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No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters

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From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, and with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, a collection of thoughts—always adroit, often acerbic—on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation.

Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s blog, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her wonder at it.   

On the absurdity of denying your age, she says, “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” On cultural perceptions of fantasy: “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?” On her new cat: “He still won’t sit on a lap…I don’t know if he ever will. He just doesn’t accept the lap hypothesis.” On breakfast: “Eating an egg from the shell takes not only practice, but resolution, even courage, possibly willingness to commit crime.” And on all that is unknown, all that we discover as we muddle through life: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”

Audio CD

First published December 5, 2017

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About the author

Ursula K. Le Guin

939 books24.4k followers
Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Oregon.

She was known for her treatment of gender (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Matter of Seggri), political systems (The Telling, The Dispossessed) and difference/otherness in any other form. Her interest in non-Western philosophies was reflected in works such as "Solitude" and The Telling but even more interesting are her imagined societies, often mixing traits extracted from her profound knowledge of anthropology acquired from growing up with her father, the famous anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber. The Hainish Cycle reflects the anthropologist's experience of immersing themselves in new strange cultures since most of their main characters and narrators (Le Guin favoured the first-person narration) are envoys from a humanitarian organization, the Ekumen, sent to investigate or ally themselves with the people of a different world and learn their ways.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,364 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,566 reviews8,214 followers
December 1, 2017
Ursula Le Guin is one of my heroes, in as much as I have them. Which is, to say, hardly at all, but her writing has often astounded me, literally impacting how I perceived the world. When I was a teen, The Left Hand of Darkness did more to challenge my conception of gender identity than anything I would read or hear for years. However, her writing has also felt somewhat laborious to me, so when I saw this book of blog-style posts, I leapt at the chance to read it (figuratively, naturally. You think I leap at my age? What am I, a frog?) At any rate, I absolutely loved her in short-form, her words seemingly a little less crafted than her novels, sounding more like her voice, talking about everyday things--"The point of a soft-boiled egg is the difficulty of eating it, the attention it requires, the ceremony"--writerly things and general opinion pieces.

It's really, really good. The book comes with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler and a note from Le Guin about her purpose and the informality of the writing. 'Part One: Going Over Eighty' is one of my favorite sections. 'Part Two: The Lit Biz' is in theory about literary stuff and contains some insight into the life of the writer --readers' questions and awards--as well as discussion on things like ubiquitousness of swearing, and narration. 'Part Three: Trying to Make Sense' of it is the most topical section. It was interesting, but not as favorite. 'Part Four: Rewards' shines, with writing beautiful enough, polished enough to remind me why she's a master. Parts One, Two and Three are all followed by 'The Annals of Pard,' brief pieces about her latest cat. I have a ridiculous amount of highlights, my Kindle equivalent of 'mm-hmm' affirmations.

The posts on aging are excellent and I probably could have just highlighted the entire piece of 'The Diminished Thing.' It does not sound as if aging has come easily, and I appreciate that she is both honest and old in claiming it. "Old age isn't a state of mind. It's an existential situation." How beautifully she negates the 'you are only as old as you think you are' mouthings!

I admire how she somewhat irascibly shares what she perceives as her failings. I love that she calls out the new generations of almost-memoirs with a writerly note on genres, and then gracefully turns it into a discussion of Delores, her 'hired help' who was so important to her ('Someone Named Delores'). I was fascinated by the entries on Pard, the latest cat, and his periodic skirmishes with mice. I think she summarized the entire problem with modern politics in three sentences (from 'The Diminished Thing' in Aging, no less):

"This is morally problematic when personal decision is confused with personal opinion. A decision worth the name is based on observation, factual information, intellectual and ethical judgment. Opinion--that darling of the press, the politician, and the poll--may be based on no information at all."

There's an interesting piece on what fantasy is that affirms why I've read so much in the field. My favorite highlight: "It doesn't have to be the way it is. That is what fantasy says... Yet it is a subversive statement." Can we please remind those who are nostalgic for the sprawling epic fantasies of the 80s and 90s or the pulp fantasy of the 50s and 60s that we can do more?

Part Three definitely spoke to me, with parts of it echoing my own hopelessness. From 'Lying it All Away:' "It appears that we've given up on the long-range view. That we've decided not to think about consequences--about cause and effect. Maybe that's why I feel that I live in exile. I used to live in a country that had a future."

It makes me wish for a coffee conversation, time to dive in and chew at these ideas. I wished I knew even more about her life, because I sense a kindred spirit, an introvert who communicates best through words, who appears transparent about ideas but extremely private about details of real life. The closing piece, is so crafted and beautiful it makes me tear. From 'Notes From a Week at a Ranch in the Oregon High Desert':

"Hundreds of blackbirds gathered in the pastures south of the house, vanishing completely in the tall grass, then rising out of it in ripples and billows, or streaming and streaming up into a single tree up under the ridge till its lower branches were blacker with birds than green with leaves, then flowing down away from it into the reeds and out across the air in a single, flickering, particulate wave. What is entity?"

