Words for Ursula K. Le Guin

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.

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Peculiar Nostalgia

I had difficulty deciding whether today’s blog would be another books blog, where I compared my thoughts on ebooks to real books, or a nostalgic blog about my “year out” where I lived at home and how an odd sense of longing has returned for those days. I decided to go for the second one, as it is more like what I’m feeling today, and the ebooks one will hold on until I have a bit more experience with them.

A lot of things happened in my year out which were really good. To start with, and something which I always forget, I spent a week travelling around the Cyclades with a friend of mine and saw lots of really interesting things. I spent my best weekend in Oxford, visiting the Steampunk exhibition in the Museum of the History of Science and reading Ursula Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan; I joined twitter; 6Music was saved (and threatened with closure before hand, of course); I got into podcasts and rediscovered Richard Herring; this led to a resurgence of interest in stand up comedy, helped in no short measure by the inaugural Machynlleth Comedy Festival, which I hindsight I regret not indulging in more as I actually had a bit of money back then as I had a job. The Doctor became Matt Smith and met Amy Pond. Two of my favourite albums – I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling and The Suburbs by Arcade Fire – were released. I read quite a lot of books; I used the public library service quite a lot, although not as much as I would have liked to do.

On the other hand, I lived at home in the middle of nowhere, with little company besides my parents and, when I got a job, the people I worked with (also those with whom I volunteered at the Oxfam bookshop); my ability to go to the cinema decreased and so, I would suggest, did my interest in going; I failed to write very much – I started this blog and then abandoned it, for example; I had a job which, while fine, wasn’t ever going to lead anywhere (but, it must be said, was infinitely better than being on the dole). None of these things are particularly bad, but they don’t really amount to enough to let the world of work compete fairly with the world of academia (where, it must be said, I also have a job which won’t lead anywhere, but it does allow me to eat every day and spend the rest of my time studying, so I guess that is something).

So – whence the nostalgia? I guess it’s partly the disposable income element – I was saving so that I could do the eating thing during my DPhil until I got a job, and that seems to have worked okay, but I also had some money which I could spend, which was good. I wish I’d realized how much I actually could have used. I also started sleeping really well, thanks to an enforced get up time and no social life, combined with reading until I fell asleep most days. I have no recollection of being unwilling to get up and go to work any day, apart from once, when I was incredibly hung over after a cocktail party in the village where some young people actually came home to attend. I think an understanding that it was temporary prevented the fact that it wouldn’t go anywhere from bothering me, the necessity of it kept me at it, and the good company of the people I worked with (and the fact that one of them was going through considerably worse times than I was) prevented me from getting down. But it seems strange to be nostalgic about times when I was doing okay, and content without really being especially happy.

I suspect that it is mostly down to the landscape. This is, after all, the most beautiful part of the world – at least when it’s sunny and clear, or when it’s covered in snow, and sometimes when it’s raining. In the summer it is the very definition of verdant, and the example given in the OED on my Kindle is verdant valleys, which these most especially are. The feeling of nostalgia is especially potent when I’m coming back from town through the hills – this afternoon it was in the dark, and all you could see were the lights of the little clusters of villages in the valleys. I’ve seen that in the Greek islands, and I’ve seen it in Wales. The Med doesn’t really stand a chance, I must say.