• The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena & Stories and Songs (2016, New York: Library of America), edited by Brian Attebery, 592 pages, with author introduction, author chronology, note on the texts, notes, and map.
• Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume One: Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, & Stories (2017, New York: Library of America), edited by Brian Attebery, 1,095 pages, with author introduction, author chronology, note on the texts, notes, and map.
• Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume Two: The Word for World is Forest, Stories, Five Ways to Forgiveness, & The Telling (2017, New York: Library of America), edited by Brian Attebery, 789 pages, with author introduction, author chronology, note on the texts, notes, and map.
• Always Coming Home: Author’s Expanded Edition (2019, New York: Library of America), edited by Brian Attebery, 826 pages, with author chronology, note on the texts, and notes.
The quest for an American literature
The literary canon, once considered a sturdy edifice of Dead Authors and Important Texts, has become an ever-expanding domicile that houses tenants unthinkable one century ago.
No publisher better exemplifies this trend than the Library of America (LOA), an organization jointly founded in 1979 by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation that, according to its official website, “champions our nation’s cultural heritage by publishing America’s greatest writing in authoritative new editions and providing resources for readers to explore this rich, living legacy.”1
LOA, as expected, has been questioned about its literary judgment, particularly its selection of so-called non-canonical authors for preservation. Doubtless, LOA’s editors may choose whichever authors they wish for their press’s now-famous, sleekly bound, black editions even if those authors defy mainstream, academic, or polite respectability. Such is the point of the enterprise: America’s “greatest writing” transcends old-fashioned notions of Literature (meaning Capital-L Literature, the good-for-you fiction). Americans are simply to vibrant, rude, and enterprising a people to have their literary output contained as mere Literature. Journalism, theatre, song lyrics, teleplays, screenplays, pamphlets, and perhaps the world’s most popular and passionate genre fiction—may say more who and what the country is than the works of William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Thomas Pynchon. LOA’s output has run the gamut from the woodcut, wordless novels of Lynn Ward to the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, from the sportswriting of Red Smith to the chilling novels of Shirley Jackson. Could science fiction be neglected in this reimagining of the American literature?
Low blows: Ursula K. Le Guin, scribbler
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), in this context, is perfect for LOA’s collection. Despite her decades of literary production, to say nothing of the numerous awards and honorary degrees conferred upon Le Guin during her long life, too few people even now know her name and her work, especially those literary snobs who turn up their noses at the usual description of Le Guin’s writing as science fiction and fantasy fiction (or, for those seeking greater propriety, speculative fiction).
Library of America’s four Le Guin volumes include ten novels, three short-story collections, a “story suite” comprising five linked short stories and novellas, and selected essays of such quality that we must reject the soul-crushing label under which Le Guin occasionally labored: hack.
Such people take as gospel the assumption that genre fiction (whatever that is) does not, cannot, and tries not to reach the heights of literary fiction, a term so amorphous that it resists all precise definitions, although thinking of literary fiction as the sort of writing that appeared in The New Yorker during William Shawn’s editorship is as good a place as any to begin. Genre fiction, according to this staid perspective, is little more than hackwork, or the uninspired doodlings of frivolous writers more concerned with conventional ideas, flat prose, and regular paychecks than the deepest strivings, prodigious pleasures, and higher concerns of Art (yes, the Capital-A variety that the literati think characterizes the most serious, the most intelligent, and the most high-flown works of human creation).
Chances are, however, that even these readers have heard Le Guin’s name bandied about by journalists, celebrities, mystics, and scholars. Aficionados of science fiction and fantasy (SFF) fiction (in any form) can no longer ignore Le Guin, whose reputation, influence, and fame have steadily grown since the 1970s, when literary scholarship about her work began appearing in academic journals while popular-press sources began taking mainstream notice. LOA’s four Le Guin volumes include ten novels, three short-story collections, a “story suite” comprising five linked short stories and novellas, and selected essays of such quality that we must reject the soul-crushing label under which Le Guin occasionally labored: hack.
