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It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine

Colin Burrow: Language-Magic, 21 January 2021

Ursula K. Le GuinThe Last Interview and Other Conversations 
edited by David Streitfeld.
Melville House, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2019, 978 1 61219 779 1
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The Carrier Bag Theory Of Fiction 
by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Ignota, 42 pp., £4.99, November 2019, 978 1 9996759 9 8
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... elsewhere?’SF sometimes poses that kind of question. But in the hands of an author like Ursula Le Guin, science fiction ‘isn’t really about the future’, as she put it in The Last Interview. ‘It’s about the present.’ It changes one or two structuring facts about the world as it is and asks: ‘What ...

Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... have seriously explored what life would be like in a sexless but otherwise human society, although Ursula Le Guin, in her very effective Science Fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness has tried to do so. Whether consciously or not, Ms Le Guin set the action of her novel on a planet where ...

Toxic Sausages

Chris Power: ‘Life Is Everywhere’, 25 January 2024

Life Is Everywhere 
by Lucy Ives.
Peninsula, 452 pp., £12.99, April 2023, 978 1 913512 29 3
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... including the bill, occupy the next 250 pages of the book and are introduced with an epigraph from Ursula Le Guin’s essay ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ (1986): ‘I now propose the bottle as hero.’ Le Guin mentions that Virginia Woolf, in her notes for Three Guineas, defined ...

All hail the microbe

Lavinia Greenlaw: Things Pile Up, 18 June 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
by David Farrier.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 00 828634 7
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... not the fixed points we might take them for. In a chapter on the plastic bottle, Farrier invokes Ursula Le Guin, whose ‘Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ adapts a concept from the American anthropologist Elizabeth Fisher: that the first real ‘cultural device’ was not a weapon or a tool but a container. As Le ...

How many times?

Nicole Flattery: Catherine Lacey, 16 July 2020

by Catherine Lacey.
Granta, 207 pp., £12.99, May, 978 1 78378 517 9
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... seem redundant. Pew is less playful than this earlier work and wears its influences, including Ursula Le Guin and Flannery O’Connor, heavily. Pew is like O’Connor in the way a Netflix Shirley Jackson adaptation is like Shirley Jackson – which is to say not very – and its failings are only made more obvious by the ...

Utopia in Texas

Glen Newey: Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, 19 January 2017

by Thomas More, edited by George M. Logan, translated by Robert M. Adams.
Cambridge, 141 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 1 107 56873 0
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by Thomas More, translated by Gilbert Burnet.
Verso, 216 pp., £8.99, November 2016, 978 1 78478 760 8
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... divine Gilbert Burnet with an introduction by China Miéville and a series of concluding essays by Ursula Le Guin. Miéville decks More in punk garb while arguing, plausibly, that capitalism by its nature rules out effective curbs on anthropogenic environmental catastrophe and, less plausibly, that the latter has nothing to ...

Making a Break

Terry Eagleton: Fredric Jameson’s Futures, 9 March 2006

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 431 pp., £20, September 2005, 1 84467 033 3
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... His grandly panoptic method, ranging from Parmenides to Soviet science fiction, Leibniz to Ursula Le Guin, represents a kind of transcendence of time and space, as he himself becomes a kind of science-fiction superbrain presiding over history and pulling its shattered bits and pieces into unity. There is something ...

Then You Are Them

Fredric Jameson: Atwood, 10 September 2009

The Year of the Flood 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 434 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 7475 8516 9
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... book not the expression of an ideological doctrine? In a post-feminist age, whose great writers (Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Christa Wolf) are not women writers but just writers, Atwood does not easily fit some category labelled feminist: The Robber Bride, whose male figures are mostly not even violent but simply inept ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Turner: Naomi Klein, 5 October 2023

... is both more literary and more personal than Klein’s other books. She reads Freud and Poe and Ursula Le Guin and Dostoevsky, and gets over her loathing of Philip Roth’s misogyny to find a surprising richness in the Bundism-Zionism face-off dramatised in Operation Shylock (1993); her bad back, her son’s ...

Kick over the Scenery

Stephanie Burt: Philip K. Dick, 3 July 2008

Four Novels of the 1960s: ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, ‘Ubik’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 830 pp., $35, May 2008, 978 1 59853 009 4
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Five Novels of the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Martian Time-Slip’, ‘Dr Bloodmoney’, ‘Now Wait for Last Year’, ‘Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 1128 pp., $40, August 2008, 978 1 59853 025 4
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... became the CIA. Tiptree won over SF’s feminists in the 1970s – both the irenic ones such as Ursula K. Le Guin and radicals such as Joanna Russ – even while other readers felt sure that Tiptree was a man. Sheldon held Dick’s writing in higher regard than he held it himself, though she did not take him up on his ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell, 11 May 2006

Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... Flaubert, Hesse or Kafka – the most ‘impressive’ names on his bookshelf are Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin and John Wyndham – but at a village meeting to discuss what to do about a proposed Gypsy campsite, he reflects that ‘the villagers wanted the Gypsies to be gross, so the grossness of what they’re not acts ...

Making poison

Patrick Parrinder, 20 March 1986

The Handmaid’s Tale 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 324 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 224 02348 9
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... message is likely to be. After the excitement generated a few years ago by the feminist utopias of Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy and Joanna Russ, the appearance of a female dystopia by a writer as eminent as Margaret Atwood will itself be seen as a literary-political event, perhaps even as a breaking of the ranks. Certainly ...


Julian Loose, 30 January 1992

The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... Gibson. Similarly, Murakami’s fantasy narrative is more reminiscent of the elegant allegories of Ursula le Guin than the sword and sorcery adventures of, say, Anne McCaffrey. In the parallel story, the city’s burly Gatekeeper tells the newcomer that his allotted task is to ‘read’ dreams: to trace with his fingertips ...

1984 and ‘1984’

Randolph Quirk, 16 February 1984

... presuppositions in language that angers the feminist Utopian novelists like Esmé Dodderidge, Ursula Le Guin or Marge Piercy. Significantly, on the very first page of 1985, the point is made that nobody can be held responsible: not even for the obstetric maltreatment which has resulted in Bev’s child being ...

He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita

Amia Srinivasan: How Should I Refer to You?, 2 July 2020

What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She 
by Dennis Baron.
Liveright, 304 pp., £16.99, February 2020, 978 1 63149 604 2
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... the singular ‘they’ as its word of the decade. It shows up in plenty of respectable places. Ursula Le Guin – who also experimented with e/es/en in her feminist science fiction – called the prohibition on the singular ‘they’ a ‘fake rule’ enforced by ‘grammar bullies’. So far, I have used ‘they’ and ...

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