On the infinite wisdom of Ursula Le Guin

I’m rereading A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s marvelously wise, and to think that it was one of the earliest of Le Guin’s published novels! I’ve read interviews with Le Guin, where she credits her discovery of feminism with uplifting her career. “A Wizard of Earthsea” predates her feminist work, but there are fun ways of reading it as a proto-feminist narrative, I believe.

Here’s a passage that comes at the end of Ged’s schooling; he’s graduated and became a full-staffed wizard. Now he needs to leave the school, and for that he needs to guess the name of The Master Doorkeeper.

Ged knew a thousand ways and crafts and means for finding out names of things and of men, of course; such craft was a part of everything he had learned at school, for without it there could be little useful magic done. But to find out the name of a Mage and Master was another matter. A mage’s name is better hidden than a herring in the sea, better guarded than a dragon’s den. A prying charm will be met with a stronger charm, subtle devices will fail, devious inquiries will be deviously thwarted, and force will be turned ruinously back upon itself. . . . .

 

After the sun was up Ged went, still fasting, to the door of the House and knocked. The Doorkeeper opened.

“Master,” said Ged, “I cannot take your name from you, not being strong enough, and I cannot trick your name from you, not being wise enough. So I am content to stay here, and learn or serve, whatever you will: unless by chance you will answer a question I have.”

“Ask it.”

“What is your name?”

Buy and read the rest of the book.

Счастьеведение по методу «Хлоп-страны»

Еще одна рецензия на “Хлоп-страну”:

Это естественное любопытство автора, а также постоянное желание проникнуть глубже поверхностного восприятия – в самую сердцевину отношений – помогает Ольге Гренец, казалось бы, самую незначительную ситуацию превратить в историю, имеющую глубину. Рассказ «Любить перемены» появился из короткой переписки дочери, живущей в США, с матерью, которая, выйдя на пенсию, приняла неожиданное решение учить английский язык. Всего несколько вопросов по переводу английских фраз – а для автора это повод поразмышлять об отношениях между родителями и детьми, о сестринском соперничестве, о том, насколько крепкими остаются семейные узы, даже когда жизнь разбрасывает членов одной семьи по всему земному шару.

Продолжение тут.

Death Sentences

I’m loving this blog project that asks readers to document “The last sentence you read before decisively, or agonizingly gradually, abandoning a book.”

The selections are curated–an art project in their own right–and make for some captivating reading. Each sentence opens up a wholly new range of considerations of the myriad decisions that go into abandoning a book.

Clark Coolidge’s Collected Poems

Excited to learn that Clark Coolidge’s new Collected Poems is being published in April. I’m well-connected! Got an email from City Lights, announcing his reading on April 13, and also an email from the publisher, Station Hill Press. Apparently, Publishers Weekly declined to review this book — which is a sure sign of a certain kind of quality. Coolidge’s experiments from 1962 to 1986 still feel experimental!  This book comes with the coolidge-cover-largeintroduction by the late poet Bill Berkson.

I learned of Coolidge’s work several years ago, when asked to review his long poem that came out of trips to Leningrad-Petersburg. That review appeared in HTMLGiant. I’ve been following his work ever since. What appeals to me the most is the sense of play that comes from reading his lines, the attitude toward poetry and language as something to take apart and mold in new ways, as though just to see what will happen. A reading act calls for some kind of an interaction, for a partner to whom I could speak some lines, and who would laugh and nod in response. That’s cool. This falls flat. Read that again.

Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow

Peg Alford Pursell is one of the writers whose work I’ve been following for some years, having met her when she moved to the Bay Area and became a regular, for a time, at the San Francisco Writers Workshop. It’s a particular pleasure to hold in my hands a book that I feel I already know intimately, from having seen some of the stories in drafts, from knowing the author’s aesthetic and using that as a jumping off point into the reading. my-book-cover-in-this-size-2_2_0

But what if the book proves to be too familiar, too well-known, its movements too predictable? Will the writer still surprise, like a partner after many years of marriage? The risk is high, and the reward — oh the reward. Being allowed into the inner world of another human being, being encouraged to examine the corridors of her heart, laid out in all of their complexity, the dizzying sensation of falling into the words as into a looking glass.

Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow delivers all that. I’m about halfway through. Looking at its cover, I thought of describing it as baroque for a kind of exuberance in the detail of the bird and the petals. Such a perfect cover to this book, where the sparseness of language coexists with sudden proliferation, of streamlined sentences opening unexpectedly into luxurious, and soaring, flourishes.

The Courtyard in the Mirror

The Courtyard in the Mirror [“Der Hof im Spiegel”]

by Emine Sevgi Özdamar

Translated by Leslie A. Adelson

I thought she had died. I was standing in the kitchen with my back against the radiator, waiting for the sad light in her room, in the house across the way, where she lived, to go on in the large mirror that was attached to the wall over my kitchen table. For years her light from the house on the other side of the courtyard had been my setting sun. Whenever I saw her lighted window in the kitchen mirror, and only then, I turned on the light in my apartment. Now I was standing in the dark and had a cookie in my hand, but wasn’t eating it. I was afraid I would make too much noise. If she had died

Read the rest of this beautiful story in UC Berkeley’s magazine Transit.