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[KINDLE] ✽ Always Coming Home By Ursula K. Le Guin – Cravenjobs.co.uk

txt Always Coming Home, text ebook Always Coming Home, adobe reader Always Coming Home, chapter 2 Always Coming Home, Always Coming Home 65b286 Ursula K Le Guin S Always Coming Home Is A Major Work Of The Imagination From One Of America S Most Respected Writers More Than Five Years In Creation, It Is A Novel Unlike Any Other A Rich And Complex Interweaving Of Story And Fable, Poem, Artwork, And Music, It Totally Immerses The Reader In The Culture Of The Kesh, A Peaceful People Of The Far Future Who Inhabit A Place Called The Valley On The Northern Pacific Coast The Author Makes The Inhabitants Of The Valley As Familiar, As Immediate, As Wholly Human As Our Own Friends Or Family Spiraling Outward From The Dramatic Life Story Of A Woman Called Stone Telling, Le Guin S Always Coming Home Interweaves Wry Wit, Deep Insight And Extraordinary Compassion Into A Compelling Unity Of Vision


About the Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K Le Guin published twenty two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN Malamud, etc Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls She lived in Portland,



10 thoughts on “Always Coming Home

  1. says:

    This is only book from Ursula Le Guin I didn t enjoy Second read and my opinion remains unchanged so my original reviews will remain unchanged as well This is ethnology book, the fact that it s ethnology of made up civilization in post apocalyptic world doesn t make it less so.Because of that I find it hard to rate this book On one hand there is evident effort to create culture of one entire civilization with it s unique culture poetry, folktales, myths, plays and songs and all that in world that used to be technologically advance before catastrophe It s something that is extremely hard to do in high quality and thematically consistent but luckily Ursula Le Guin is great writer and manages to pull off something that only few authors could After all that praise why am I leaving it unrated Simply, while I can see that why this book is great it definitely isn t my cup of tea I don t care much about poetry, I didn t find most of folktales or plays interesting I can appreciate this superbly written book for what it is but that doesn t mean I had much fun with it.


  2. says:

    The Millions discusses Always Coming Home The Utopias of Ursula K Le Guin by Kelly Lynn Thomashttps themillions.com 2018 01 ursulAgain, me saying things I m not authorized to say If you ve not read Always Coming Home you ve not really read LeGuin s vision ___________Okay and then so for a few scrambled thoughts and reflections and impressions and way off course remarks.This is, true, only the second Le Guin I ve read It may be the last.Most possibly so because I suspect that this may be her masterstroke, the iceberg cap, the little tassel on the mortar board swung to the other side upon a stroll cross the stage But don t take it from me.I mean of course specifically in what she has done here with the form of the novel And that s really what s going to hold my interest I ve not caught wind that she s done or similar elsewhere I m not interested in what she does with genre tropes sci fi and fantasy She may do all that stuff veryvery well but that one other of Le Guin I read didn t raise itself above the water line of the genre This one did This one rose right up into the realm of the Novel And what a novel can do And what you can put into a novel And how wide the waistband of the novel is Stuff it all in like a bagful of jelly tis the season still I saw someone say it s not even a novel This isn t it but I once thought and still do that Benjamin s Arcades Project would make an excellent formal model for a novel Le Guin did something very similar here.In other words, there is a reason this volume has such a miserable gr score 2,232 Ratings 166 Reviews relative to the Le Guin readership Because there is much here than story.And as to the story, like with that famous Hopscotch, you are invited to freely of course decide which path to take the novel path or the story path If story is all you are in for, just read the three parts of Stone Telling But if you want Novel, read the rest and even The Back of the Book There is a cassette of Kesh music included with the first editions pb hd Of course this novel may be read as than in itself I was rather impressed how closely it could be I won t described as a precursor to the Seven Dreams from all the formal and superficial elements all that back matter all those illustrations right down to the clash of cultures and imperialisms and things of this nature Either as a prequel volume or sequel, depending how you signify what s here.And too Tom LeClair, in his The Art of Excess, places this novel at the end of the Rainbow, as the epilogue of the Systext Gravity s RainbowSomething HappenedJ RThe Public BurningWomen and MenLETTERSAlways Coming Homein such a way, so LeClair, that Always Coming Home provides a kind of wholeness of human existence which at first, at the beginning of the rainbow arc, is found torn asunder by Control Let s quote a bit The novelist Le Guin is both White and Sun Clown, but Always Coming Home is the most reconstructive work in the systext, explicitly oriented to the subjects of home, children, and future A masterful combination of bildungsroman and ecological model, Always Coming Home joins human part and cultural whole, is simultaneously a psychological study that offers an active alternative to Heller s regressive self and a systems novel that provides a steady state alternative to Gaddis s runaway As epilogue to the systext, Always Coming Home both circles backward in time to a past before our civilization, in space to Pynchon s prologue and casts forward to a time after our civilization, a time without excess 204 And make it explicit I believe Le Guin intended Always Coming Home to be read as a direct reply to Gravity s Rainbow So should we say, if you ve not read Always Coming Home, you ain t yet read GR And further making it explicit Always Coming Home is not a model is not a map is not a program for us It cannot be applied to our situation It is not the politicalsocialeconomic solution to our situation Nor are the Amish But, like the Amish, Always Coming Home is an exercise of the imagination which goes towards evidence, towards proof , that the way things are now is not inevitable and necessary It is an exercise in imagination which would invite us to exercise our own imagination in building a world for our selves in which we can live as we dream, freely and justly I recently saw a comment which to me epitomizes our chains The sense of it is this don t bring me a problem if you don t first bring me three solutions Thus is criticism cut off before it begins and things continue as they were And so most of the Systext does indeed bring you three criticisms and complaints and diagnoses but no solutions Not their job That s your job In rare exception however, Le Guin steps up to the rare plate of offering an imaginative path one might trod All the beautiful because impossible Remember, always dream impossible.


  3. says:

    It is unfortunate but my book reading biorhythms rarely coincide with the books being read by the various groups I belong to here on GR so I missed out on the reading of Always Coming Home that took place in the Always Coming Home group a few months ago I originally read the book nearly 20 years ago, probably in my first year or two of graduate school, and it didn t lodge itself overly much in my conscious but what a difference twenty years makes My latest nonfiction reading has focused on the impending collapse of Western civilization as 7 billion soon to be 9 billion humans outstrip Nature s ability to provide the resources or to absorb the wastes our way of life generates so it seemed natural that I would fall back on UKL to see a positive vision of the post industrial future.And it is a powerful vision of what humans might be capable of When I was compiling my GR shelves, I gave ACH three stars because I remember liking it and UKL defaults to three stars but having reread it I have to revise my rating to four it s a remarkable accomplishment and deserves greater recognition Always Coming Home is not a novel, though you can find one in there if you want to The setting is an indeterminate future on an Earth slowly recovering from its industrial age The vast, destructive technologies of our time have vanished though advanced technology exists All that had been replaced by the almost ethereal technology of the City which had no use for heavy machinery, even their spaceships and stations being mere nerve and gossamer p 404 But that s not Le Guin s focus Her attention is centered on the Valley of the Na and the Kesh who live there The Nine Towns are not Utopia UKL is too perceptive a writer to think humans will ever live in a perfect society however defined For example, the Kesh are a peaceful folk and violence is almost unheard of but when the Condor People pass through the region, it sparks the emergence of the Warriors Lodge for men and the Lamb Lodge for women , a recurrence of the sickness that tore the old world apart Only in war is redemption only the victorious warrior will know the truth, and knowing the truth will live forever For in sickness is our health, in war our peace, and for us there is only one, one house One Above All Persons, outside whom there is no health, no peace, no life, no thing Skull s speech, p 409 The culture she describes through Stone Telling s tale, myths, poetry, song and stories, as well as the anthropological reports that frame it simply exists It makes no claim to special wisdom nor does it harbor designs on its neighbors The people who live their lives there are born, grow up, form friendships, fall in love, fall out of love, dance, sing, tell stories, suffer pain and disaster, and then they die But unlike our industrial age they haven t made a fetish of violence and they ve recognized that you can t live in a perpetual war against your environment I think it s safe to say which society Le Guin prefers and I agree with her Always Coming Home is probably not the place to start your love affair with Ursula It s the type of thing you want to learn about after the first bloom has come off the romance but it s all the better for being an expression of a mature, loving relationship I should clarify here that I picked up my copy at a used book store and it didn t have the accompanying cassettes of Kesh poetry and songs an early example of interactive literature Anthropological Note The Condor People comprise the culture Le Guin contrasts to the Kesh primarily through Stone Telling s story They re a resurgence of the exploitative, hierarchical, patriarchal, violent cultures of the past, and the only thing that keeps them from becoming a greater threat to the cultures of the Inland Sea is that the world is too poor to support that type of society for very long.


  4. says:

    A Pitch for GreatnessThis novel seems to be Ursula LeGuin s pitch for credibility and or greatness, not just as a science fiction writer, but as a fully fledged novelist i.e., not confined to any one genre.You have to wonder whether the exhaustive and exhausting effort was worth it, at least partly because I d argue that she had already achieved her goal in 1969 with The Left Hand of Darkness. My reservations largely relate to the dressings of Post Modernism that crept into the execution of the novel and in my opinion diminish its aspirations to greatness.Nostalgia for An Age Yet to ComeLe Guin explains in A First Note that The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California I m not sure what tense you d call this, but the catachresis hints at the fundamental premise of the novel Where relevant, it is written in the past tense, yet it is set in a future that seems to be based on archival fragments or reconstructions of a past that hasn t happened yet Thus, in the words of Pete Shelley, it s nostalgia for an age yet to come SistopiaIt s not necessarily a Utopia or a Dystopia it s just an alternative world, an idealised, if only partly realised, Sistopia, which is sufficiently precisely drawn or invented on the basis of feminist and egalitarian perspectives and aspirations , so as to allow us to comprehend it in anthropological detail and to compare and contrast it with our current world, as well as past worlds or cultures As with any fiction, Le Guin was dealing with invented fact whatever amount of imagination was required I occasionally wondered to what extent the detail was based on actual North American tribes studied by Le Guin or her anthropologist father The Smartasses of UtopianismIt could be argued that Le Guin was opposed to pure Utopianism, especially if it was prescriptive I never did like smartass utopianspeople who have the answers are boring, niece Boring, boring, boring Post Modern Information OverloadLeGuin elaborates on the structure of the novel The main part of the book is their voices speaking for themselves in stories and life stories, plays, poems, and songs To this, she adds family trees, maps, drawings, music, messages, histories, interviews, a glossary, an alphabet and a numerical system Some of this material is explicatory, but most of it The Back of the Book , in the manner of Post Modern maximalism, is simply an anthropological information dump after the relevant narrative Thus, unlike footnotes notes at the foot of the page to which they relate , it doesn t inform the narrative, except retrospectively The Back of the Book consists largely of informationthings from here on will be just as fictional, but factual, although equally true. Whatever that means or signifies.Making Up the WorldAs a literary work, therefore, most of it presents as the case notes of an anthropologist or ethnographer making up the world and documenting a tribe or culture they have encountered albeit it in the imagined future Hence, the novel adopts the style of ethnography, in its quest for self conscious metafictional verisimilitude.SistoryAbout only 20% of the novel is the life story of a woman called Night Owl later Stone Telling and Ayatyu. This is one of the few sections that is related in the first person, so that we as readers are conscious of an I rather than a we or a they. It s only here that the social or cultural becomes personal or individual For the first time, we become conscious of an ego rather than an abstract superego , and therefore potential and actual conflict and confrontation with an other or the others The reserve in other sections of the text is a product of the Post Modern aversion to plot You have to wonder why Le Guin was tempted to go down this relatively self less path.Not Information, But RelationWhile this method of story telling is conscious and deliberate, overall it means that the novel lacks a second act, let alone, a third act and therefore a resolution As a result, it lacks dramatic tension The fictional editor of the texts, Pandora, says A book is an act it takes place in time, not just in space It is not information, but relation It s difficult, therefore, to unreservedly recommend the novel to anybody but librarians, archivists, blind faith maximalists and enthusiasts of excess poor dears , who might be interested in the cruft and detail.Close RelationsFortunately, most of the stories focus on relationships within the one people or between peoples.The Kesh people of the novel live in the Na Valley of Northern California Our modern civilisation appears to have ended, at least locally, as the result of an earthquake and or rampant pollution, although there are occasional hints that there has been a nuclear war an excess wreaked on the world by the military industrial complex The Kesh people are relatively benign introverted but cooperative , although some of them are hunters and warriors if only for self defence from the Condor people, of whom Night Owl s father is a general, making her a half person within the ranks of the Kesh.Mother Superior Jumps the SharkIt seems that at least the Kesh have reconstructed some aspects of contemporary western civilisation e.g., guns, electricity, heating, steam engines, trains, railroads, surgery, pharmaceuticals, music, books, libraries, the internet called the Exchange The warlike Condor people these sick peopledestroying themselves have retained or invented machine guns, tanks, planes, cannons and hydrogen bombs They seem to have inherited the worst legacy of modern civilisation It isn t explained why, if they are this sophisticated in some areas, they aren t equally so in other aspects of science and technology At the very least, none of these peoples is primitive, even though they are farmers and engage in potlatch ceremonies.The Condor people are extremely patriarchal every relationship is a battle they seemed never to decide things together, never discussing and arguing and yielding and agreeing to do something before they did it , while the Kesh are slightly less so, purporting to be matrilineal, exogamous and matrilocal Nevertheless, the women are confined to their household, and rarely have the opportunity to develop skills other than gardening, cooking, cleaning, weaving, dressmaking and parenting.We see Night Owl struggle against these rigid customs, in order to find her own identity and role in society including as a lover, wife and mother Coming to BeStone Telling explains the status of women in these pessimistic terms There is no way that men could make women into slaves and dependents if the women did not choose to be so Again, while feminist in intent, we don t see any particularly satisfactory resolution, at least with respect to Stone Telling s marital relationship I did not want his need of meI will not let his need eat up my life I must come to be myself by myself Energy, Liberty and GraceMuch of the inter tribal relationship continues to be patriarchal and subject to ongoing tensions and conflict, which lead to theft, disputes, wars, conquest, murder and rape It s not clear whether this is the legacy of the old military industrial complex that prevailed under the original i.e., our civilisation, or whether there is a suggestion that these traits emerge in any advanced civilisation or culture If the latter, then, this might indeed shape Le Guin s Dystopia, despite her best efforts to posit something optimistic In leaving progress to the machines, in letting technology go forward on its own terms and selecting from it, with what seems to us excessive caution, modesty, or restraint, the limited though completely adequate implements of their Kesh cultures, is it possible that in thus opting not to move forward or not only forward, these people did in fact succeed in living in human history, with energy, liberty and grace The Smartass of ExcessCritic and placardist Tom LeClair devotes over thirty pages of forensic text analysis to this novel in The Art of Excess. While he is an astute and detailed reader, he leaves the impression that he approached the novel with a preconception that it would vindicate his theories of the systext , excess , mastery and maximalism, when in fact the novel is a better example of a sistext. His analysis seems to emerge from the delusions of confirmation bias, rather than an open reading of the text itself Apparently reluctant to acknowledge that Le Guin does anything original as a female writer or otherwise , he states that the novel is a meta commentary on or reversal of certain features of the male created systext He also asserts without much evidence or proof that Le Guin intended Always Coming Home to be read as a direct reply to Gravity s Rainbow Unless LeClair has access to some private evidence that supports his opinion, I would question it for two reasons firstly, I believe that Pynchon wrote his own direct reply to Gravity s Rainbow in V although the latter was published 10 years earlier, his first three novels effectively constitute an internal dialogue between the male and the female Secondly, I suspect that Le Guin wrote in response to all patriarchal structures including the most egregious of all, Post Modern white male maximalist versions of the novel, which would have addressed the systext, had she been aware of the theoretical conceit beforehand.Despite the profusion of detail and data, I don t read the novel as an endorsement of literary excess Le Guin says of the Kesh, What we consider both desirable and necessary, they tended to consider a weakness and a needless risk replication, multiplication One note only in the wilderness . Pandora elaborates in one of her poems at the end of the book Written Sideways from the Valley to the City of Man No god no king no One no thingthat comes one at a timeno dupli repli multi identiplicationprolifer proliferation same after sameso no city Sorry Instead, the novel embraces anthropological method to describe a culture and tell a story within that culture.World ReductionTo quote Fredric Jameson, it s arguable that Le Guin aims for and achieves a process of ontological attenuation in which the sheer teeming multiplicity of what exists, of what we call reality, is deliberately thinned and weeded out through an operation of radical abstraction and simplification which Jameson termed world reduction Anthropology is just the lens through which the operation is observed It s a vehicle for the good deal of discrimination that leads from keeping to giving.Nevertheless, it allows us, like Night Owl, always to come home to the culture that is our own and perhaps to make changes.VERSE RESPONSES Mostly in the Words of Ursula Le Guin BeginningsHow could it begin once only That doesn t seem sensible.Things must have endedAnd begun again,So that it can go on,The way people live and die,All the people, the stars also.Still Coming BackSomething grew up here,Something pretty.Another little thing sprouted there.Things began to grow right.The water came out of the rocks clear again.The people began to come back.They are still coming back.Dates and EpochsYou talk all beginnings and ends,Spring and ocean but no river.Being in TimeOh, North Owl, who Will you be, then Who are you now One SpiritMaybe in all thingsThere is one person,One spirit whom we greetIn the rock and the sunAnd trust in all thingsTo bless and help.Maybe the onenessOf the universeManifests that one spiritAnd the oneness of each beingOf the many kinds is a signOr a symbol of that one person.People who say it is soCall that person the self of all selvesOr the other of all others,The one eternal, the god.Being is PraiseFrightened, I will trust Weak, I will bless Suffering, I will live.Having asked for help,I will be silent, listening.I will serve no person,And lock no door.So Utterly GoneOne may listen still,But all of the wordsOf their old languageAre gone utterly,Unutterably.Farther GoneWhich is farther gone The dead or unborn The Inner EarCould you hear voices,Mein Herr Schliemann,In the streets of Troy KnowledgeOur knowledge does not close a circle Or the void What we do not know remainsBoundless, without limit or bottom.What we know must share the qualityOf being known with what denies it.What is seen with one eye has no depth.I shut my eyes, so that nobody would see me.Thinking and BelievingSome people are betterAt thinking thanAt believing.Water SongThe bridge falls,The river runs.The Condor callsThe Valley s sons.Fire SongThe fire came over the rangeAnd went forward so fast,That even birds could not escape it.They fell burning from the air.Valley SongThe roots of the Valley areIn wildness,In dreaming,In dying,In eternity.Wind and FireHigh winds fanForest fires.Pieces of the ValleyPandora doesn t want to see the ValleyJewel bright, distinct, tiny and entire.Instead, what she gets is bits, chunks,Fragments, shards, pieces of the valley,Lifesize Not at a distance, but in the hand, To be felt and held and heard.Not intellectual, but mental.Not spiritual, but heavy.Let the mind draw its energy,Let the heart complete the pattern.Going Westward to the SunriseFollow the sun, love,In the western skies.Catch the sun, again,Just before sunrise.Burial RitesA wisp of silvery ashes,Or of the dead one s hair,Is cast upward in the air,And scatters round the graveside.Butcher s FormulaIf you dieFor my needs,I will giveYou my wordsIn return.A PebbleThe stoneContainsThe mountain.The World in a RockThe younger one of my sonsSaw the rock in the water,And picked it up, saying, A world I told him to keep it in his heya box,Which he did When he died,I put that rock back in the water of Moon Creek.The One Last WordIt was the last wordOf a lost sentence.It was the one wordThat contained the world,Visible and invisible,On this side and onThe other side of death.The Universe SpeaksIt is with my voiceThat the universe speaks,And the word I hear it speakWhen I listen is myself.For Whom Bell TollsDeath is nothing to fear.Listen, my wife, If you re afraid to die,I ll do it for you.I will die for you,My wife.Puma GazeOnce I gave youA name in my heart.Do you want toKnow what it was LoveThe love in me lovedEverything he loved.DesireDesire unactedIs corruption.AngerThere is nothing but angerIn the house of anger.My Father s DaughterHe looked at me then,Instead of at his thoughts,And said my name, North Owl.I said, Give me a name He said, Do you want this name Ayatyu I said, My name is Ayatyu EsiryuShe was my slave,Whom I obeyed.Lost PeopleLost people are dangerous They do things without meaning.SOUNDTRACK view spoiler James Gang Ashes the Rain and I Le Guin Todd Barton Heron Dance Kesh Music from Always Coming Home Le Guin Todd Barton A River Song Le Guin Todd Barton A Music of the Eighth House Ash Leaf and Stream Feed the Tree Morrison Moondance Beatles Happiness Is A Warm Gun Nostalgia hide spoiler


  5. says:

    There are few books I have read, none of them being fiction until now, that have required such a concerted effort of study on my part to even read through the book If it wasn t Ursula I doubt I would have bothered But it was, and I did, and of course it was well worth the effort.The woman has created an entire culture I don t know when I will have enough time to create an entire culture in my own head and then write a novel about it, but the fact that another woman had the time and did it is inspiration by itself.The book is written in little tidbits, a morsel here, part of a story there, then bits of poetry, history, explanations of various aspects of their society Besides a few flips to the back of the book for glossary explanations and then a few flips back near the front for the chart on the different houses of society, I read it front to back It was tempting, really tempting to skip ahead, especially with Stone Telling s story being cut into three parts, but I trusted Ursula s wisdom to teach me what I needed to know so that I could properly appreciate the next bit of the story as I got to it, and I was not let down.I thought the review on the cover was a bit much, something about it being her best work yet , but after finishing the book I just may have to agree.The clever comparisons to our own societies are an immense banquet of food for thought.An easy read, it is not But it is worth every minute you spend.


  6. says:

    Why is it Ursula K Le Guin always makes my life as a reader and reviewer difficult Her books can t be nice, straightforward stories no, she has to create lyric, moving pieces of experimental literature that transcend our ordinary definitions of form and genre I have a problem with Always Coming Home, but that problem is entirely independent of the book itself It is, rather, a result of me and my particular biases and hang ups.I can t help it I love novels.I know that, as far as literature goes, the novel is a relatively new invention of a fad, really, than anything else And, as much as it pains me to admit it, studying novels really isn t all that necessary when studying English As much as I would love, as a teacher, to sink my teeth into a great novel with a class and watch them explore it well, at least in the limited time we re allotted these days in the school calendar, there are pressing concerns Literature isn t the alpha and omega of English, and the novel is not the only entry or exit into that particular part of the discipline.But I can t help it I ll watch a play, sure Read a short story In a pinch Devour a novella during a car ride Can do None of those satisfy the itch like a good, well written, honest to goodness novel Novels are my jam I crave semi linear narratives about a defined and stable group of people.So when Le Guin sets out to deliberately break well, shatter, really these conventions with something like Always Coming Home, I can admire her aims even though I m not particularly enthralled by the result.Far from a novel, Always Coming Home is an intricate collection of texts by and for and about the Kesh, a culture of people inhabiting a Pacific Northwest valley in the far future The editor of this volume has conducted an archaeology and anthropology of the future, recovering texts, interviewing inhabitants, reproducing poems and songs, and describing customs Le Guin separates out the driest of this into The Back of the Book, an entirely academic section that explores the background of the society its houses, naming conventions, marriage, etc The remainder of the book is a medley of literary forms, genres, and conceits.The most recognizably narrative sections are Stone Telling, about an eponymous woman from the Valley whose father is from another people known as the Condor Unlike the Kesh, the Condor people replicate the type of patriarchal society seen ad nauseum in human history Stone Telling s father drops into her life when he visits the Valley, and eventually she leaves the Valley to live among his people While she doesn t necessarily regret it, it s clear that her time among the Condor people is not the highlight of her life Predictably for me, I enjoyed these sections they are spread across the book but form a single narrative Le Guin is, aside from anything else, a consummate storyteller.I also enjoyed some of the other sections If you re paying attention and on an airplane, there is nothing to do with a book except pay close attention you can see the general outlines of the future world as Le Guin conceives it Humanity unleashes a combination of radiological and biological disasters not as a single, grand apocalypse like the twentieth century envisioned, but the gradual and cumulative death that we embrace so far in the spectres of global warming and biodiversity collapse Our machines go on without us in the City of Mind, replicating and bootstrapping themselves towards artificial godhead, spreading out to other planets and stars Meanwhile, humanity survives as a species if not a civilization, rebuilding and restarting in various paradigms The Kesh seem, at first brush, primitive by our highly ethnocentric, Western ideals Yet they have access to certain modern conveniences, and in many ways their society is equal and better structured than ours.Le Guin s heritage as an anthropologist s daughter informs all her work, but it is overt in Always Coming Home The unconventional structure has the effect of reminding most of us that our tastes and perceptions of literature are, to begin with, highly Westernized and Eurocentric in their origins We have shed many of the traits of a predominantly oral culture, and as a result we do not necessarily privilege poetry, song, and dance in the ways that we once did and other cultures still do In particular, I thought a lot about Aboriginal cultures and storytelling traditions while I read this book I live somewhere with a large Aboriginal population, and I m interested in learning about Aboriginal cultures and storytelling At the same time, it s somewhat ironic for me to resolve to read Aboriginal authored literature, because while that is a laudable goal, it also makes certain suppositions about worthy ways to transmit culture.So we come down to that eternal question for reviewers Do we review based on our perception of a book s merit If so, Always Coming Home has a lot Or do we review based on our enjoyment of the book In which case, while I didn t hate it, this was a much lukewarm experience Both of these modes are eminently subjective, of course perceptions of merit can make no claim to objectivity than personal enjoyment But what do I want to say Well, once Le Guin astounds and impresses with her skill She is a juggernaut, a force of literature not to be taken lightly, and the world will be a darker place when she leaves it Always Coming Home only reaffirms these convictions in every sense This is a powerful, intense, complicated construct.I didn t like it that much It wasn t the kind of book I wanted to read on my flights last week.So if you go into this book unaware of its nature, you will likely be disappointed or else, really pleasantly surprised You have to be willing to explore and immerse yourself in this book, at which point it will be rewarding Always Coming Home isn t a novel, never purports to be, and I shouldn t fault it for that Alas, my fallible human nature means I can t necessarily give it all the praise it deserves.


  7. says:

    Probably overlooked as an example of one of those Great, Long, Terribly Important Novels But it actually is one, and not in the sense that people can simply claim it from its length and subject matter, but because it really is I haven t read anything recently that so thoroughly challenged my notions of what a novel does, what a novel should do and what it is for, let alone what are appropriate choices in terms of style, genre and form Also it was just enjoyable Not all of it A lot of was difficult, and sometimes dull, but a lot of it was clever and engaging and funny and astute and Ursula Le Guin was one of the greatest American writers of her generation, easily.


