in Le Guin's spacious, playful mind. And what a joy to read her taut, elegant prose."—Erica Jong

Library Journal
Le Guin enjoys an honored reputation as a winner of the National Book Award, as well as of the Hugo, Nebula, Gandalf, and Kafka awards. She has produced more than 15 novels, as well as works of literary criticism, poetry, and even children's literature. In this collection of essays, organized into thematic categories (e.g., "Personal Matters," "Readings," "Discussions and Opinions," and "On Writing"), she explores a variety of subjects through personal vignettes that give insight into her values. The essays also provide perceptive literary criticism on works by a wide range of authors, from Jorge Luis Borges to Mark Twain; incisive comments on fiction vs. nonfiction; and discussion of gender, beauty, literacy, privilege, and the writer's role and character. Le Guin is invariably thoughtful; she engages and challenges her readers' minds and values while exploring her own voice and modeling good prose style. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590300060
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/27/2004
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 744,816
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is the winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Gandalf, Kafka, and National Book Awards. She is the author of many short stories and more than fifteen novels, including The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. She is also an honored author of children's books, poetry, and criticism.

Biography

Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Introducing Myself 3
Being Taken for Granite 8
Indian Uncles 10
My Libraries 20
My Island 24
On the Frontier 28
All Happy Families 33
Things Not Actually Present: On The Book of Fantasy and J. L. Borges 38
Reading Young, Reading Old: Mark Twain's Diaries of Adam and Eve 46
Thinking about Cordwainer Smith 57
Stress-Rhythm in Poetry and Prose 70
Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings 95
The Wilderness Within: The Sleeping Beauty and "The Poacher" 108
Off the Page: Loud Cows: A Talk and a Poem about Reading Aloud 117
Fact and/or/plus Fiction 127
Award and Gender 141
On Genetic Determinism 152
About Feet 160
Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts about Beauty 163
Collectors, Rhymesters, and Drummers 171
Telling Is Listening 185
The Operating Instructions 206
"A War without End" 211
A Matter of Trust 223
The Writer and the Character 235
Unquestioned Assumptions 240
Prides: An Essay on Writing Workshops 250
The Question I Get Asked Most Often 261
Old Body Not Writing 283
The Writer on, and at, Her Work 289
Credits 303
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2005

    Midwest Book Review: February 2005

    Having read and enjoyed LeGuin¿s previous non-fiction works (particularly DANCING AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, THE LANGUAGE OF THE NIGHT, and her writing book, STEERING THE CRAFT), I expected an interesting and entertaining volume of essays. What I got far exceeded my expectations. I was enchanted from the first words, and I could hardly wait to read as many of these pieces as I could gulp down each night. When I finished, I was unhappy it was all consumed. I wanted more. The book is a cornucopia of variety. There are serious essays, playful performance pieces, literary commentary, a long and wonderful poem entitled ¿The Writer on, and at, Her Work,¿ and even some sketches LeGuin has done. The volume is separated into four sections: Personal Matters, Readings, Discussions & Opinions, and On Writing. The first section gives the reader a glimpse of who Ursula LeGuin is. She talks a bit of her family, of her parents¿ occupations (anthropologist father and biographer mother), and of her love of libraries and islands¿imaginary and real. The next two sections cover all sorts of topics. Whether she was discussing awards and gender or the submerged humor of Mark Twain¿s ¿Diaries of Adam and Eve¿ or literacy or rhythm in the works of JRR Tolkien, I felt I was in sure hands. I must admit that I expected the essay, ¿Stress-Rhythm in Poetry and Prose¿ to be deadly dull. Instead, I was surprised beyond my wildest imagination to find that for the first time in my entire life, someone had actually explained meter and rhythm so that it made complete sense to me. I had one of those ¿Aha!¿ moments, suddenly understanding it in a way that I had never quite managed. (So _that_ is how iambic pentameter works so effectively!) I¿ve been raving ever since about rhythm to all who will listen. I like the fact that LeGuin does not hesitate to address sexism, homophobia, and unfairness. Her piece entitled ¿Unquestioned Assumptions¿ is masterful. She talks about the four common varieties of unquestioned assumption (We¿re all men, white, straight, and Christian), and then adds a fifth which she explores at length: We¿re all Young. Her analysis of these issues alone was worth the price of the book. The final section of the book is about writing and was my favorite section. LeGuin addresses many angles of craft and technique. The name of the book, THE WAVE IN THE MIND, refers to an explanation of style that Virginia Woolf once wrote in a letter. Concerning what rhythm is, Woolf had written, ¿A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind¿and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it¿ (p. xii). LeGuin obviously agrees with this. She writes that ¿every novel has its characteristic rhythm. And that if the writer hasn¿t listened for that rhythm and followed it, the sentences will be lame, the characters will be puppets, the story will be false. And that if the writer can hold to that rhythm, the book will have some beauty. What the writer has to do is listen for that beat, hear it, keep to it, not let anything interfere with it. Then the reader will hear it too, and be carried by it¿ (p. 183). This is sage advice. All of LeGuin¿s ideas and advice¿every chapter of it¿is wonderful. I loved this: ¿Trust your story; trust yourself; trust your readers¿but wisely. Trust watchfully, not blindly. Trust flexibly, not rigidly. The whole thing, writing a story, is a high-wire act¿there you are out in midair walking on a spiderweb line of words, and down in the darkness people are watching. What can you trust but your sense of balance?¿ (p. 234). The examples, stories, and allusions throughout are clear and strong and elegant. Her Voice is powerful and wise, humorous and reflective. Ursula LeGuin quite clearly displays true genius. This is a book to savor, to keep, to read again and again over the years. I cannot recommend it highly enough. ~Lori L. Lake, reviewer for Midwest Book Review and author of the ¿Gun¿ series

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