Many, many thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the advance reader copy. Quotes may change in final publication but are included to give a sense of the excellent writing.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,780 reviews14.2k followers
December 29, 2017
It has only been in the last several years that I have added essays into my already cumbersome reading repertoire. As a younger reader I was all about the books, prose and plot, not realizing how much of an author's own self goes into the writing of each and every book. I fell in love with this literary form, such a wonderful way to get to know what is important to an author, glimpses into their personal lives, how they think, and how they feel about things impacting their lives. What may be even stranger, is that I am not a scyfy reader, well except for post apocalyptic novels, so I have never even read oned of her novels. So why did I decide to read this? She is going to be eighty one, and the wisdom she has accumulated, as well as all the changes she has seen, had to be interesting.

It was, and so much more. Her wisdom and inner grace shines in her writing, as does her acerbic wit.
There are some that deal with her personal life, mainly her one year old cat named Pard. These are absolutely delightful and insightful. She has intelligent opinions about many things, from our government, and the corporation owned Congress, to feminism and it's results through the years.

Love this quote, which is only one of many witty comments within. She writes about the absurdity of denying your age, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub." Common sense for sure and she has plenty of it, shown again and again in her writing. She writes exceedingly well, and I think I will stretch myself this coming year, and actually try one of her shorter works. If nothing else I am sure I will enjoy her writing, will see about the plot.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,298 reviews450 followers
December 14, 2017
Sometimes it's really nice to spend time with a truly intelligent woman.
Her words speak for themselves.
Profile Image for Monica.
620 reviews631 followers
June 12, 2021
Ah, the National Treasure Usula K Le Guin!! I loved my journey wandering through the musings of a brilliant mind. This one is charming, intimate and engaging. I have a real fondness and more significant appreciation for Le Guin and her books after reading this. The book is a collection of blog posts from Le Guin during her (roughly) last decade of life. The posts were a veritable potpourri of whatever crossed her mind. It was intimate and well written. I read her views on life, almost 90 years' worth of observations, feelings, philosophy etc.

Yes, it helps that I agree w/ Le Guin on just about all of her views, but there was just such an art to the way she conveyed her thoughts in short succinct bits. I was (like I suspect most readers were) especially captivated by the adventures of her cat Pard. I don't even like cats that much. Reading this was fascinating and engaging. I felt a sort of reverence in its consumption. Of course, in a book of multiple essays, there are some that I liked more than others and even a few I had little or no interest in. But it was Ursula K. Le Guin, a goddess among writers. The world seems a little less kind and thoughtful without her. In a sad testament of self, I was unaware of the breadth of loss before reading this. Full disclosure, this is the first book by LeGuin that I feel like gushing a little about. Not because it was so awesome, but because it shined a light into Le Guin who is definitely "so awesome". So, while I can't say that I will now rush out and read all the Le Guin canon, I can say that whichever Le Guin books I read future will have a rich and wonderful context that I did not have in the past. A gem of a book for those who ponder…

4.5 Stars

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
January 28, 2018
RIP, January 22, 2018


Kids used to have a whole lot of spare time, middle-class kids anyhow. Outside of school and if they weren’t into a sport, most of their time was spare, and they figured out more or less successfully what to do with it. I had whole spare summers when I was a teenager. Three spare months. No stated occupation whatsoever. Much of after-school was spare time too. I read, I wrote, I hung out with Jean and Shirley and Joyce, I moseyed around having thoughts and feelings, oh lord, deep thoughts, deep feelings… I hope some kids still have time like that. The ones I know seem to be on a treadmill of programming, rushing on without pause to the next event on their schedule, the soccer practice the playdate the whatever. I hope they find interstices and wriggle into them. Sometimes I notice that a teenager in the family group is present in body — smiling, polite, apparently attentive — but absent. I think, I hope she has found an interstice, made herself some spare time, wriggled into it, and is alone there, deep down there, thinking, feeling.

I am not exactly retired, because I never had a job to retire from. I still work, though not as hard as I did. I have always been and am proud to consider myself a working woman. But to the Questioners of Harvard my lifework has been a “creative activity,” a hobby, something you do to fill up spare time. Perhaps if they knew I’d made a living out of it they’d move it to a more respectable category, but I rather doubt it.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,971 reviews1,983 followers
February 10, 2018
Rating: 5* of five

I have always had friends, good and close friends. They have always been of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. They have not infrequently cordially loathed each other. To me, each of them was, and mostly still is, a treasure and a boon and a blessing. A dear, dear friend of mine recently passed her 89th birthday and, in a chat we were having today, I mentioned Ursula K. LeGuin and this collection of essays.

"Who?" asked my friend, blankly.

"A Wizard of Earthsea! The Left Hand of Darkness! We talked about her politics in the 1970s, how she was so very Berkeley...ringing a bell?"


*light bulb* "Alfred Kroeber's daughter!"

"Ooohhh, yes, {her sociologist husband} liked Alfred and his work, good heavens she's dead?"

The point of my anecdote is that all writers worth your eyeblinks to read will build bridges among all your friends. My Goodreads friends know LeGuin's novels. My elderly academic friends know her mother's and father's ground-breaking work. But everywhere, in every corner of the friendverse, there stands Ursula. She furnished my world with metaphors..."do I need an ansible to reach the planet you're on?" demanded a blood relative of my inattentive "mm hmm"ing self recently...she formed my political thought with her questions like, "and why is capitalism, which condones x and demands y and creates z, so great again?" where x, y, z are a subset of injustice and unfairness.