Even so, conventional wisdom holds that any author who wrote as much as Le Guin can only be a hack, or, as a female writer producing fiction in the male-dominated marketplace of SFF fiction, a latter-day member of that “damned mob of scribbling women” that Nathaniel Hawthorne bemoaned in a now-infamous 1855 letter to his publisher and friend, William D. Ticknor.2 To add insult to this injurious belief, the notion that female authors are little more than crass servants of their flighty readerships remained prevalent during the 1960s and 1970s, to say nothing of the fact that such wrongheaded judgments cling to life during our supposedly more enlightened era.
Le Guin, as a woman writing ostensibly superficial fiction, was not considered valuable or canonical by mainstream observers. Choosing to work in the literary ghettos of SFF fiction—those much-maligned genres of bug-eyed monsters, stolid spacemen, buxom damsels in distress, amazing gadgetry, dragons, wizards, witches, low-rent suspensions of disbelief, and execrable prose—was at one time the death knell of bourgeois literary respectability. Such formulations ignore the complexity, maturity, and sophistication of many SFF stories, novels, films, and television programs, but, when Le Guin began publishing her work in the 1960s, SFF stories were regarded (when noticed at all) as artless, in part due to their tremendous popularity with teenage boys.
Yet such pronouncements are stark reminders of how jejune the American literary academy’s priorities can be. No matter how many times its more conservative members sniff at the fact that genre fiction is now studied on university and college campuses across the land, these cultural gatekeepers deprive themselves of enjoying—yes, enjoying, relishing, and even adoring—the pleasures that reading a writer as masterful as Le Guin brings them.
Even a brief review of LOA’s four Le Guin volumes demonstrates how wrongheaded such restrictive judgments are. Le Guin was a fantastic author in every sense of this term, writing SFF fiction so good that its quality can no longer be disputed, not that it ever should have been. That she did so during the 1960s and 1970s while helping pioneer new status for female authors within—here we go, take a deep breath and say it with me now, one, two, three!—American literature (full stop) is as significant as Le Guin’s commitment to full-throated humanism may seem old fashioned in the too-hip-for-its-own-good, social-media-saturated postmodern world we find ourselves enduring, day by day, as the twenty-first century wends its way forward. Our era’s apparent founding principle—that we should always ironize our most deeply held feelings to demonstrate how intellectually, emotionally, and morally cultured we are—cuts no ice with (or in) Le Guin’s fiction at any point during her expansive career.
No matter how many times its more conservative members sniff at the fact that genre fiction is now studied on university and college campuses across the land, these cultural gatekeepers deprive themselves of enjoying—yes, enjoying, relishing, and even adoring—the pleasures that reading a writer as masterful as Le Guin brings them.
And to this observation, we can only give our most profound and relieved thanks.
Turn left: Ursula K. Le Guin, visionary
People intending to read LOA’s four Le Guin volumes may be daunted by the three-thousand-and-more, single-spaced pages that confront them. Each book’s 10-point font may send some readers in search of their magnifying glasses, yet these concerns dissipate after cracking any volume’s cover. Le Guin’s fertile imagination, winsome characters, fabulous plots, and, most of all, resonant prose immediately capture the reader’s outer (and inner) eye. Despite being a certified Le Guin admirer of long-standing (meaning that, during the previous thirty years, I have read—and in many cases re-read—all the work that editor Brian Attebery3 collates in LOA’s four volumes), I was nonetheless unprepared for how forcefully Le Guin’s fictional worlds affected me upon again encountering them. These concentrated bursts of Le Guin’s poetic imagination, storytelling, and diction staggered and snared me, sometimes for hours on end, within her relentless authorial grasp.
To wit, I finished the first volume of Le Guin’s Hainish Novels & Stories in five days flat, averaging two-hundred-and-so pages every twenty-four hours, all while teaching three university courses and living a reasonably active life, because Le Guin’s writing demanded such commitment from me. Harlan Ellison once wrote words about Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 masterpiece Kindred that perfectly describe LOA’s Le Guin collection, with each Hainish volume offering the best-possible introduction to Le Guin’s narrative sophistication: “To express my total admiration and wonder for the originality of this surpassingly compelling novel, I am driven to a despised cliché: I could not put it down! It is a book that simply will not be denied; its power is hypnotic.”4 So say we all when devouring The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and the Hainish short stories that Brian Attebery divides into two volumes that span the years 1966 to 2010.
