Monday, July 27, 2009

Ursula Le Guin at The New Yorker

The New Yorker Book Club has been discussing The Left Hand of Darkness. And in conjunction with that, Ursula Le Guin has given the Club an interview, First Contact: A Talk with Ursula K. Le Guin. Here's a taste, to whet your appetite:

t’s noted in the book that Gethenians remain female for the duration of pregnancy and a six-to-eight-month lactation period, then revert to androgyny, which eliminates any “possessive” maternal instinct. How did you envision this shortened experience of motherhood for Gethenians? The hormonal bond between a nursing mother and her baby could be considered as powerful as that between kemmerings.

Wow, did I only give them six to eight months to nurse? How stupid! A clear reflection of the strange and universal American ethnic practices concerning childbirth and early maternity, to which I was fully subjected as a three-time mother.

In the fifties and early sixties, breastfeeding was not expected; the bottle was the norm. Doctors and nurses and books all insisted that if you were so lower-class as to breastfeed, your milk must be “supplemented” by formula, and even by water. (If you want an angry baby, just give her a nice bottle of lukewarm water—here, honey, isn’t it yummy?) And the baby was supposed “go off the breast” within a few months.

By 1964, when I had No. 3, I was paying no attention to all that nonsense, and nursed him as long as he and I wanted, about two years....But I went and made the Gethenians act like good American girls of 1960?! I am so sorry!

No comments: