Who Cares About The Great American Novel?

“A question from the New York Times’ Bookends, “Where is the great American novel by a woman?,” got an interesting answer from the Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid…

[Ursula’s answer, in short:]

But there’s something coy and coercive about the question itself that made me want to charge into the bullring, head down and horns forward. I’d answer it with a question: Where is the great American novel by anybody? And I’d answer that: Who cares?…

…Art is not a horse race. Literature is not the Olympics. The hell with The Great American Novel. We have all the great novels we need right now—and right now some man or woman is writing a new one we won’t know we needed till we read it.”

—Ursula K. Le Guin, “Who Cares About The Great American Novel?Literary Hub. December 6, 2017.

Love Ursula. 

Clingy Political Ideologies 

“Interestingly, one of the initial impediments to open-mindedness is not ignorance but ideology. This is especially true in America, where (particularly in “progressive” circles) we have politicized open-mindedness to the point that it isn’t so open-minded anymore. Indeed, regardless of whether your sympathies lean to the left or the right, you aren’t going to learn anything new if you continually use politics as a lens through which to view the world. At home, political convictions are a tool for getting things done within your community; on the road, political convictions are a clumsy set of experiential blinders, compelling you to seek evidence for conclusions you have already drawn.

This is not to say that holding political beliefs is wrong—it’s just that politics are naturally reductive, and the world is infinitely complex. Cling too fiercely to your ideologies and you’ll miss the subtle realities that politics can’t address…”

—Rolf Potts, Vagabonding. (New York: Villard, 2003), 161-162.

Modern Dying

“I have heard it said that modern dying means dying more, dying over longer periods, enduring more uncertainty, subjecting ourselves and our families to more disappointments and despair. As we are enabled to live longer, we are also condemned to die longer. In that case, it should come as no surprise that some of us seek out the means to bring a dignified end to the ordeal, while we are still capable of deciding matters for ourselves. Where is the crime in that? A sorrowful goodbye, a chance to kiss each beloved face for the last time before sleep descends, pain retreats, dread dissolves, and death is defeated by death itself.”

—Cory Taylor, Dying: A Memoir. (Portland, OR: Tin House Books, 2017), 140-141.

From the Edge of the Universe to the Inside of a Proton

“But we should count ourselves lucky; there have not always been 62 orders of magnitude of universe to explore, and there won’t always be. As Scharf explained, ‘If you turn the clock back far enough to the Big Bang, obviously there was a time when the number of scales that were causally connected were fewer, and space itself was smaller.’ Likewise, ‘if you extrapolate 100 billion years into the future, assuming the current accelerating expansion, it will be essentially impossible for us to see anything much beyond our galaxy or our local group of galaxies.’ Scharf said this seems to mean we’re living at a special time. And he wondered, ‘Would someone in the future be able to figure out how the universe works?’”

—Natalie Wolchover, “A Tour of the Zoomable Universe by Caleb Scharf and Ron Miller.” Quanta Magozine. November 6, 2017

The inspiration for this coffee table book was to update the information in a famous short film, The Powers of Ten (1977):

The Shobies’ Story

“‘Staking everything on it,’ the next voice took up the story, ‘because nothing works except what we give our souls to, nothing’s safe except what we put at risk.'”

—Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Shobies’ Story” in The Unreal and The Real. New York: Saga Press, 2012.

Becoming Dangerous 

Becoming Dangerous: A book about ritual and resistance “is a nonfiction book of deeply personal essays by marginalised people using the intersection of feminism, witchcraft, and resistance to summon power and become fearsome in a world that would prefer them afraid. With contributions from twenty witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels, BECOMING DANGEROUS is a book of intelligent and challenging essays that will resonate with anyone who’s ever looked for answers outside the typical places.” 

Kickstarter for the project ends October 20, 2017.