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Dancing at the Edge of the World by Ursula…

Dancing at the Edge of the World (edition 1992)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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585816,858 (4.13)20
Title:Dancing at the Edge of the World
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Paladin (1992), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Reference
Tags:essays, le guin, @reference

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Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula K. Le Guin



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I have been greatly enjoying reading this book as my bathtub book for the first 2/3 of July. Long on my shelves, I pulled it out in response to the July Nonfiction Challenge: Creators and Creativity. And it fit the billing perfectly. This is a collection of Le Guin's talks, essays and reviews from 1976 to 1988. I only have half a dozen tags sticking out of the pages, but I could have had 4 times that number. The leisurely pace of reading an article a day left space for taking the time to let the ideas emerge and submerge themselves in my consciousness as she talks about writing, women and women's experience of writing and how it may differ from men's, and some perfectly lovely travelogue diary excerpts where one wants to roll oneself in the luxuriousness of the written language. She is sharp, acerbic, wise, deep, tolerant, critical, and creative. I immediately went to Amazon to buy her latest nonfiction collection, [Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week], skipping over the two collections in between (for the time being, at least) as I want to see what she is thinking about NOW after reading her thoughts of 30 years ago. ( )
1 vote ronincats | Jul 23, 2017 |
I think Ursula Le Guin's collections of essays were the first non-fictional works that I really learned to appreciate. I was very much not a non-fiction person at the time, but Le Guin's writing is always so full of clarity, so well considered, that it draws me in when it's non-fiction as surely as when it's prose.

Obviously some of these essays are somewhat dated now, written and edited in the 70s and 80s, but there's still a lot of interest there. Le Guin's thoughts on the gender issues in The Left Hand of Darkness, for example, years after it was published, years after she originally wrote about it, for example. Or her reflections on her mother's life, or on Jo March as one of the few female writers in fiction to be a writer and have a family at the same time... A personal gem for me was coming across, in the section containing book reviews, a review of C.S. Lewis that almost inevitably also reflected on J.R.R. Tolkien:

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis's close friend and colleague, certainly shared many of Lewis's views and was also a devout Christian. But it all comes out very differently in his fiction. Take his handling of evil: his villains are orcs and Black Riders (goblins and zombies: mythic figures) and Sauron, the Dark Lord, who is never seen and has no suggestion of humanity about him. These are not evil men but embodiments of the evil in men, universal symbols of the hateful. The men who do wrong are not complete figures but complements: Saruman is Gandalf's dark-self, Boromir Aragorn's; Wormtongue is, almost literally, the weakness of King Theoden. There remains the wonderfully repulsive and degraded Gollum. But nobody who reads the trilogy hates, or is asked to hate, Gollum. Gollum is Frodo's shadow; and it is the shadow, not the hero, who achieves the quest. Though Tolkien seems to project evil into "the others", they are not truly others but ourselves; he is utterly clear about this. His ethic, like that of dream, is compensatory. The final "answer" remains unknown. But because responsibility has been accepted, charity survives. And with it, triumphantly, the Golden Rule. The fact is, if you like the book, you love Gollum.
In Lewis, responsibility appears only in the form of the Christian hero fighting and defeating the enemy: a triumph, not of love, but of hatred. The enemy is not oneself but the Wholly Other, demoniac.

I'm not sure I agree with all of that -- the Southrons are most definitely Othered, and I'm not sure they're meant to be universal symbols of the hateful. Or rather, if they are, and perhaps they are, we need to examine why Tolkien made that decision. But I do think that this is an informative way of looking at the two authors, which reflects a lot on Le Guin herself as well. ( )
1 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
This is such intelligent, engrossing writing. I made my husband listen to me read several of the essays outloud so that I could discuss them with him. If you are a woman, or know one, do yourself a favor and read this. You might not agree with what she says, but she makes coherent, passionate arguments that are worth your time. ( )
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
From the back:

"From modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos--in this classic collection of essays, Ursula K. Le Guin roves with her customary audacity over the intersecting arenas of literature, feminism, and social responsibility, exploding any received notions she comes across and revealing visionary possibilities in their stead. Le Guin is an authentic wise woman, remembering, performing and passing on the ancient ceremony of celebration, dancing "the dance of renewal, the dance that made the world"--and in this collection, she does so with a wit and eloquence that make for exhilarating reading."

My review:

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my all-time favorite authors. I've read nearly everything she's written--science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, non-fiction. She is a brilliant writer and this collection of essays does not disappoint. I did an extensive interview with Ms. Le Guin a few years ago. The entire transcript is available at my website: www.faithljustice.com. ( )
  MarysGirl | Sep 4, 2010 |
I’ve actually recommended this book many times to people of all reading backgrounds. If you’re a woman, especially with any kind of feminist bent, you should read this book. If you’re a writer, you should read this book. If you’re both, what the hell are you waiting for? Le Guin is a must, especially for those of us struggling to define ourselves in male-dominated genres. And as mentioned behind the cut, Le Guin is passionate about diversity, so if you’re a writer who’s passionate about that, don’t discount her simply because she’s a white female. Le Guin has been noted to be one of the first writers to appeal to readers of all colors. Thank her anthropologist parents for that.

But I don’t want to limit my recommendation to just writers. Nor do I want to limit my recommendation to only readers of the science fiction/fantasy genres. Le Guin is well-educated, and it shows. She talks Woolf; she talks Stein. Her observations of the world around her will make any one paying any attention sit up and take notice. Le Guin writes with a gentle cadence and humor, and her sarcasm is as subtle as it is sharp. It takes a moment for it to sink in, and it makes you go back and think.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it over and over again: Le Guin makes you think. Even if you don’t agree with her, she’ll make you think.

For a full review, please click here: http://calico-reaction.livejournal.com/26710.html ( )
1 vote devilwrites | Apr 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802135293, Paperback)

“I have decided that the trouble with print is, it never changes its mind,” writes Ursula Le Guin in her introduction to Dancing at the Edge of the World. But she has, and here is the record of that change in the decade since the publication of her last nonfiction collection, The Language of the Night. And what a mind — strong, supple, disciplined, playful, ranging over the whole field of its concerns, from modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos, with an eloquence, wit, and precision that makes for exhilarating reading.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:57 -0400)

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