frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
What I've just finished

The Left Hand of Darkness! I no longer have this big gap in my Le Guin portfolio. Um, I liked it. It took a long time to get into, like I said before, partly because I wasn't in a reading state of mind but also because I wasn't really connecting with the POV character (Genly), the plot, or the world. That started to change once we started to see Estraven's POV, because OMG I loved Estraven, they are exactly the sort of character I fall for hard. Principled, kind, able to see the big picture and to act for the greater good even when it isn't what's best for them. (I feel like some people think these sorts of characters are boring. I...don't? Or at least not automatically.)

Anyway, once we got into the dual POV, and especially once they got out on the Ice (I am a total sucker for wilderness adventures, plus there was some fun earth science and even a bit of accurate meteorology which is always a happy surprise) I was On Board and finished it pretty quickly. The ending was sad, in that "I should have seen that coming" way. But good. I look forward to reading some fic and re-reading Le Guin's short stories set on Gethen where they do better with pronouns.

Speaking of, it's funny, because I respect TLHoD's place in feminist science fiction history, but reading it in 2015, it doesn't feel very feminist. Especially when Genly is so sexist all the time, and when his statements reinforce the notion that all the other world in the Hainish universe -- except Gethen -- seem to be patriarchal or at least to have gender identities very similar to the ones Le Guin lived in. It does feel a bit sad that, in 1969 Le Guin was able to envision an interplanetary association without a central government, which has apparently abolished war, and has all sorts of amazing technology, but in which women still do the bulk of childrearing and rarely become mathematicians or scientists. And where the POV character disparagingly calls something feminine or womanish every third page, at least for the start of the story. I mean, it's not particularly surprising having read her other work from that time, but still noteworthy.

What I'm currently reading

The Real and the Unreal vol II by Ursula K Le Guin

I'm pretty sure I've already read every short story in this collection, but it'd have been well over a decade for many of them. After reading TLHoD I was in the mood for more Le Guin, and I bought this in e-book form a few months ago. Le Guin's short stories were generally my favorite so I'm glad to be reading them, but I'm still in the very early works period (late 60s, maybe getting into early 70s), whereas I think it's her mid 70s-90s stuff I like best.

BTW, when I looked at Amazon to double check the title of this book, I saw a *ton* of Le Guin e-books. Which was not the case even a few months ago. Part of me is excited since I sold all my books of hers a couple years ago, but I also know she was really against e-books and Amazon in particular. So I want to investigate this more.

What I'll read next

I don't know! I might continue the Le Guin kick, but maybe I should check out something new. I have a huge recs list thanks to y'alls posts.

frayadjacent: Buffy looking bored (BtVS: Buffy bored)
I'm very, very, oh so painfully slowly reading The Left Hand of Darkness. For the first time. After being a Le Guin fiend for most of my 20s. It's the only novel she published between 1968 and 2002 that I haven't read. I bought the book while visiting [personal profile] laurashapiro and lamenting that I had gotten rid of every single Le Guin book I owned when I moved across the world, only to find her works generally are not available as e-books. (Though, to be fair, if the used bookstore I sold them to got them in the hands of someone new to Le Guin, I'm glad I did it.)

Anyway, it's not that I don't like the book, I'm just having a lot of trouble bringing myself to read anything right now, unless it's work related. Which sucks.

I also do not enjoy how sexist the POV character is, but to be honest that isn't the reason I'm getting through it so slowly. I hate when I get like this! I was such an avid reader of fiction as a teenager (besides Le Guin, I mostly read nonfiction in my 20s), and somehow it's just...harder now.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
Questions from [personal profile] chaila:

Favorite books you read this year?

Ha ha ha, is this a leading question? The answer is definitely The Steerswoman series, by Rosemary Kirstein. Though I read some others I liked, most notably Gullstruck Island by Francis Hardinge, The Steerswoman really won my heart. It was so full of love and sympathy for its characters. Like I was just swelling with indescribable love for so many of them! Bel, Steffie, Rowan, Zenna, so many Outskirters whose names I can't recall right now...<3 <3 <3

Its world was so refreshingly lacking in patriarchy. It had accurate meteorology! And the journey of discovering what the world was really about has been so great. I loved reading Rowan's thought process and working through the reasoning with her. I can't wait for more! Also I can't wait to re-read all the books; I have a feeling I'll be coming back to all of these. And maybe when I do I'll have more intelligent things to say, mostly I want to flail at them right now. And as I was writing this and thinking about tomorrow's post I started reading James Nicholl's review of The Outskirter's Secret and later (I never did read those reviews when reading the books) and now I *really* want to re-read. Speaking of ...

Are there any books that you always return and reread?

Not really, not since I was a kid. However, I tend to return to the same authors time and again. Almost all of my fiction reading from age 18 to about 24 was Ursula K Le Guin. I lived in a college town with a fantastic used bookstore that had almost everything she'd ever written on its shelves, and between that and the library I managed to get my hands on her entire oeuvre prior to 2004 or 2005 (when I stopped reading her new work). I discarded a few of her early novels -- I think I read Rocannon's World, her first novel, but neither of the two that came after despite having paid money for the trilogy. More shockingly, perhaps, I threw down The Left Hand of Darkness in disgust with her insistence on using male pronouns for characters who had no gender. I never got more than about 50 pages in, and never tried it again. Later I felt partially vindicated when I read an essay where she self-criticises that choice.

But I did reread most of my favorites: The Dispossessed, The Earthsea Cycle, The Telling, The Compass Rose, The Birthday of the World, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. The last three of these are short story collections; many of the stories are set in the Hainish universe, which I love and always longed for more of. And the last book contains what's likely my favorite short story ever: "Another Story". And The Birthday of the World contains a story set in the same world as The Left Hand of Darkness, but with a more thoughtful presentation of sex, gender, and pronouns, and it's a wonderful story.

As much as I loved Four Ways to Forgiveness, I was never able to reread it because it's so violent.

I got rid of almost all of my books, including all of my Le Guin, when I moved to Australia. Writing this is making me wish I had her stuff on hand, and it looks like a lot of it might not be available digitally. Oh well.

I've also reread the Harry Potter books and His Dark Materials, but again, only once. And Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are high on my reread list. I have a strong impulse to return to fiction I know I love and an equally strong feeling that I aught to be more open to trying new things; the result is a stalemate where I don't read as much fiction as I used to.

Though part of it is also that I enjoy non-fiction as well. But I'm even less inclined to re-read that. :)

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