She died at a good age, eighty-eight, good for us because it is large and good for her because it liberated her from the doubtless painful task of comparing the world she grew up in to its decidedly inferior present-day counterpart. A world in which 45 and his kakistocracy of deplorables have snatched ascendency from the merely venal, selfish, and greedy kleptocrats who have ruled us for a half-century now.

Reading these short blog posts was like having a last chat with your revered teacher, a Tuesdays with Morrie that's been shorn of the mawkish sentimentality and portentous Message Making that made that book such a fucking chore to ingest. In every way, this collection of aptly titled blog posts is the opposite, being a uniformly satisfying reading experience. The wide range of Ursula's readership is celebrated in her posts about letters from fans, especially kids; how completely she adored us all. Some of the stuff kids wrote to her is sidesplitting, and to read her recounting of the letters is to hear a delighted cackle from the page. She ends her post on "Kids' Letters" with a particularly puzzling signature she's been mulling over for years, and has decided is perfect in its way, so she says to us all: "mth frum Ursula."

And before someone says it...yes, there are lots and lots of words about Pard, her *shudder* c-a-t. And yes, I gave it five stars anyway. Rank Has Its Privileges.

mth frum Richard.
Profile Image for Francisca.
188 reviews83 followers
December 17, 2019
This book was published soon before acclaimed novelist Ursula K. Le Guin passed away at the age of 88 on January 22, 2018. However this book was a long time coming, for it is a curated collection from her blog.

In 2010, at the age of 81, Le Guin started a blog. Her decision was not a random one, as she expressed it herself, she did it with a predecessor in mind, Nobel Prize recipient Jose Saramago, who had also begun to blog in his eighties. In her blog Le Guin explains how ". . . seeing what Saramago did with the form was a revelation." Now, nine years later, as I read No Time To Spare, it’s hard not to feel the same about what she has done with it.

For a writer with a such a long and successful career in traditional publishing as Le Guin, a blog never seemed a likely destination. Certainly blogs are not novels, but just as certain is the fact that a blog by Le Guin is no ordinary blog, either.

No Time To Spare is a representative collection of Le Guin’s blog posts. As such, this book condenses nearly a decade of her thoughts, offering us a surprisingly satisfying culmination to a career so rich and amazing in many other literary forms. And that says a lot, considering she wrote essays and poetry, novels and short stories, and that she wrote them all with passion and humanity, and with a certain anger that turned her words alive, but never bitter. An anger that is the more palpable as she writes in her blog about what's happening in the world. That's one of the reasons why No Time To Spare is so brilliant, because it gives the reader -us- a new window into Le Guin's vision of the everyday. However, it seems appropriate to mention that thriving in an unexpected genre is nothing new for Le Guin. She began to write stories as a child but didn’t achieve mainstream publication until her thirties, when she found her niche: science fiction. At the time, science fiction was a male-dominated genre, hence an unlikely home for a woman, and nonetheless, Le Guin was soon recognized as one the great authors and an initiator of the transformation that move the genre from a somehow limited audience to the wide-spread popularity it enjoy nowadays. Now, it’s true that compared to her novels, the scope of her blog seems somehow narrower, but that’s just appearance, for such everyday mentions -like those where she explains her relation with Pard, her cat- are there as entry doors to much deeper themes and passions.

Now, readers who, like me, have followed Le Guin’s blog will find a good deal that’s familiar in these pages, but there are surprises as well, and a certain gracious clarity in her voice which only comes to show what she had said so many times, that editing is as important as writing, for editing is writing and writing is editing.

This is a book of substance and a book of beauty. The prose filling its pages flows and transports, enticing us to think, and get angry (at least a little bit) and act, but reading it also gifts our souls with perfect words, that have rythm and that treat the everyday as a precious occurrence.

This is a five stars. All he way.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,140 reviews2,757 followers
August 30, 2018
I am still learning what kinds of books I like to listen to. What I discovered is that essays don’t cut it with me. I could not stay focused. Parts I was able to concentrate on seemed decent with some good points. But just not my style. Returned to audible.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,016 reviews1,181 followers
August 4, 2021
Sometimes, you need a big cup of tea and something by Ursula Le Guin. Or at least, I do, periodically. I need to sit quietly with that amazing woman’s words, savor them, let them soothe me. And well, this week is simply one of the times where I felt that need, and I was very grateful to remember I had a couple of volumes of her non-fiction on my shelf, so I reached for them and for the Earl Grey.

This collection of essays, curated from Le Guin’s blog, are more for established fans than for newbies, for people who are familiar with her work and who simply want to drink more for her spring of wry humor and quiet wisdom. This collection includes thoughts on ageing, the perils of adopting a kitten, reflections on speculative fiction, Steinbeck, praise for her former secretary, soft boiled eggs.

If you have enjoyed her novels and want to experience more of her random thoughts, this book is a great little comfort read. Not all the essays are especially interesting, but even those that won’t make you think will at least make you smile.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
February 14, 2022
The book is a compilation of short selections from a blog she kept in the final decade of her life. Some interesting insights, but an expansion of some of these themes into maybe short essays would have been more satisfying.


