Ursula Le Guin ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ursula Le Guin

A little belatedly - Radio National's The Book Show broadcast my review of Ursula Le Guin's Voices last week. As I say of Ms Le Guin:

Language has always been central to the serious magic of Le Guin's work. In a short passage called 'A Few Words to a Young Writer', she says:

Socrates said, 'The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.' He wasn't talking about grammar. To misuse language is to use it the way politicians and advertisers do, for profit, without taking responsibility for what the words mean. Language used as a means to get power or make money goes wrong: it lies. Language used as an end in itself, to sing a poem or tell a story, goes right, goes towards the truth.

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

As a writer and reader, I find this statement inexpressibly moving in its directness and wise courage. And it also points to the deeply radical impulse that lies behind Le Guin's work.

Full transcript and audio here.


Anonymous said...

I read these uplifting words moments after being reminded of these words from Phillip Ruddock:

"My view is that sleep deprivation per se is not necessarily torture or coercive. It depends upon what you do additionally....People respond to detention in differet ways. Some people don't handle it well."

Mr Ruddock said Mr Hicks had not been subject to near drowning, which coould be done to people held at Guantanamo." - from SMH Feb 1 2007.

And if you want a justification of his words you can go to his web site - google the quotes it'll take you there...but take a sick bag.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alison,I recently had the considerable pleasure of watching my 10 year old son settling in for his first encounter with the Earthsea Trilogy-he hasnt returned yet, perhaps he never will.

Anonymous said...


Long time reader first-time poster. Any chance you could address this article? http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/arts-precinct-set-for-major-facelift/2007/11/05/1194117952611.html


Alison Croggon said...

Hi Paul

Had we but world enough, and time... I don't know anything about these plans, and would need to find out what their implications are. Which I can't this week.

Unknown said...

I have always had a warm spot in my heart for Ursula le Guin... As a trembling, awe-struck 13/14 year old I had the honour of meeting her at 'Aussiecon One'- The world SF convention held in Melbourne during the seventies, where she was guest of honour. I still have my signed copy of The Dispossessed, [which won the Hugo award that year...] and which I recently re-read, along with the sublime 'Left Hand of Darkness'...

Alison Croggon said...

I'd love to meet her, but I'm sure she'd reduce me to trembling and awestruck as well. I was campaigning to get her out her for the Melbourne Writers Festival (I thought she could read some poetry as well). Not very successfully, alas. Maybe she doesn't want to come to Melbourne.