Saturday, February 24, 2018

An Appreciation of Ursula K. Le Guin & Lorna Obermayr

By sheer coincidence, I read Le Guin's last novel, Lavinia, in January, inspired by all things Etruscan and Roman after a long-overdue return trip to Italy in the fall of 2017. Then I read her amazing book of tips for writers, from beginners to tired old writers with many books under our figurative belts, Steering the Craft, which is also wise and brilliant. I was building up to writing a fan letter, which I've only done about three times in my long'ish life, when Ursula K. Le Guin passed away a few weeks ago. I was bereft, somehow, and filled with regret.

All that humming and hawing and thinking about the right thing to write to such a great writer and then boom, the moment is lost forever. Well, one more book arrived from within our green linen remote library services bag of books last week and I devoured it and felt, just a little, forgiven in absentia for my dithering. No Time To Spare is a book of Le Guin's blogs, edited with loving care and with an introduction by writer Karen Joy Fowler, a delight to read itself.

Blogs were a discovery for Le Guin, who came across Nobel Prize-winning Jose Saramago's blogs and as a fan of his, she was inspired to become a blogger, which her impish sense of humour had fun with first, as a word nerd will appreciate. The book tackles many subjects-from not having enough time left in her life to write, to the antics of her cat and the views and wildlife she appreciated from a desert cabin retreat. This book was just awarded the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. She writes about anger, diminishing physical stamina, children, music concerts, letters from children and from adults, American politics, and a declawed and defanged lynx in a conservation rescue facility. It is the kind of book aging writers will comprehend most keenly, I think. I remember an artist friend of mine, Lorna Obermayr, exhorting me to do as much work as I could while I was young and strong because the fire in the belly simmers down for some and the physical stamina to stand and paint or to sit and write wanes as we age. Good, sound advice. Thank you, Lorna, gone far too soon. At least I managed to write a short eulogy which another friend read at the celebration of your life.

There are people I meet in this life whom I want, essentially, to live forever or at least, selfishly, as long as me. I adore them, plain and simple. They are brilliant at what they do so they are a source of inspiration just because they are who they are, they work hard and rarely whine about anything, they have integrity, they are big-hearted and they usually have a wicked sense of humour as well. Lorna Obermayr was such a force and so, I sense from her literary legacy and especially this book of essays, her blogs, was Ursula K. Le Guin.

May Ursula Le Guin's fangs and claws last for the rest of the earth's existence! Long live Le Guin! Thank the stars we have writers like her to make us sit up straight, to make us dream, to observe more closely, to think more critically, to love the humans and creatures, wild and domestic, we share the planet with. Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin.


  1. Thank you so much for saying all that! Every word resonates with me. And I'm a fan of Le Guin, too, and just ordered some books of hers that I haven't read. And am rereading some I've owned for a long time, such as The Language of the Night, an early book about science fiction and fantasy writing.

  2. Thank you, Lea. She was very prolific and wide-ranging in her writing, not easy to dismiss, though some lesser writers with pinched walnut-hearts have tried, to pigeon-hole as a genre writer. Or "just" a writer for children or teens, as if that writing was easier (it's not)to look down on, rather like children and teens themselves for some so-called adults. I will now order The Language of the Night with thanks to you for the tip!