Ursula Le Guin is incredibly smart and wonderfully blunt.

The first essay is about a Harvard survey she got in her 80's. Her acerbic dismantling of the dumb choices on the survey had me laughing right off the bat.

In one essay she writes....

“Jungians such as Joseph Campbell have generalised such journeys into a set of archetypal events and images. Though they can be useful in criticism, I mistrust them as fatally reductive. “Ah, the Night Sea Voyage!” we cry, feeling that we have understood something important — but we’ve merely recognised it. Until we are actually on that voyage, we have understood nothing.”

"I respected (Uncle) John Steinbeck for never jumping through all the hoops at Stanford, even if he kept going back and letting people like Wallace Stegner tell him what The Great American Novel ought to be. Uncle John could write rings around any of them."

True dat.

“Literature is a field a great many men consider theirs by right. Virginia Woolf committed successful competition in that field. She barely escaped the first and most effective punishment--omission from the literary canon after her death. Yet eighty or ninety years later charges of snobbery and invalidism are still used to discredit and diminish her. Marcel Proust's limitations and his neuroticism were at least as notable as hers. But that Proust needed not only a room of his own but a cork-lined one is taken as proof he was a genius. That Woolf heard the birds singing in Greek shows only that she was a sick woman.”

from her book on writing.....



For the record, Virginia Woolf on Proust....

Profile Image for Raul.
295 reviews210 followers
May 27, 2020
This was a rebound book, in the sense that it was the book I ran to when its predecessor failed to be the pleasurable read I had hoped it would be. And just like the rebound lover, the rebound book is supposed to do several things. Among them, make the reader forget the previous book's disappointments, succeed where there was failure, and make the reader believe in love (for books) again. And just as it is unfair for the rebound lover to have all these expectations and the pressure simply for coming after a disappointing scarred affair, so it is for the rebound book.

I took security in familiarity in this case and went to a writer I really like, Ursula K. Le Guin. Comprised of blogs Le Guin began writing at about 81, in this book she meditates on different subject among them aging, power, literature, feminism, child development, nature and animals as well as blogging about her cute cat Pard. An insightful and timely read.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
1,001 reviews69 followers
January 24, 2018
I received a kindle format version of this book at no cost, in return for promising to write an honest review. I am a long-time fan of Ursula LeGuin’s writing – especially the books of the Hainish Cycle, so was actually quite pleased to have this opportunity to read and comment on the book shortly before publication.

In the spirit of “no time to spare.” I will offer this quick overview of my thoughts. This is a compilation of entries from Ursula LeGuin’s blog, posted during the years of 2010 through 2016. Reordered topically, they are short pieces dealing mostly with becoming old, gender, writing, philosophy, and nature – and with interstitial sections about her cat. I found the sections on the cat to be mundane, while the majority of the others were insightful and thought-provoking but fragmented.

Before going into it a little more, I should reveal some things about myself, as that has shaped how I respond to her work. In spite of my name, I am American born and grew up in the Upper Midwest. I am a 62-year old recently retired biomedical engineer, take a secular view of my own existence, but am married to a Unitarian Universalist parish minister. Ursula LeGuin is of my parents’ generation; in fact she was 18 months old when my father was born. So, while her generational outlook is not mine, I think of my parents, and then I do understand.

Generally, I don’t take the time to read blogs. I really only wish to spend that kind of attention on the people who matter to me most – my family. Blogs are mostly disorganized, arbitrary, and indeed sometimes not well thought through. Ursula LeGuin’s career has shown her to have a visionary perspective, and important ideas to relate, but I find the finished product of a novel or story to be a more satisfying form in which to digest them. I started reading her work about 45 years ago, and upon periodic re-reading have found sometimes different meanings in the same pieces. However, as LeGuin observes in one of the included blog posts, with aging comes even less time to do things other than what has to be done. So, at this book, we have her perspective and ideas in a more raw state. But that is interesting to me. I’m in early and active retirement now, but my near future will be the lifestyle of my parents and of LeGuin, I should be so lucky.

Feminism – LeGuin sees gender and the male/female power imbalance in everything, more than I do. For example, I do not think the word “American” is implicitly male. I have lived most of my lifetime in an era of an articulated feminism, and at some point, some of the shift has become internalized. Not that equity is here, but I think for my parents’ generation even the basic tenets of feminism will always be a forced stance.

Writing – LeGuin loves words. She analyzes meanings. Me, I just use them – but I appreciate being shown more about what is implied by word choice. LeGuin loves story. She sees story as not just a series of interesting events, but reflective of prior story and culture. I think her understanding of existence is to be alive in a universe of interwoven stories. While for me, math and physical science are more fundamental. So, when someone like me reads her recent novel Lavinia, not having previously read The Iliad or The Aeneid, in fact barely being familiar with them, it is an excursion into another universe and another way of thinking. Her blog entry “Papa H” reveals some of her thoughts on our archetypal stories, and shores up my understanding.