  8. says:

    Though the introduction describes this as an archaeology of the future , it s no such matter It s an ETHNOLOGY of part of the future, after the style of the Bureau of American Ethnology Reports, to which LeGuin has no doubt had access for most of her life Most people who read LeGuin s works apparently are unaware that she is the daughter of the famous anthropologist AL Kroeber, and of the writer Theodora Kroeber, both of whom specialized in Northern Alta California AL Kroeber was a friend of Ishi, last of the Yahi, in his last years, and Theodora wrote at least one biography of Ishi, as well as several volumes of legends and folktales from the area.Contrary to the comments of many reviewers, I don t see much sign of any global catastrophe so far The story is set, not in the current location of Northern Alta California, but on an island in the North Pacific, created during the normal processes of continental drift There may have been quite a few severe seismic events in the process the area is very seismically active, after all But continuing processes were probably predominant.The island is not on any major shipping routes, evidently, and there may no longer be any widespread travel This may be because of one or pandemics, since epidemiologists have repeatedly warned that our current culture of continuous mass migration is extremely dangerous.There is also evidently little in the way of mass communications, though I seem to recall some later in The population is quite a bit less than present daybut there s mention of widely available contraceptives There are also electrical devices, though few electronic ones that I can see There are floodlights, for example but they re not used generally to saturate the night only for special festivals, etc.The society in question is matrifocal NOT matriarchal With the exception of the childish almost exclusively male warrior societies, there are no customs of unquestioning obedience Though there are normative customs such as people are not property , enforced by clowns, there is little coercive behavior, and pretty much EVERYTHING is the subject of negotiation and discussion There is kinship from both sides Stone Teller is regarded as a halfling because she has no paternal grandparents to call on, and at one point acquires a side grandfather to help in not only ceremonies but also in material support , but the primary kinship is through the mother There is also a culture of adoption.There s a trace of homophobia, at least in the early parts The warrior societies are regarded as fairly childish because of their authoritarian and violent tendencies, and because they are almost exclusively male But I didn t catch at first that one of the insults leveled against them is that they are presumed accurately or not to be homosexuals There s no necessary connection between homosexuality and childishness, even in the book but at least one of the characters implies such a connection She herself is viewed somewhat askance as being prejudiced, but she s not argued with.This is a rich and long book, and should probably be read in short segments, with a chaser I ve recently acquired some new Wodehouse books, so I ll use them as interfilers, until I finish them Then I ll have to pick something else, because Wodehouse is a quick read I ll add on this book as I go on but it ll likely take a while to read When I tried it at first, I didn t get than about halfway in I hope that by rationing it out, I can finish it this time If you do read the book from beginning to end in sequence, you run into problems at first, as things are foreshadowed but not explained until later There s quite a careful attempt to avoid observer bias by presenting things from several perspectives It s middling successful, but it s often strained, as people try to put themselves in other roles, and find themselves unable to leave their own perspectives completely behind.The island in the book has not gotten very far in its progress into the North Pacific Well, after all, it s only been about 50,000 years a millisecond by geological reckoning It has a Mediterranean climate wet winters and dry summers, with virtually no snow, except at the highest altitudes The flora and fauna are mixed at one point the partially hidden narrator comments that the grass, for example, was introduced by Spanish Mexican, but Mexico was still under Spanish rule at the time missionaries This is possible, but not certain There are grasses in Alpine meadows in the mountain ranges bifurcated by the rifts, but they may not be native, and they probably aren t Bermuda shortgrass, or the other shortgrasses introduced by the missionaries There s an oddly gappy ecosystem Bats for example, are mentioned at one point but not elaborated Honeybees are mentioned, but native bees are not Honeybees pioneered the area about fifty years ahead of Europeans, following the clover which was also introduced at that time But in no place did they completely replace native bees and as of the present time, it s not likely that they will I don t much care for the sublimation and displacement of violence The representation of violence as a childish behavior, disciplined and restricted even in children, and socialized out of adults by shame and gossip, doesn t really resolve the problem And while several people admit often in shame that they don t really fit into their society the tongue tied, the maladroit, the lazy, and the tone deaf too often become forest living , because they can t participate in the society fully, even if they want to , and though this defection is marginally accepted, it s apparent that it too rarely occurs to people just to leave.The traumatic changes that occurred to the world during the interim between our time and that depicted are pretty clearly not one common disaster There are references to poisoned places but these seem to be mostly landfills, including nuclear waste dumps and defunct nuclear reactors The people are inbred and subject to all manner of congenital and environmental illnesses some are pretty clearly both The incest taboos, which seem extreme by our standards many of the forbidden people are what we would call kissing cousins are probably at least partly an attempt to temper the results of the inbreeding.The society as represented is a self exiled part of a larger society that is in some ways advanced than ours, technologically The computer systems which are literally and figuratively subterranean in the isolated society are described as engaged in a massive experiment trying to model the cosmos, though it s not clear what the computers and their attendants hope to gain thereby But even or perhaps particularly this complex is far from monolithic, and such self exiled communities may be common in the solar system at the time Like such enclave communities in our own societies Mennonite communities are the most obvious, but there are ethnic communities in other places, which have a strong element of tourism, but do genuinely maintain a separate identity , the people of the Valley select what technologies they will use and innovate on They have solar powered looms and pedal powered ones, most likely They have electricity, but they don t always use it It s not clear what kind of hot water systems they have in some places it seems to be geothermal hot springs and suchlike At one point it becomes positively abhorrent to a librarian there s a repeated ceremonial purging of libraries and archives Often a literal bookburning Though the narratives, recipe books, etc are not fully lost the computer archives keep copies, which are, however, very poorly indexed , still this perennial destruction even with recycling of history is disturbing LeGuin recognizes something that most people in our society aren t conscious of the indecent almost obscene haste we live our lives in There s too much hurry in everything indeed, it s one of our predominant causes of injury and stress The people in the stories and observations have made and are still making a conscious attempt to slow things down The fact that their primary compliment is mindful is important Slapdash haste causes all kinds of ills the deaths and injuries attributable to sleep deprivation alone are so common that unless we make a deliberate effort we can t even notice them The people in the book blame a lot of their ills on the haste as well as the simple massive numbers of their ancestors And there s quite a bit of justice in that assessment, as there was when the indigenous peoples blamed the plagues that swept through them on the arrival of often literally unclean Europeans pouring into their lands.Minor linguistic note The name Shinshan kept nibbling at my mind, and finally I tracked it down Looking up Tsimshian I found that they lived among other places in the Na a valley I don t think this is a deliberate gloss I think it was just one of those odd bits of unconnected data that float around in our minds, and alight on the page when we re looking for a name for something.


