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Ursula K. Le Guin

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photo by Denise Rehse Watson

Ursula K. Le Guin is the one modern science fiction author who truly needs no introduction. In the half century since The Left Hand of Darkness, her works have changed not only the face but the tone and the agenda of Science Fiction, introducing themes of gender, race, socialism and anarchism, all the while thrilling readers with trips to strange (and strangely familiar) new worlds. She is our exemplar of what fantastic literature can and should be about.

Most of Le Guin's major titles have remained continuously in print, some for over forty years. Her best known fantasy works, the six Books of Earthsea, have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into sixteen languages. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered epoch-making in the field for its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity. Her novels The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home redefine the scope and style of utopian fiction, while the realistic stories of a small Oregon beach town in Searoad show her permanent sympathy with the ordinary griefs of ordinary people. Among her books for children, the Catwings series has become a particular favorite. Her version of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a translation she worked on for forty years, has received high praise.

Three of Le Guin's books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors her writing has received are a National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, SFWA's Grand Master, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, etc.

Keep your eyes peeled for Arwen Curry's forthcoming documentary (in 2018): Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin's rousing speech at the National Book Awards, November 19th, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Purchasing Links

Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-122-6
Published: 12/2015
Format: Hardcover
Size: 8x5
Page count: 112
Subjects: Poetry-Collection

Late in the Day, Ursula K. Le Guin’s newest collection of poems, seeks meaning in an ever-connected world. In part evocative of Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and Mary Oliver’s poetic guides to the natural world, Le Guin gives voice to objects that may not speak a human language but communicate with us nevertheless through and about the seasonal rhythms of the earth, the minute and the vast, the ordinary and the mythological.

As Le Guin herself states, “science explicates, poetry implicates.” Accordingly, this immersive, tender collection implicates us (in the best sense) in a subjectivity of everyday objects and occurrences. Deceptively simple in form, the poems stand as an invitation both to dive deep and to step outside of ourselves and our common narratives. As readers, we emerge refreshed, having peered underneath cultural constructs toward the necessarily mystical and elemental, no matter how late in the day.

The poems are bookended with two short essays, “Deep in Admiration” and “Form, Free Verse, Free Form: Some Thoughts.”


“ ...a life-long observer of humanity and nature, who has borne critical witness to over eighty years of the modern age.”
—Jillian Saucier, Rattle

“She never loses touch with her reverence for the immense what is.”
—Margaret Atwood

“There is no writer with an imagination as forceful and delicate as Ursula K. Le Guin’s.”
—Grace Paley

“Le Guin’s down-to-earth, intensely personal voice is unmistakable.”
Los Angeles Times

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The Wild Girls
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Publisher: PM Press (Outspoken Author Series)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-403-8
Published May 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 7.5 by 5
Length: 112 Pages
Subjects: Science Fiction

Nebula winner The Wild Girls, newly revised and presented here in book form for the first time, tells of two captive “dirt children” in a society of sword and silk, whose determination to enter “that possible even when unattainable space in which there is room for justice” leads to a violent and loving end.
Plus: Le Guin’s scandalous and scorching Harper’s essay, "Staying Awake While We Read," (also collected here for the first time) which demolishes the pretensions of corporate publishing and the basic assumptions of capitalism as well. And, of course, our Outspoken Interview,  which promises to reveal the hidden dimensions of America’s best-known SF author. And delivers. 


“Idiosyncratic and convincing, Le Guin’s characters have a long afterlife.” —Publishers Weekly

“Her worlds are haunting psychological visions molded with firm artistry.” —The Library Journal

“If you want excess and risk and intelligence, try Le Guin.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Her characters are complex and haunting, and her writing is remarkable for its sinewy grace.” —Time

“She wields her pen with a moral and psychological sophistication rarely seen. What she really does is write fables: splendidly intricate and hugely imaginative tales about such mundane concerns as life, death, love, and sex.” —Newsweek


Interviews & Mentions

Ursula K. Le Guin: Dictators are Always Afriad of Poets: LitHub
by David Raimon
April 6th, 2018

"Ursula’s world is not a Manichean world, one where darkness and light are in opposition. “Yin and yang” can be translated as “dark-bright” and for Ursula, much like in the precepts of Taoism, these seeming opposites are actually one thing, inseparable, interconnected, and interdependent. The people of the world of Earthsea wrote and passed down many Taoist-like poem-songs, none older than the poem of their own creation myth. This culture chose to pass down this poem, generation after generation, to contemplate “dark-brightness” and their place within it. And Ursula, fittingly, chose an excerpt from it as the epigraph to the book that introduces their world to us, a world that still strove for harmony and balance with otherness:
Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky..."

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Late in the Day in Rain Taxi
by George Longenecker
Rain Taxi

"...She may be defiant—she’s an unapologetic anarchist and feminist, and certainly a literary sage—however Le Guin is anything but unforthcoming and ruthless. Goethe, in “Nachtgesang,” wrote: “Those eternal feelings / lift me sublimely high, / away from the earthly crowd.” As she observes the world, Le Guin is as sublime as Goethe and yet more grounded in solid form, imaginative imagery, and empathy..."