Nature – LeGuin has a philosophical love of nature, and of the tension between acting on it versus perceiving and entering into relation with it. However, as a person of words, she conveys nature through words. Personally, I find words to be a low bandwidth (allow me to say) way to appreciate what is essentially experiential. I am a bicyclist, kayaker, snowshoer, backpacker, and observer of nature, and her blog entries read to me like a note-to-self, “remember this in its full depth later”. It doesn’t work so well for outside readers though.

It was both wonderful and sad for me to read this book, wishing for more, but gratefully receiving it.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,682 reviews344 followers
February 6, 2018
Short essays on many topics, all written in the past six or seven years. I particularly liked her cat stories ("Annals of Pard") and a dramatic rattlesnake encounter ("First Contact"), but they're all interesting. I'll probably reread the book sometime.

Her choice of the title was prophetic. Ms. Le Guin passed away on Jan. 22, 2018 at 88. She will be missed.

Here's the New Republic's take,

"In 2010, at the age of 81, the acclaimed novelist Ursula K. Le Guin started a blog. ... [her new book, which] harvests a representative sample of her blog posts, feels like the surprising and satisfying culmination to a career in other literary forms. ... "
Profile Image for Melanie.
556 reviews289 followers
November 29, 2017
I expected essays picking up this book, but instead I got a series of random blog posts (or as I liked to call them by the end, "Ursula chats") where she talks about anything from being old, to her new cat, to writing and reading, the great American novel, shopping and so on.

It feels rather random, the selection of those posts and also the things she writes about are so odd, but that is exactly why I found this book so utterly charming. It was like meeting up with Ursula and having chats. Over coffee. Stroking her cat while she tells you what's on her mind and I answered back while reading it. Disagreeing or agreeing but thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.

Adored it.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books749 followers
September 8, 2019
Like her books, her essays are a joy--succinct, measured, honest and yet filled with poetic wonder. Highly recommend this work. Whether you'd like some more of her thoughts on politics, writing, and cats; want more of her beautiful way of distilling ideas; or want to study from a master how to write, this collection will provide a veritable feast for your thoughts.
Profile Image for Kevin.
289 reviews917 followers
August 18, 2023
Back to reality, 40 years later…

--The key fictions I’ve read by Le Guin were published in the 1970s. This collection of non-fiction essays are apparently blogs Le Guin did some 40 years later (2010-2013) having been inspired by José Saramago’s blogs at age 85-86.
--Fiction authors hide behind the smoke and mirrors of their fictional characters and settings like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; thus, I’m normally reluctant to learn more about the authors and risk losing some of their magic.
--Le Guin is an exception because I specifically read her fiction with an eye on her political commentary/social imagination. So, I was naturally curious how this would translate to nonfiction real-world musings.
--While some will focus on themes like old age and cats, the following stood out for me:

1) “Utopia” and “dystopia” as a “yin and yang” relationship and process: having read Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, it was interesting seeing Le Guin categorize other utopia/dystopia works. Brave New World and 1984 are distinguished as dystopic “yang” (complete control), and Le Guin considers “yin” dystopia as the post-collapse types (lack of control). Le Guin says her Always Coming Home was an attempt to write a “yin” utopia (adaptability instead of “yang” utopia’s complete control).

2) Political flops: Le Guin considers Truman asking the American people to dial back meat consumption to stockpile grain for post-war Europe. This leads to a plethora of wishy-washy statements:
Sure, politicians always lied, but Adolf Hitler was the first one who made it into a policy. American politicians didn’t use to lie as if they knew that nobody cared whether they lied or not, though Nixon and Reagan began testing those waters of moral indifference. Now we’re deep in them. What was appalling to me about Obama’s false figures and false promises in the first debate was that they were unnecessary. If he’d told the truth, he would have supported his candidacy better, as well as putting Romney’s faked figures and evasive vagueness to shame. He would have given us a moral choice instead of a fudge-throwing match.

Can America go on living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country? I don’t know.
…so, the above passage caused me to raise my eyebrows in disappointment 5 separate times.
…This makes me reluctant to have Le Guin actually elaborate on her one-liners about real-world socialism being disasters…
…Another bad look is every mention of environmental issues seems immediately followed by a mention of “overpopulation”:
-Mexie debunking “overpopulation”: https://youtu.be/OYuo2QdNu88
-Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis

...Conclusion: definitely not an Arundhati Roy when it comes to fiction-to-nonfiction brilliance.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,847 reviews398 followers
January 30, 2018
Insightful and incisive series of essays on everything from cats to the Sartre Refusal Prize.

"If we insist in the real world the ultimate victor must be the good guy, we've sacrificed right to might."

I had to read this quote several times to recognize the truth in the statement. Le Guin brings it up in an essay about Homer and how neither The Illiad nor The Odyssey employ wishful thinking; therefore, not fantasy. But, that quote is counter to almost everything we want to believe--wish to believe. If it were true, better technology would always win over large corporations, the best ideals would always prevail, and the morally corrupt would always fail. Which we know is simply false.
"Art is not a horse race."

This is a thoughtful rumination about book prizes and PR, and how one drives the other.
"The creative adult is the child who survived."

