WORDS ARE MY MATTER

WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2015, WITH A JOURNAL OF A WRITER’S WEEK

In a review of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Le Guin remarks on a character’s “humor so dry it’s almost ether.” That praise...

Collected nonfiction by the prolific, multiaward-winning writer.

The author of novels (21), short stories (11 volumes), essays (four collections), children’s books (12), poetry (six volumes), and translations (four volumes), Le Guin (Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, 2015, etc.) also writes book reviews and occasional essays, delivers talks, and contributes introductions to other writers’ works. These short pieces comprise a volume that, like many such miscellaneous collections, is uneven, but the few minor pieces are outweighed by several gems. Among the latter is an evocative memoir of the elegant, somewhat eccentric house in which the author grew up in California and where her family lived for 54 years, designed by the renowned architect Bernard Maybeck. The house was “remarkably beautiful, delightfully comfortable, and almost entirely practical.” Not completely, however, since it lacked stairs to the basement, and those to the upper floors ended in steps so narrow, furniture movers “met their doom.” Le Guin remembers the mellow, silken redwood of the interior, which imparted a special, pleasant fragrance. In another moving piece, the author recalls “what it was like to be twenty and pregnant in 1950,” before Roe vs. Wade, risking being expelled from college and choosing to have an abortion rather than bring a child into a bleak future. Many pieces reflect her commitment to craft, her belief in the endurance of the book as physical object, and her objections to the “false categorical value judgment” that elevates “literature” above genre—which would include much of Le Guin’s output of science fiction and children’s books. “Literature is the extant body of written art,” she writes. “All novels belong to it.” One excellent piece, not previously published, rails against “the masculine orientation of discussion of books and authors in the press.”

In a review of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Le Guin remarks on a character’s “humor so dry it’s almost ether.” That praise applies to Le Guin as well in a collection notable for its wit, unvarnished opinions, and passion.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61873-134-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Small Beer Press

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Categories:

NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Categories:

TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Categories:
Close Quickview