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The Unreal and the Real: Where on Earth (edition 2012)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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11911101,247 (3.82)2
Member:HRHSpence
Title:The Unreal and the Real: Where on Earth
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Small Beer Press (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:sci fi

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The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth by Ursula K. Le Guin

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This volume of Le Guin's stories contains the work that is perhaps furthest from what you expect of her, which would usually be science fiction and fantasy. These are her realist works, which doesn't mean straight forward or more serious or anything like that. It just means that they do, or could, take place in the world we're used to.

While Le Guin's writing is always beautiful, and I love the atmosphere of her stories -- there's something cool and clear about them, something steady and patient and knowing -- I'm not a big fan of most of these stories. They're very literary, sometimes to the point where I find them a little overdone, maybe pretentious. I'm not quite sure what the word I want is, but anyway, a lot of these don't work for me. They make me feel not clever enough, or just frustrated with their meandering. ( )
  shanaqui | Jun 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This volume collects Ursula Le Guin's personal favorites from amongst her realistic short stories, though "realistic" is a little broadly defined, as it includes not only ordinary literary realism, but but stories set in her made-up Central European country of Orsinia and some with sf or fantasy elements, and at least one that is overt fantasy. Delightfully, all of them were new to me (I suspect that if I'd read Volume Two, that would have been different).

I was surprised by how much I liked the Orisinian tales: "Brothers and Sisters," which opens the book, was probably my favorite story in the book, an observant tale of two groups of siblings in a (I think) late-nineteenth-century mining town, all of them trying to figure out growing up and their places in the world. For all that it takes place in a made-up country, it felt very real. "A Week in the Country" and "Unlocking Air" were also quite good, and I absolutely loved "The Diary of the Rose," an sf tale set in a country that seems a lot like Orsinia, about a doctor in a mental hospital assigned to "cure" a patient whose only disease is disagreeing with the state. Heart-wrenching, ultimately.

"Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight," about a girl who survives a plane crash and is adopted by a coyote, was another strong installment, justly oft-praised. "Sleepwalkers," which is about a group of people at an Oregon coastal hotel, was also really quite good; it's a group of characters who are all watching each other, and you jump from perspective to perspective, and see how no observation is ever right, even if some are much closer than others. "Hand, Cup, Shell" has a similar feeling, as a graduate student interviews the wife of a deceased education professor for her supervisor's book, and ends up involved in his family for a day.

I wanted to like "The Water Is Wide," about a widowed brother who is committed, and the only person who cares for him is his widowed sister, but despite a strong start it got weird, and not in a good way. "Horse Camp," about a group of characters at a riding camp, wasn't really about enough to work, and I didn't get the point of "Ether, OR," about an Oregon town that moves around, though it certainly had its moments. The only stuff that didn't really work at all were the short, more observational stories, like "The Lost Children," "Texts" (what a great idea, though), or "The Direction of the Road."

Overall, it's every bit as good as I'd expected a collection of Le Guin's best short stories would be. I must seek out the second volume at some point.
  Stevil2001 | Jun 19, 2013 |
A few stories in -
Excited to read Le Guin's stories. This first volume is realistic fiction, a genre that Le Guin started out in, though I'm not sure if all these stories were written prior to the stories in the second volume (the fantasy/scifi stories are in volume 2). My feeling is no, but I haven't looked at all the dates. Le Guin's character driven stories and luminous prose are always amazing.
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I do like Ursula Le Guin, but this book was really hard to get through. I've only made it through 1/2 of the book and its taken me weeks to read it. I love her fantasy, mythology-type books and maybe it will get better further on in this collection, but I have other books I want to read before I attempt at finishing this one. Sorry!

Received via the Librarything.com Early reviewers giveaway for an honest review.
  llyramoon | Mar 1, 2013 |
Ursula Le Guin is one of my all time favorite science fiction authors. This collection of short stories holds up alongside any classic American short story writing. ( )
  quilted_kat | Jan 8, 2013 |
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Where on Earth explores Le Guin's earthbound stories which range around the world from small town Oregon to middle Europe in the middle of revolution to summer camp.Companion volume Outer Space, Inner Lands includes Le Guin's best known nonrealistic stories.… (more)

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