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

Date: 2015-07-30 13:21 (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
I just read this too! Did you read it for the reading club as well? I forget who on my rlist know each other...

The ending totally got me by surprise, which I don't evwn know why because as you say it was fairly obvious. I also didn't really engage with it until Genly was imprisoned and it became clear that Eatraven would save him. I really enjoyed the journey on the ice! I kept thinking back to how much I hated the journey through the woods in Fellowship of the Ring and wondering what made Le Guin so different from that...

Anyway, I also felt like reading MOAR afterwards, but still have two other reading club books to do, and then I'm back at work, so even if I wanted to read more Le Guin I probably don't have time for it. I'm sorry to hear she was against ebooks. I read LHoD in fan-edited epub (I don't have many compunctions of not-buying books by authors who have passed on anyway, *hands*).

Date: 2015-07-31 07:23 (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
I think you're right that Le Guin manages to balance the cool nature descriptions with interesting character interactions - Genly and Estraven are constantly getting to know each other better.

Ack! Your phrasing just seemed to confirm what I had been assuming the whole time! I think I have had her mixed up with another older female writer, who I'm pretty sure passed not that long ago... I really should find another way to get ebooks, but Amazon just makes it so darn convenient :/

The fan-edit was "just" a scan of the '97 edition. It seems to have been manually edited several times to fix scan errors and add italics etc.

What a coincidence! :D It's so nice to have people to talk to about the stuff you read!

Date: 2015-07-31 20:33 (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
They've really made it inconvenient to store other things on the Kindle (but not impossible - yet). The real problem for me is that Whispersync works really, really seamlessly, which means I can't only pick up where I left off on phone/tablet/kindle/computer, but that I can even decide whether I want to read or listen. I love that function so much :(

Date: 2015-07-30 14:24 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Le Guin is still alive, so if her work is being distributed electronically, she's either had a change of heart or her publisher is violating her wishes.

Glad you did ultimately enjoy TLHoD! I hear what you're saying about it not being very feminist, but I do think making Genly a sexist was part of the book's mission statement. The whole experience on Gethen is meant to blow his tiny mind.

IIRC, the other worlds of the Ekumen aren't necessarily patriarchal and heteronormative. There is O, for example, with its group marriages, and of course Anarres. But her early work does indeed have some fairly standard gender representations. Like you, I tend to prefer her middle period.

Date: 2015-08-04 21:08 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
I really hope Amazon isn't ripping off Le Guin. That would be wrong on so many levels.

I think, if it weren't for having read Le Guin's other work from that time period (namely The Wizard of Earthsea), I'd totally subscribe to that reading as well.

Hmm. I think Ged is similar to Genly in that he starts off pretty clueless about gender. But as you suggest, I'm not sure that was her original point -- the first three books are pretty gender-rigid, which I have always assumed is why she wrote the rest of the series later.

OTOH, Earthsea wasn't explicitly ABOUT gender in the way TLHoD is. I have to assume at least some, if not most, of Genly's gender-cluelessness is intentional, just because that's the theme Le Guin is exploring.

I have The Fisherman of the Inland Sea! "The Shobies' Story" is one of my very favorites. I crave more Ekumen, always.

Date: 2015-08-15 18:43 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Now you're making me want to reread all the Le Guin I own. The horror!

Date: 2015-08-18 14:09 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Good point!

Date: 2015-07-30 15:23 (UTC)
blueswan: (never enough books)
From: [personal profile] blueswan
TLHOD is among my SF&F re-reads. I think you helped bump it further up the list. It has been ages since I last read it.

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