This Monday, Ursula K. Le Guin died. The news broke yesterday. I don’t know what to say, but I’ve written so much about Le Guin since I started reading her work in 2009 that I thought I would just go through it and post whatever seemed appropriate here from my own notes and the quotations I’ve taken from her work. I hope that it can be taken in some way as being in honour of her. There was no one else quite like her.
Two men have died recently with whose work I should really have been more familiar. The better known of the two is Ray Bradbury, perhaps the greatest sci-fi writer in history, of whom you might expect I would have read the works. I haven’t – I am aware of the opening lines of Fahrenheit 451, so I can’t say I have never read a word, but I certainly have never read a story, or a book. I don’t know why it saddens me that I never read any of his books while he was still alive; I suppose because the option was there, and I always find it a bit difficult to think that it was someone’s death which brought my attention to them. Obviously, in this case, it wasn’t, but as a trigger it doesn’t seem like the best thing to have.
The other was the archaeologist David Ridgway, whose book The First Western Greeks I have read, and who I have listened to both in person at a lecture when I was an undergraduate, on In Our Time, and who has been in the same audience as me on a couple of occasions. I have never spoken to him, but he was a good friend of my supervisor who was with him on the day that he died at the site where we excavate, and who had been close to him when they were both in Edinburgh in the 1990s/early 2000s. I think that is why his death has affected me so much, it is sympathetic with someone I know who was closer to him. But there is a certain level of sadness that the old guard of scholars of my period, with whom I associate myself, are dying, leaving those teaching me as the elder scholars and my level as the up-and-coming generation. It’s a little more complicated than that, of course, but scholars like David Ridgway, John Boardman, and Anthony Snodgrass, with whom I might take some issues with as far as their ideas go (but only, it must be said, in the light of new evidence or approaches which they themselves uncovered or pioneered), revolutionised much of the study of my period, for better or worse, and it is sad to think that they will pass on, leaving their students to be the elderly statespeople of the Early Iron Age Mediterranean.