Rather amusing, and since I actually have that "Liked" somewhere in my Goodreads' quotes I found it more than a bit embarrassing/funny/ridiculous that she categorically did not write it, ever. The misattribution and how it came about is humorous.
"I want to say clearly that I do not believe any animal is capable of being cruel. Cruelty implies consciousness of another's pain and the intent to cause it. Cruelty is a human speciality, which human beings continue to practice, and perfect, and institutionalize, though we seldom boast about it. We prefer to disown it, calling it "inhumanity", ascribing it to animals. We don't want to admit the innocence of the animals, which reveals our guilt."

It comes in one of many cat related essays--not a cat fan, at all. Nonetheless, Le Guin uses her relationship with Pard to relay a few thoughts. I like the hard truths in this book, the ripping away of the veil.

It never ceases to amaze me how much synchronicity envelopes my life. I should be immune to it because it happens all the time, nonetheless, in the foreword Le Guin mentions Saramago, and I smiled thinking to myself, 'I have met this writer and I understand'. Literally, not a couple months ago. And again, I find myself starting with a writer at the end. First, Gunter Grass and now Le Guin. That isn't the bizarre synchronicity it might seem at first blush because 2018 is the anniversary of a death--I have been planning to reopen it again, just to make sure everything is in place and to remember. Hence, all the morbidity in the books I've been selecting.

I didn't mean to start here. Le Guin has been on my T0-Be-Read for more years than I will admit and now it's time for me to read her stories.

Favorite quote:
"Anger points powerfully to the denial of rights, but the exercise of rights can't live and thrive on anger. It lives and thrives on the dogged pursuit of justice."
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book165 followers
October 9, 2021
The inimitable Ursula Le Guin took up blogging late in life, and so left us with this collection of pithy and poignant thoughts about everything from soup to nuts; from politics to literature to kitty dreams.

It strikes me, actually, that she reflects on things in a particularly old-person way here. Just speaking from my own experience, of course, but the way she thinks about how things are and how they should be, the way she relishes joys she may have missed in younger years, is very familiar to me now that I am getting older. She is Le Guin, though, so they aren’t gripes. She brings brilliance and hope and wisdom to her reflections.

Two favorites:

“Indignation is still the right response to indignity, to disrespect, but in the present moral climate it seems to be most effective expressed through steady, resolute morally committed behavior and action.”
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews309 followers
March 7, 2020
“meaning -- this is perhaps the common note, the bane i am seeking. what is the Meaning of this book, this event in the book, this story ... ? tell me what it Means.

but that is not my job, honey. that's your job.”

try and picture this:

you are sitting in a small, cozy home. plenty of windows show a view of a lush garden while rain pitter-patters against the glass. there’s little knickknacks on the nearby mantlepiece, and an abundance of cats trying to knock them off.

you’re wrapped up in a blanket holding a mug of tea. opposite you sits your oldest friend. her presence makes this scene more than atmospheric, more than cozy-only; her words fill the air with wisdom, wit, and honesty.

you’re content to just listen to her talk, and life feels good.

… that’s what reading this collection of essays (originally blog posts) felt like.

rarely ever have i experienced someone being able to write so thoughtfully and with nuance about such a breadth of topics -- from the whims of a cat to the progression of the feminist movement and right back to capitalism and wordsmithery -- while keeping it cozy.

le guin herself says in this that she hasn’t got the mind for philosophy, and yet i’m still over here musing on how some of these opinion pieces of hers are some the most accessible ways of touching upon (or dare i say, philosophizing about) difficult topics that i’ve seen.

as expected, her ponderings on fantasy and sci-fi genres are particularly poignant. she talks of how they are by nature subversive, and useful instruments of resistance to oppression. she mixes this sort of talk in with writers accepting rewards or refusing to do so, analyzing what it means to stand up to something -- or for something.

a couple of essays later, she so easily argues how science and religion can coexist, you wonder why it was ever a problem in our world in the first place.

of course, there were times when i didn’t always have full interest in the actual topic she brought forth -- and being an american writer living in the usa, some intrinsic parts of her life or her politics did not feel as natural to how i experience the world.

but regardless of that, i was still hanging onto her every word. especially since le guin also generously sprinkles her insights with beautiful little gems of words that never feel like trying-too-hard or overbearing.

she talks about life with an inexplicable fondness and care, and yet she isn’t afraid to criticize the world around her. she has a way of cutting right down to the core of things with just a few swipes of the Sword of Language, and i was happily nodding along in agreement and smiling at a snippet of how to properly eat and behead a soft-boiled egg.

reading a bunch of essays like this, written while le guin was in her eighties, it feels a bit like leafing through a memoir -- one peppered with wisdom. you know you’re getting to see a big part of who a person is, or at least who they choose to reveal while they write.

and i couldn’t have been happier getting to know this lovely human being, even if it was only for the tiniest little bit and only for the duration of this book. it inspires a sense of gratitude in me that is difficult to convey in words.

4.0 stars.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,115 reviews112 followers
March 1, 2022
This is a non-fic collection of blog posts by a famous SF and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin (she also wrote some non-fic). I read it as a part of monthly reading for February 2022 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

This book collects a number of posts from her blog, which she started in October 2010 and at that time she reached 80 years, so the first several posts are about (US) attitude toward old age, from her witty critique of “You’re only as old as you think you are,” obsessive show-off of fitness irrespective of age, which is praised as ideal by many, forgetting that most of us are far from ideal… then she discusses her current cat as well as cats in general, noting (I’ve never thought about it): “People and dogs have been shaping each other’s character and behavior for thirty thousand years. People and cats have been working at transforming each other for only a tenth that long. We’re still in the early stages.”