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Late in the Day on Book Riot
by David Wilk
January 16th, 2015

Ursula Le Guin has had a long and wonderful career as a writer. Her extraordinary work has influenced many other writers, particularly in science fiction, for which she is probably best known, but Ursula has also written extensively about the art and craft of writing, as well as children’s books, and books for young adults. She is also a poet of some note, with four poetry collections published. Altogether she has had published almost fifty books and more than a hundred short stories.

Ursula was born and raised in Berkeley, California, where her parents were the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber, author of the very famous book, Ishi. She went to Radcliffe College and did graduate work at Columbia University. Ursula married Charles A. Le Guin, a historian, in 1953; they have lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958.

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Late in the Day on Book Riot
by Michelle Anne Schingler
Book Riot
December 7th, 2015

Because she’s a goddess and she says brilliant things. You thought that “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas” was poetry? Oh, she’ll show you poetry. These poems are reputed to be an ode to the everyday, as well as exercise in observing, exploring, and enlivening the world around us. LeGuin writes about nature and quotidian happenings, but she weaves magic in. Get excited. Be moved. Go Ursula.

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The Wild Girls, a review
by J. L. Comeau
The Tomb of Dark Deights

The Wild Girls is a novella that was a nominee for the 2003 Hugo Award and winner of the Nebula, published here for the first time in book form, revised for this volume by the author who helped give voice to a silent generation with her groundbreaking novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Ms. Le Guin's "Wild Girls" continues her exploration race, gender and socio-politics, envisioning a three-caste society in which power and greed have outstripped and destroyed charity and justice. In this bleak setting, two young slave girls struggle to break the chains that shackle their bodies and their hearts, leading them to hard-won destinies that are both sad and empowering. While the novella is absolutely marvelous, Ms. Le Guin's infamously scathing essay, "Staying Awake While We Read", exposes and flays open the hidden bare-knuckled avarice of today's corporate publishing. The prickly courage of these revelations are a tribute to Ms. Le Guin's force of character and clarity of thought. As always, she cuts to the very bone of the matter. Also included are some of the author's marvelous poems, plus an in-depth interview with Terry Bisson, "A Lovely Art". SF fans, rejoice! This is a collection that will entertain while opening your mind and heart.

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The Wild Girls, a review
Klausner's Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review
February 2012

'The Conversation of the Modest' is an essay that lives up its title as Ms. Le Guin espouses on what is modesty in a world in which fifteen minutes of fame on social media is sought and revered.
There is more to this interesting compilation. The novella is timely with its fascinating look at the tribes along the East River. While the rest of the strong collection also focuses on Ms. Le Guin's issues of concern for the past five decades which include the environment, women's rights in a capitalist cast system and war only good for the moguls.

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The Wild Girls, a review
Charles De Lint
Books to Look for
pp. 44-45

Le Guin's book opens with a classic story of a rigid society and genera relationships, told as only she can tell such stories, and presented here in a revised version. There's also the poetry (an excellent, if brief section), an essay on modesty, and my favorite piece in the book, a reprint from Harper's called "Staying Awake While We Read," in which she takes on corporate publishing and explains the inherent fallacy of trying to fit the buying habits of book lovers into the annual growth mold that stockholders expect from their "product."

I'd recommend you buy this book simply to read that essay, though you won't be disappointed by the rest of the collection.

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The Wild Girls, a review
by Zadie Smith
Harper’s Magazine

October 2011

"The City world has inscribed codes of conduct—ways of eating, sleeping, dancing, speaking—the intricacy of which would suffice for a cycle as long as Le Guin’s own Earthsea series, yet somehow she sums up this complex community in a handful of pages. 
“Show, don’t tell,” goes the worn-out workshop mantra: Le Guin shows us how. She never recites long lists of terminology or boring (to me) Tolkienesque genealogies. Her worlds are simultaneously factitious and naturalistic—we wander in and find them fully formed, populated by characters deeply embedded in imaginary habitats...When these world comes under attack, we feel the violence personally, not least because Le Guin writes as well as any non-“genre” writer alive."

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The Wild Girls, a review
By Brit Mandelo
October 10th, 2011

The Wild Girls Plus… runs exactly 100 pages. It’s a fine little book; I was immensely satisfied with it and the variety of contents it contained. There’s something to be said about its appeal as an art-object, also, which most chapbooks strive to be in some way—it’s not overly plain or overly pretentious, but just right. The inviting photograph of Le Guin makes for a great cover, and the text of the title, credits, and series name & number are unobtrusive.

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The Wild Girls, a review
Ms. Magazine
April 2011

Nominated for a 2003 Hugo Award and finally in book form, this novella proves that sci-fi doyenne Le Guin grows sharper with the decades. The three-caste society she imagines, and the two girls situated at its bottom, show that while cultural structures of race, class and gender may be fluid, power hierarchies and their grim human toll remain constant.

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The Wild Girls, a review
by Alison Hallett
The Portland Mercury
May 12th, 2011

The Wild Girls is a slim volume published as part of PM Press' "Outspoken Authors" series, which offers a shorthand look at the breadth and depth of material Le Guin produced over the years. In addition to The Wild Girls, which opens the book, the volume collects "Staying Awake While We Read," a 2008 Harper's article about the state of the publishing industry; "The Conversation of the Modest," an original essay about the virtue of modesty in the age of advertising; a handful of poems; and a Q&A conducted by fellow sci-fi writer Terry Bisson.

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