Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Doris Lessing

Branded a S.F. Writer

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Guernica interviews Ursula K. Le Guin. Via Enter the Octopus.

Guernica: Do you ever feel that the way your work has been cordoned at times as science fiction is a deflection by the mainstream of the very serious critiques these novels contain of our society?

Ursula K. Le Guin: Yes. I do.

Guernica: Or is it sexism?

Ursula K. Le Guin: Yes. It is.

Guernica: Was there a moment when you realized the shift in the way you were being treated, when you became taken more seriously by the literary establishment, and do you remember it precisely? To an outsider, it appears recent.

Ursula K. Le Guin: Actually, I haven’t felt a major shift. I am still mostly referred to (dismissed) as a “sci fi writer.” When Margaret Atwood writes a serious review of one of my books for the New York Times, it is printed under the title “The Queen of Quinkdom,” to make sure nobody takes it seriously. I am shortlisted for major awards, but the awards go to people like De Lillo and MacCarthy who also write science fiction, using the tropes and loci and metaphors of science fiction, but fastidiously keep their literary skirts from being defiled by the name of genre.

I admire Doris Lessing for calling her science-fiction books science fiction; I only wish I liked the books. Atwood herself has walked a very fine and sometimes wavering line trying to keep her science fiction books out of the genre ghetto without trashing the people who live in the ghetto. I can’t wait for people like Michael Chabon to finish chainsawing that damn thorn hedge and knocking down all the genre walls. Now, there’s a man with courage, Chabon. He just joined the Science Fiction Writers Association. He steps over the walls in both directions.

Most recently, my three books of the Annals of the Western Shore have been ignored by both the science fiction community and the literary critics, because they are published as “young adult.” The label YA actually means nothing except that the protagonists, or some of them, are young. Publishers like it because it is a secure marketing niche. But the cost of security is exclusion from literary consideration. The walls of disdain around any book perceived as being “for children” are much higher than they were when I began publishing the Earthsea books, forty years ago. Oh, Joshua, won’t you blow your horn?

She’s Dynamite

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Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, at the Guardian.

The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us – for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.

That poor girl trudging through the dust, dreaming of an education for her children, do we think that we are better than she is – we, stuffed full of food, our cupboards full of clothes, stifling in our superfluities?

I think it is that girl and the women who were talking about books and an education when they had not eaten for three days, that may yet define us.

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December 8, 2007 at 12:45 am

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Confidential to Philip Roth: You Will Never Win

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Neil’s yearly taunt whenever the Nobel Prize in Literature is about to handed out is “This is your year!” We can now look forward to 2008, as Doris Lessing has taken this year’s Nobel Prize.

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October 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm

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