Brilliance from an intro: Le Guin on words

I’m rereading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and unsurprisingly, finding it 100% (or more) relevant to the world we live in right now. (If you somehow haven’t read this book, you should fix that, really. It should be required reading for being a human.) I could pretty much quote the whole chapter of observations on the androgyny of the Gethenians and its implications upon their society, but what I’m interested in dropping here is actually something from Le Guin’s introduction. It’s beautiful and absolutely true of being a reader and a writer.

The whole introduction is predictably smart, focusing at first on the expectations placed upon science fiction and the actualities she finds. For Le Guin, “science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.” The artist is a liar. Towards the end of her intro, she gets to the experience of reading and writing and the infinite, mysterious power of words.

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find — if it’s a good novel — that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.

The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.

The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.

The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.

“The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.” Damn, that’s brilliant. I love that whole thing so hard, because it’s all hitting nails on heads. She’s good with the words, that lady. I’m going to have to re-acquire the Earthsea books and re-read those super soon, I believe.


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