Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Coping with Le Guin

Bookslut has posted an essay by Julie Phillips, The Real and Unreal: Ursula K. Le Guin, American Novelist, that is as much about placing Le Guin's work in literature as it is a review of The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin." She writes:
It wouldn't surprise me if future literary critics read Le Guin as an important ancestor, the writer who brought imagination into realist American literature. She helped teach a generation of young writers to mix literature with the low-culture energy of genre.
Writers who venture into what Michael Chabon calls the "borderlands," literary fiction that draws on the fantastic, are almost all following Le Guin's map. Junot Díaz, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem, Victor LaValle all cite her influence. Just think of her as the éminence grise of the American imagination.
Phillips notes, "It's been hard for reviewers to cope with Le Guin. She's often seemed like a writer without a critical context. But that may just mean that the context is still to come." And although a lot of scholars of science fiction have written about her work (usually in thematic terms), I think she's absolutely right about that.Phillips' essay is a start at thinking how a critical context might actually begin to take shape.

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