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The Unreal and the Real, Selected Stories 1:…

The Unreal and the Real, Selected Stories 1: Where on Earth (2012)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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This book was a bit hit and miss for me. Some of the short stories were engrossing from the first word others I just found myself skimming. I think I'm just not a huge short story fan. I either need more to become really close to a character or perhaps I just didn't find some of the stories to be interesting.

What Le Guin does that's pretty amazing is that she often picks the little moments, things that weren't important, and writes about those. Maybe these are more like glimpses into peoples lives and not stories. That is one aspect that I quite like.

( )
  sscarllet | Dec 15, 2015 |
Ursula Le Guin has been a significant force in my reading life since I borrowed A Wizard of Earthsea from North Watford library, around age 8 or 9. This career-spanning selection of short stories was an interesting and moving experience to revisit old favourites (‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas’), to discover some new-to-me tales (especially ‘The Poacher’, a variation on Sleeping Beauty), and to be reminded of the early roots of both the Hainish universe and Earthsea. Ursula Le Guin is one of my all time favourite writers, because the worlds she creates have grown and changed over time, challenging me to reflect, grow and change too. And because she tells brilliant stories, whether a few or a 100 pages long, at novel length, or across the now six books following Ged, Tenar and others on their life’s journeys across the islands of Earthsea. ( )
  Bernadette877 | Apr 28, 2015 |

Is there anything that Ursula does wrong?

Didn't think so. ( )
  coolsnak3 | Feb 3, 2015 |
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 |
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I begged people—editors, friends, third cousins once removed—to help me select stories for this collection, but nobody would. So all the credit for good choices and all the blame for bad ones is mine. If something you rightfully expected to find here isn't here, I'm sorry. I had to leave out a lot of stories, because I've written a lot of them. [from "Introduction: Choosing and Dividing"]
The injured quarrier lay on a high hospital bed. He had not recovered consciousness. His silence was grand and oppressive; his body under the sheet that dropped in stiff folds, his face were as indifferent as stone. The mother, as if challenged by that silence and indifference, spoke loudly: "What did you do it for? Do you want to die before I do? Look at him, look at him, my beauty, my hawk, my river, my son!" Her sorrow boasted of itself. She rose to the occasion like a lark to the morning. His silence and her outcry meant the same thing: the unendurable made welcome. The younger son stood listening. They bore him down with their grief as large as life. Unconscious, heedless, broken like a piece of chalk, that body, his brother, bore him down with the weight of the flesh, and he wanted to run away, to save himself. [from "Brothers and Sisters"]
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Two volume set. Do not combine with the individual volumes.
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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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