There is a score of thoughts about literature, from why so much fuss about “the Great American Novel” to why when people think about “the Great American Author” they usually think of men and up to viewing of Homer’s two epics as fantasy. The later is not a new thought, but her stress that Iliad is a rare case:

“I think Homer outwits most writers who have written on the War, by not taking sides.
The Trojan war is not and you cannot make it be the War of Good vs. Evil. It’s just a war, a wasteful, useless, needless, stupid, protracted, cruel mess full of individual acts of courage, cowardice, nobility, betrayal, limb-hacking-off, and disembowelment. Homer was a Greek and might have been partial to the Greek side, but he had a sense of justice or balance that seems characteristically Greek—maybe his people learned a good deal of it from him? His impartiality is far from dispassionate; the story is a torrent of passionate actions, generous, despicable, magnificent, trivial. But it is unprejudiced. It isn’t Satan vs. Angels. It isn’t Holy Warriors vs. Infidels. It isn’t hobbits vs. orcs. It’s just people vs. people.”

There are a lot more interesting thoughts in these pages from uniform to male/female mentality/attitudes. Overall, it is a nice quick read but I doubt that I’ll re-read it, like most blog posts of almost all people I’ve read, it is not something to return to again and again.
Profile Image for Ted Morgan.
259 reviews71 followers
December 27, 2017
A lovely rambling and ruminating but uneven collection of observations. Fun to read.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,921 reviews386 followers
April 27, 2021
I picked up this book the other night, knowing that it was a series of essays. Perfect when I needed some company as I waited for a pill to take effect, but which I could then set aside and return to after finishing two other books or so I thought. What actually happened was that Ursula K. le Guin's wonderful voice seized me, hijacking my attention until I was finished.

Her wise and wonderful voice was entrancing. An obvious admirer of the natural world and an acceptor of the scientific point of view, while still able to entertain more spiritual beliefs. She saw no reason why a person could not contain all those things, which I could not agree with more. She experienced awe in the natural world or at the opera. She reflects on writing, on fan mail, on feminism, on her latest cat, and on the trials of old age. I don't get fan mail and I don't have a cat, but I can relate to the other concerns.

I also appreciated her as a woman writing speculative fiction during a time when it was (more) difficult to be a woman author in that genre. Some of her contemporaries wrote under gender neutral pen names, but Ursula remained Ursula. And she wrote some marvelous books. Although I rather wish that I had sent her an email to let her know that her fiction was meaningful to me, but I'm comforted by knowing that she appreciated these notes while also considering them a bit of a weight—her personal code seemed to feel that such communications required acknowledgment. I'm glad I didn't add a burden to her life.

Cross posted at my blog:

Profile Image for Alan.
1,121 reviews111 followers
July 12, 2022
Rec. by: History and serendipity
Rec. for: Anyone aging

The late Ursula K. Le Guin began blogging in 2010, at the age of seventy, or almost—but it was no surprise to me that she was as amazing as a blogger as she had been in so many other contexts, over so many years. The essays (that is, "trials/attempts/efforts," as Le Guin notes on p.xx) that are collected in No Time to Spare are chatty, casual, conversational... her topics may be all over the map, but they always, always reflect her singular voice.

After a lively Introduction by another of my favorite authors, Karen Joy Fowler, Le Guin's first few essays are meditations on age, and aging—intimations of mortality—and I'll admit that, as someone who still has some catching up to do, they weren't my favorites. But it wasn't long before I was being amazed anew by how many of Le Guin's interests coincide with things I'm encountering or have encountered myself, from cat ownership (by which, of course, I mean the way cats own us) to the beauties of the state of Oregon, to the origin of the phrase "You can't have (eat) your cake and eat (have) it too," to the Mahabharata.

To aging, again.

And it's interesting—infuriating, really—to read this, in light of more recent events, in "About Anger" (from October 2014). This part is worth quoting at length, I think:
This is clearly visible in the issue of abortion rights, where the steadfast nonviolence of rights defenders faces the rants, threats, and violence of rights opponents. The opponents would welcome nothing so much as violence in return. If NARAL vented rage as Tea Party spokesmen do, if the clinics brandished guns to defend themselves from armed demonstrators, the opponents of abortion rights on the Supreme Court would hardly have to bother dismantling Roe vs. Wade by degrees, as they're doing. The cause would already be lost.
As it is, it may suffer a defeat, but if we who support it hold firm it will never be lost.

I also really enjoyed Le Guin's pastoral observations on central Oregon (though she persists in calling the Bend and Sisters area "eastern Oregon," when there's so much more of the state east of the Deschutes). From the penultimate page of No Time to Spare:
The banty rooster shrills: It-is-a-clarion-call! It-is-a-clarion-call! The big rooster exerts the unjustified superiority of a deeper voice. The hens pay no attention, scattering out, scudding along like sailboats over the grass. Now they begin to chatter, to gather back to the henyard: Gretchen has come out to scatter feed.
—"Notes from a Week at a Ranch in the Oregon High Desert," p.214

Perhaps Le Guin is not always right, but she usually is, and she's always wise. And if No Time to Spare doesn't convince you of that fact (or if you don't come away from it even more convinced)... well, I don't think I can help much with that.

