Words are My Matter – 5/5 Stars
This is a through and through very good nonfiction collection. The main focus of this collection are various speeches, book reviews, book introductions, and other assorted nonfiction from Ursula K Le Guin’s last sixteen years of life.
I have to state here that for all the book of Le Guin I have read and reviewed, I don’t think I have every loved one. I liked several of them, and respected most of them, but love not so much. I came closest here. For one, she’s very honest and clear with her voice and thinking. I agree with her that poor writing is mostly the product of poor thinking, and that if someone writes something that doesn’t work, it generally means that they haven’t finished thinking it through yet.
I also like to hear who she likes and respects and in the much more small ways it appears here, who she doesn’t.
In general, I would say she likes authors who know what they want to say, who respect their subjects and audience, and who understand how to write the things they’re writing. So while she likes a lot of realism or books we would consider realism, she doesn’t give it an automatic place about “genre”. She also doesn’t like when a realism writer dabbles in genre, especially carelessly, and then gets credit for inventing the form, while usually decrying or denying it.
I also like that she absolutely loves a few authors and books. For example, I am part way through my third Jose Saramago novel because of the completely laudatory way she writes about his work and how much she respects him.
No Time to Spare – 3/5 Stars
While still good, this collection waters down the specific kinds of writing I really liked about Le Guin’s nonfiction in the previous collection, and the general pool of her nonfiction in general. Most of it is thoughtful and earnest, if sometimes quite light in tone, and a few times it’s bad or even offensive (not politically or morally…just in its insulting tone).
So the premise of this book comes from the same kinds of laudatory writing she does of Jose Saramago in Words are My Matter. One of his last publications was a “Notebooks” collection, like many writers, but was actually made up of blog posts. This is the same kind of deal. While blogs tend to be less edited and more informal than notebooks, I think they are better and more important in some keys ways and limited in others. For one, they are still intended as public writing. This tends to make them more palatable as reading material because they’re not written in codes or overly internalized language. But, that also means they’re sometimes less probing and honest. But then again, they’re also consensual, so you don’t feel weird.
Anyway, she writes absolutely lovely things about books she likes and especially about her cat, whom she adopts in her late 70s, named Pard who seems great. but the annoying thing to me is she writes a really boring banal and insulting essays about vegetarians that comes off as the same fake clever nonsense everybody thinks they’ve written about vegetarians. So maybe an editor would help.