These tales depict a galactic confederation of planets—known early on as the League of All Worlds, later as the Ekumen—founded by the inhabitants of the planet Hain who, in the unimaginably distant past, colonized Earth (known as Terra) alongside several other worlds that the Hain seeded with human beings. Le Guin creates an alternate history for our wayward species so suitably epic in scope, theme, and detail that it rivals anything Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein conjured during the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, that era running from the mid-1920s through the 1950s when SFF fiction—thanks to Hugo Gernsback, Horace Gold, John W. Campbell, and other pulp-magazine editors—blossomed into both a viable commercial enterprise and an underground literary movement.
These concentrated bursts of Le Guin’s poetic imagination, storytelling, and diction staggered and snared me, sometimes for hours on end, within her relentless authorial grasp.
Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein are that period’s most famous founding authors, but their early work displays little of the cultural, political, and sociological subtlety that Le Guin infuses into her first published novels, including Rocannon’s World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), and City of Illusions (1967). Le Guin, as the daughter of anthropologists Alfred and Theodora (née Kracaw) Krober, imbibed her parents’ scholarly passions so well that her fiction swiftly convinces its readers that the worlds Le Guin invents are, indeed, real places rife with complex histories, cultures, and characters. You may begin as a stranger in these strange lands, but soon take up residence inside them thanks to Le Guin’s brilliance at weaving each place’s contradictions, tensions, mores, and rites into satisfyingly detailed portraits of authentic extraterrestrial societies.
When Genly Ai, the human protagonist of Le Guin’s most famous novel, 1969’s The Left Hand of Darkness, visits the planet Gethen and encounters its apparently androgynous inhabitants, this book meticulously unveils how people who are neither male nor female undergo sexual division once each month, during a process known as kemmer, that functions as a form of estrus in which they take on a fixed sex, thereby finding themselves capable of intercourse and reproduction.
Perhaps Left Hand’s most famous sentence appears in Chapter 8, when Argaven, the monarch of Karhide (one of Gethen’s two major nations), finds himself with child. “The king was pregnant,”5 Genly Ai writes in a field report to his bosses, who have assigned Ai his mission to convince Gethen’s inhabitants to join the Ekumen’s interplanetary alliance. This single line helped cement Le Guin’s reputation as an SFF author who wrote against the grain so fervently that she demolished the androcentric planks on which these genres’ narrative foundations are built.
Or, we should say, Le Guin attempted to destroy those planks. Left Hand retains masculine and feminine pronouns for the Gethenians, while Argaven, Genly, and Estraven—the Karhider prime minister who, accused of treason and exiled to the opposing nation of Orgoreyn, becomes, in the novel’s second half, Genly’s political liaison and personal protector—remain so clearly male that, as many commentators observed at the time of the novel’s release, Le Guin’s experiment in deconstructing gender roles (by inexorably questioning their essentialist underpinnings) only partially succeeds. Le Guin acknowledges this drawback (and more) in two later articles (1976’s “Is Gender Necessary?” and its 1987 reconsideration, “Is Gender Necessary? Redux”), confessions that remain so intellectually rigorous, refreshing, and rewarding that every sentence reminds us just how tremendous an essayist Le Guin is. Her capacity for self-examination and -criticism is remarkable, indeed heartening, for readers hoping to discover that their favorite author is also a commendable human being.
As brilliant a book as Left Hand may be, as many times as literary observers pronounce it Le Guin’s earliest masterpiece, and despite its status as her best-known novel, perhaps my favorite is 1974’s The Dispossessed. Apart from a terrific title that arouses immediate interest, this self-proclaimed “ambiguous utopia” (the novel’s subtitle) finds its protagonist, Shevek, attempting to develop a General Temporal Theory (clearly modeled upon Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) that describes time as a structure so deep and so infinitely complex that it exists as a beautiful, nearly living force that combines mathematics, philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics into one glorious whole.