After all, anyone, at any age, who can come up with this:
An angry bull goes for the red flag; an angry cow goes for the matador.
—footnote, p.70
Is someone to be reckoned with.
Profile Image for Emily.
1,778 reviews37 followers
July 15, 2022
Often when I pick up a memoir or nonfiction book by an author whose fiction I admire, I come away liking him or her even more. That was definitely the case with this collection of blog posts by Ursula Le Guin. It also makes me want to point out to all the fiction snobs who write off fantasy as shallow that these writers are deep thinkers, hard workers, and should be taken seriously. I would say this, dump water on their heads, and walk away.
Le Guin was in her 80s when she started this blog. If I’m remembering correctly, she was inspired by Saramago, who also started blogging late in life.
My favorite pieces were about her experiences as a writer—one in particular about how difficult it is to undo a mistaken quote attribution online was particularly fascinating. I also loved her pieces about animals, both wild—with a wonderful story of a rattlesnake—and domesticated, with her multiple entries about her cat Pard.
Lovely writing and a quick read (or a leisurely one, if you savor a little a day like I did). Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
590 reviews149 followers
February 16, 2019
I've never read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin but saw this one on sale so figured I'd start. What I didn't know at that time is that this is really a collection of blog posts about Le Guin's thoughts on everything from politics and modern society to aging and literature.

Le Guin is also most certainly a cat person. Far too many of these essays are about or somehow related to her cat and deal with silly things about how it sits on her lap. I don't know much more than that because, after the first one, I skipped all subsequent essays as soon as it became clear they were about her cat. Why is this "what matters"?

Like most writers, Le Guin seems highly intelligent and her posts are as well written as one would expect. Far too few of them managed to interest me, however, though this might simply be due to my never having read Le Guin before. I imagine if I were a fan I would be much more interested in her thoughts on getting older and encountering rattlesnakes.

Or perhaps not.

In any case, I recommend this to fans of Le Guin's only.
Profile Image for Navi.
112 reviews171 followers
February 25, 2020
This is the first book I have read by Ursula K. Le Guin. After reading this essay collection, I cannot wait to read her popular fiction books. This collection is funny, poignant and charming!
Profile Image for Barbara K..
428 reviews85 followers
December 7, 2020
Before I comment on these essays by Ursula LeGuin, I need to acknowledge the narrator, Barbara Caruso. I have no idea about Le Guin's actual voice, accent, inflections, intonations or the like, but Caruso has narrated with an immediacy that left me feeling I was sitting in the same room with the author as she shared her thoughts.

In these essays, or more accurately blog posts, LeGuin opines on aging, literature, politics and feminism, interspersed with observations on her tom cat, Pard. The cat commentary is more lighthearted than the rest of the pieces, and a nice break from her sometimes gloomy observations on the state of various aspects of the world.

The highlight of the book, for me, comes early, in LeGuin's reflections on aging; most specifically, about the place where "you're only as old as you feel" meets the reality of declining physical abilities. That may be because I'm thinking a lot about those very topics myself lately, or because those pieces come at the beginning of the book.

Which brings me back to the fact that I listened to this book, rather than reading it in print. Despite the intimate quality of Caruso's narration, I think listening may have diminished my experience on another level. These are pieces that deserve to be pondered slowly, perhaps pausing at the end of each one to reflect. When I listen, I tend to do so continuously, without taking breaks at the end of chapters or sections for contemplation. Not the best approach, I think, for this book.

Ah well, perhaps I will someday pick up a print copy and spend more time with it. In the meantime, I find myself wondering what LeGuin's thoughts would have been on the "me too" movement and the last four years of politics, when truth has become a somewhat arbitrary concept.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,675 followers
July 19, 2021
Did we even realize what a treasure Ursula K. Le Guin was when we had her? DID WE?

I mean, yes, I loved the Earthsea books. I need to reread them. I've loved many of her short stories, and read speeches she's given here and there, and thought, She's just so brilliant!

But did I know that in her eighties she began a blog where she muses about everything from growing older, to the evolution of profanity, to her cat, and . . . well, quite a bit was about her cat. (And what a charmer! I don't blame her a bit!)

My sister loaned me this book after she tore through it, and then I tore through it because, Wow. Le Guin is just . . . well, she's a WRITER. She knows how to put the right words into the right order.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to add rereading the Earthsea books to my list of rereads (currently including the Attolia books, The Young Wizards, and Dune).
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
888 reviews189 followers
October 19, 2019
Ese rinkinėlis, tiksliau būtų pasakius - ši knyga sudaryta iš jos tinkliaraščio ese. Random...apie dalykus, kaip pvz.: amžių(senėjimą), rašymą, katiną, literatūrą, katiną, ekonomiką, katiną...
Mano pirma pažintis su fantastikos žanro rašytoja. Sutinku, kad kažkaip ne taip tą pažintį pradėjau. Gal galit kas parekomenduoti jos distopijų?
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