Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Quote File: Ursula K. LeGuin

I haven't read nearly enough of Ursula K. LeGuin's work, but everything I have read leaves me in awe of her intelligence, empathy, high standards, and grace. Most recently, I thought of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" every time I read about the Penn State horror; her "Hypothesis" effectively and efficiently destroys the pretensions of those who say genrefic can't be literature; and I reread Very Far Away from Anywhere Else at least once a year. . . . If you are or were a sensitive, smart teenager searching for connection and meaning in the vast future, you might think, like I do, it's one of the best YA novels of all time.

A very small collection of Ms. LeGuin's wisdom:

The art of words can take us beyond anything we can say in words.

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become. 

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper. – from “Advice to a Young Writer”

It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope. 

People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy? 

We're each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark.

Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new.
– from The Lathe of Heaven

When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep. – from The Left Hand of Darkness


  1. I adore LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea series. The characters are layered and flawed and take such risks. The storyline is surprising and satisfying. It is fantasy, while many of her books are sci-fi. She excellent at both, masterful at worldbuilding.
    And I love to quote her opening stanza from the first book in that series, which sets the tone for all to come:
    Only in silence the word,
    only in dark the light,
    only in dying life:
    bright the hawk's flight,
    on the empty sky.

  2. I cannot tell you how much I've enjoyed your month of blogging.

    I'm speaking next week at a school in Atlanta about cultivating the life of a reader and am nabbing several of these quotes. Thank you!

  3. Great quotes! I love Ursula K. LeGuin. I haven't read all her books, but I clearly remember what an impression the Telling--which is filled with reverence for books, and language, and storytelling--made on me. Also, I loved that the main character Sutty was Indian.

  4. Very Far Away ... is a novel I love to teach, and it has perhaps the best ending sentence in all of YA literature.

    Most of your quotes are ones in my own quote file! How wondrous fine.