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Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Always Coming Home (original 1985; edition 1986)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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1,529174,807 (3.88)1 / 100
Member:selfnoise
Title:Always Coming Home
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Spectra (1986), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fantasy, social fiction, portlandbooksale, read

Work details

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin (1985)

  1. 20
    Ammonite by Nicola Griffith (Anonymous user)
  2. 20
    Engine Summer by John Crowley (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another book about a post apocalyptic civilization which pays particular attention to the details of art, language, culture, religion, etc.
  3. 00
    Ker Shus by Tor Åge Bringsværd (spiphany)
  4. 00
    Pacific Edge: Three Californias (Wild Shore Triptych) by Kim Stanley Robinson (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two Pacific Coast ecotopias
  5. 00
    Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (sturlington)
    sturlington: The underlying themes are similar: a return to the pre-industrial way of life, respect for the land, set in California post-apocalypse, with feminist undertones.
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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Sort of an exercise in building a low-tech society set after our industrial modern age. The people of the Valley live a largely peaceful, non-hierarchical communal life that prioritizes listening and understanding, and considers being generous synonymous with wealth. The poor are those who do not give; giving makes one rich. It's fascinating, and I loved the ways the world building was woven into Stone Telling's story, and how the world building sections (hundreds of pages of an anthropologist's notes) enriched my understanding of Stone Telling's sections. That said, the notes were so very long that at times I skimmed them.

This is not a novel, and expecting it to follow the conventions of that form will lead to disappointment. There's a fourteen page glossary, several hundred pages of songs, poems, and novel excerpts from the Valley culture, even extracts from the galactic computer system of the future about the Valley. And there are wonderfully meta moments, like this interchange between Pandora the anthropologist and her interview subject, a librarian of the Valley people:
Pandora: I never did like smartass utopians. Always so much healthier and saner and sounder and fitter and kinder and tougher and wiser and righter than me and my family and friends. People who have the answers are boring, niece. Boring, boring, boring.
Archivist: But I have no answers and this isn't utopia, aunt!
Pandora: The hell it ain't.
Archivist: This is a mere dream dreamed in a bad time, an Up Yours to the people who ride snowmobiles, make nuclear weapons, and run prison camps by a middle-aged housewife, a critique of civilization possible only to the civilized, an affirmation pretending to be a rejection, a glass of milk for the soul ulcered by acid rain, a piece of pacifist jeanjacquerie, and a cannibal dance among the savages in the ungodly garden of the farthest West.
Pandora: You can't talk that way!
Archivist: True.
Pandora: Go sing heya, like any savage.
Archivist: Only if you'll sing with me.

This is a complex work, and I know I didn't get all of it--if I read this many times, I think I would understand something new, or differently, every time. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
My all time favorite title. I long to live there. I've even got the tape of songs ( )
  juniperSun | Jan 5, 2015 |
I expected to take a long time over Always Coming Home. In a way, I wish I had: there's a lot in it, and a lot to reward a slower, careful reading -- this time I went plunging through it for the narrative, such as it was, enjoying the layers of understanding that came to me, imagining and figuring out what I didn't know. I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, this time: another time, I think I will. I just wanted to fly through it, this time, total immersion in a culture that does not exist.

Always Coming Home is a collection of stories, of fake-histories, of poems and plays and things that do not neatly fit into our genres, belonging to a culture that does not exist. The first note says it best, "The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern Carolina." It seems to be the story almost of the Native peoples, and then it begins to mention computers and other technologies of our day... The way the world came to be this way isn't really seen clearly, only seen in its effects on the people. It's very interesting to read this way: interesting, and frustrating, because like real history, it doesn't always show you the bits you most want to see.

Ursula Le Guin's writing is beautiful, as always, and easy to read and understand despite the invented words and concepts. I sort of imagine this as the way she might build up any culture, in any book, through the scraps of their literature and histories that come to her... It's quite a nice thought, actually.

I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, preferring to keep things vaguer, not spelled out. I will probably read it one day, but not now.

Though I greatly enjoyed this, I don't know if I'd dare recommend it to anyone. For me it required some patience with the original idea, which turned into delight as Ursula Le Guin once more captured my heart. For others, who didn't find Earthsea compelling, it'd be dry as dust, I think. And as with many books, but particularly with those that are a bit different, someone might find they love it, when they have never loved Le Guin's work before -- or that they hate it, when they've always loved her work. ( )
1 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I love this ethnography of a fictional culture -- it could be the notes for a novel that was never written, but then two-thirds of it would have been discarded under the Kill Your Darlings rule. It's bigger, somehow, for being what it is instead; a multitude of stories, songs, recipes, practices, histories, essays, and other depictions of the lives of people who might live someday. ( )
  Rubygarnet | Apr 2, 2012 |
This was re-read for a group read, and I enjoyed reading it again. Le Guin's parents were anthropologists, with her father concentrating on cultures in the American Northwest, and their influence has always been discernible in her science fiction, but nowhere more so than here. This is not a linear story but an immersion into a post-apocalyptic world from the viewpoint of one cultural group. Both for this group, the Sinshan in their valley, and for the Condor, Le Guin accurately uses many features present in the aboriginal cultures of the Northwest and the Northern plains. The culture is shared not only by narrative but by song, poem, legend, and infrastructure, giving a rich, multi-layered texture to the society. The author, as Pandora, frets about her approach, but ultimately speaks her true purpose, I believe, in the chapter of Pandora speaking with the archivist.

ARC: But I have no answers and this isn't utopia, aunt!
PAN: The hell it ain't.
ARC: This is a mere dream dreamed in a bad time, an Up Yours to the people who ride snowmobiles, make nuclear weapons, and run prison camps by a middle-aged housewife, a critique of civilisation possible only to the civilised, an affirmation pretending to be a rejection, a glass of milk for the soul ulcered by acid rain, a piece of pacifist jeanjacquerie, and a cannibal dance among the savages in the ungodly garden of the farthest West. ( )
  ronincats | Apr 23, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barton, ToddComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hersh, GeorgeGeomancersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chodos, MargaretIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hopkins, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Stone Telling is my last name.
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They might be going to have lived.
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Book description
Always Coming Home is a novel by author Ursula K. Le Guin, published in 1985, about a cultural group of humans—the Kesh—who "might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California." Part novel, part textbook, part anthropologist's record, Always Coming Home explains the life and culture of the Kesh people.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553262807, Mass Market Paperback)

Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:26 -0400)

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Always coming home "is a rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork and music" that "immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley onthe Northern Pacific Coast."--Cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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