Bingo Square: Birthday
This was a very frustrating read for me, and it is entirely due to the fact that I chose the wrong platform to enjoy this book. When I popped up as a daily deal in Audible, I jumped at it with little analysis because I have always thought I need to read more Ursula K. LeGuin. I vaguely knew it was an essay collection and thought it would be interesting to hear her thoughts on various subjects. The problem is that it wasn’t so much an essay collection as a collection of blog entries. It is not that her thoughts aren’t interesting, and I didn’t enjoy aspects of it, but I was expecting a collection of 10-12 long form essays to listen to rather than around 40 blog entries.
My mind tends to wander a bit while I am reading audiobooks if I don’t watch out, and while that isn’t as large of a problem for a longer story (and it doesn’t wander as much when the plot is very engaging), it does not work with blog entries that range from 8-12 minutes on average (one or two are a bit longer and one or two are a bit shorter). My walk to work was also longer than the individual entries which meant I was stopping at inopportune times. While I know you can mark passages with audiobooks, by the time I unlocked my screen and got into the app, I was already several seconds past the sentences that had caught my attention. Given that this was from LeGuin’s blog, I hoped that maybe I could go back and read the pieces that had particularly raised my interest more closely and refer to passages here, but once again no dice. Being the capitalist society we are, all the posts that were used in this collection have been taken down from the blog with the note that they are available in her collection No Time to Spare.
The collection begins with the post, “In Your Spare Time” – obviously an inspiration of the actual title. It was a strong start as she contemplated the idea of spare time in today’s society and what defines success. She also had various points later in the collection that related to ideas of success when she wonders why GDP growth is defined as good rather than stability (my guess is that as long as our population growth our GDP needs to grow to support life styles; I agree stability should be a good thing but we need to stabilize the population as well).
I was happy to realize that LeGuin is a cat lover so there were even a few entries devoted to her newest cat, Pard. The collection is broken up into four parts or themes and essays that broadly fit into each one. These broad topics were “Going Over Eighty,” “The Lit Biz,” “Trying to Make Sense of It,” and “Rewards” with essays from the “Annals of Pard” being inserted between parts. I’m not sure if I had simply lost patience with the format by the last part, or if “Rewards” in general was of less interest to me, but I considered the final few posts the weakest and was glad to be done.
Some of the other highlights for me (excluding the cat essays and the opening essay) were “Papa H,” a discussion of Homer and how part of his greatness comes from his ability to remain neutral when portraying the Trojan War, and “Uniforms,” where she reflects on war and armed forces fit into society today and whether what she describes as pajama like uniforms compared to the old time snappy uniforms are a sign of a different view of the military. Personally, I think we just decided to go more functional rather than wearing business formal or business casual out about on the town. These are the types of essays I would have liked to go back to and actually read but couldn’t.
I’m going to refrain from rating this one because I honestly don’t think I can properly evaluate it between my wandering mind and using the improper format to consume this one. The narrator seemed fine, some of the essays were definitely better than others but as a whole, too many ended up running together in my brain. I may end up giving this another shot with a digital or physical copy, because the essays I did enjoy, I really enjoyed.
Bingo Square: Birthday (October 21, 1929)