  9. says:

    Sort of an exercise in building a low tech society set after our industrial modern age The people of the Valley live a largely peaceful, non hierarchical communal life that prioritizes listening and understanding, and considers being generous synonymous with wealth The poor are those who do not give giving makes one rich It s fascinating, and I loved the ways the world building was woven into Stone Telling s story, and how the world building sections hundreds of pages of an anthropologist s notes enriched my understanding of Stone Telling s sections That said, the notes were so very long that at times I skimmed them This is not a novel, and expecting it to follow the conventions of that form will lead to disappointment There s a fourteen page glossary, several hundred pages of songs, poems, and novel excerpts from the Valley culture, even extracts from the galactic computer system of the future about the Valley And there are wonderfully meta moments, like this interchange between Pandora the anthropologist and her interview subject, a librarian of the Valley people Pandora I never did like smartass utopians Always so much healthier and saner and sounder and fitter and kinder and tougher and wiser and righter than me and my family and friends People who have the answers are boring, niece Boring, boring, boring.Archivist But I have no answers and this isn t utopia, aunt Pandora The hell it ain t.Archivist This is a mere dream dreamed in a bad time, an Up Yours to the people who ride snowmobiles, make nuclear weapons, and run prison camps by a middle aged housewife, a critique of civilization possible only to the civilized, an affirmation pretending to be a rejection, a glass of milk for the soul ulcered by acid rain, a piece of pacifist jeanjacquerie, and a cannibal dance among the savages in the ungodly garden of the farthest West.Pandora You can t talk that way Archivist True.Pandora Go sing heya, like any savage.Archivist Only if you ll sing with me.This is a complex work, and I know I didn t get all of it if I read this many times, I think I would understand something new, or differently, every time.


  10. says:

    I expected to take a long time over Always Coming Home In a way, I wish I had there s a lot in it, and a lot to reward a slower, careful reading this time I went plunging through it for the narrative, such as it was, enjoying the layers of understanding that came to me, imagining and figuring out what I didn t know I didn t read the Back of the Book section, this time another time, I think I will I just wanted to fly through it, this time, total immersion in a culture that does not exist.Always Coming Home is a collection of stories, of fake histories, of poems and plays and things that do not neatly fit into our genres, belonging to a culture that does not exist The first note says it best, The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern Carolina It seems to be the story almost of the Native peoples, and then it begins to mention computers and other technologies of our day The way the world came to be this way isn t really seen clearly, only seen in its effects on the people It s very interesting to read this way interesting, and frustrating, because like real history, it doesn t always show you the bits you most want to see.Ursula Le Guin s writing is beautiful, as always, and easy to read and understand despite the invented words and concepts I sort of imagine this as the way she might build up any culture, in any book, through the scraps of their literature and histories that come to her It s quite a nice thought, actually.I didn t read the Back of the Book section, preferring to keep things vaguer, not spelled out I will probably read it one day, but not now.Though I greatly enjoyed this, I don t know if I d dare recommend it to anyone For me it required some patience with the original idea, which turned into delight as Ursula Le Guin once captured my heart For others, who didn t find Earthsea compelling, it d be dry as dust, I think And as with many books, but particularly with those that are a bit different, someone might find they love it, when they have never loved Le Guin s work before or that they hate it, when they ve always loved her work.


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