If such intellectual adventure fails to intrigue you, fear not, dear reader, for Le Guin builds not one, but two remarkable worlds in the space of this book’s 400 pages while shuttling Shevek, a character based loosely upon J. Robert Oppenheimer, back and forth. As a scientist who lives on Anarres, a moon of the planet Urras (located in the Tau Ceti star system), Shevek lives in a society devoted to an ideological system frequently described by Le Guin scholars as “anarcho-syndicalism” that differs so markedly from any American’s lived experience of market capitalism that Urras becomes The Dispossessed’s fictional avatar of the United States despite neither the novel nor Le Guin ever explicitly making this comparison. They need not do so, but even if this description horrifies casual audiences into believing The Dispossessed to be more political treatise than novel, meaning a book so turgid that readers prefer to rub sandpaper into their eyes rather than encounter its morbid mumblings, rest assured than this response is both unnecessary and unkind. The Dispossessed—both despite and due to its high-flown theorizing—is a blessedly quick read whose narrative moves at a steady clip that obscures, as the best fiction does, how expertly Le Guin constructs the novel’s two extrasolar societies.
Urras is a capitalist patriarchy of the first order so disturbing to Shevek that he cannot leave fast enough. As indictments of twentieth-century American capitalism go, The Dispossessed is not only among the best novels of its era but also among the best utopian novels ever published, becoming an exemplary entry in the subgenre of “female utopia” that appeared, with increasing frequency, during the 1970s. Sometimes known as the “feminist utopia” and pioneered by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s terrific 1915 novel Herland (along with this book’s lesser-known companions, 1911’s Moving the Mountain and 1916’s With Her in Ourland), this subgenre includes two terrific entries published in 1976 (Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Dorothy Bryant’s The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You), at least two by Le Guin (the aforementioned Left Hand of Darkness and Dispossessed), and perhaps the most famous entry of all, Joanna Russ’s uncompromising 1975 masterpiece The Female Man. Russ’s short-story collection The Adventures of Alyx also qualifies, while no one should forget Suzy McKee Charnas’s 1974 novel Walk to the End of the World (the first volume of her four-book Holdfast Chronicles).6
Le Guin, as the daughter of anthropologists Alfred and Theodora (née Kracaw) Krober, imbibed her parents’ scholarly passions so well that her fiction swiftly convinces its readers that the worlds Le Guin invents are, indeed, real places rife with complex histories, cultures, and characters.
And no discussion of American utopian or SFF fiction written by women is complete without mentioning James Tiptree, Jr., the pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon, whose collected short stories are necessary entries in our always-growing American literary canon, particularly 1975’s Warm Worlds and Otherwise, which includes two of my favorite-ever stories: “The Women Men Don’t See” and “Through a Lass Darkly.” Tiptree’s work may seem dystopian (by depicting worlds that are worse than our own, when not our own), but her 1970s fiction and her male penname illustrate just how ambiguous the term utopia is, to say nothing of feminist utopia, which circles us back to Le Guin.
The Dispossessed, for my money, is the best of Le Guin’s utopian bunch because it calls into question the entire notion of utopia with even more subtlety and guile than Russ’s, Piercy’s, or Tiptree’s contributions. This statement should not be taken as a rebuke of Brian Attebery’s other selections for LOA’s Le Guin volumes, especially 1972’s The Word for World Is Forest—a novella that Attebery includes in LOA’s second Hainish Novels & Stories volume (and whose premise James Cameron rips off wholesale for his overpraised, silly, and dispiriting 2009 film Avatar), even if this novella extends Le Guin’s lifelong fascination with trees and forests as potentially sentient corporate life forms (see also her wonderful 1971 novelette Vaster Than Empires and More Slow, included in the first Hainish Novels & Stories book)—or 1985’s Always Coming Home, which rightfully receives its own volume.
Always Coming Home is one of Le Guin’s most complex and rewarding books, as well as one of the best American novels published during the 1980s despite not at all resembling a traditional novel. Its story of the Kesh, a group of people living in post-apocalyptic northern California in the far future, is told by a narrator known only as Pandora, who functions both as an ethnographer and an anthropologist describing the Kesh’s history, culture, social organization, and multifarious beliefs7 in a book that mixes conventional novelistic narrative with scientific recordkeeping in a manner similar to Genly Ai’s mission reports to the Ekumen in The Left Hand of Darkness. No one in Always Coming Home can remember exactly what the apocalypse was or what provoked it, so long ago did it occur, but the genetic damage that characterizes the Kesh—who experience high infant mortality and have developed consequent social taboos against multiple siblings, leading to the wide prevalence of abortion—suggests that global warming is the culprit, which the area’s altered ecology, especially the sea-level rise that has allowed the Pacific Ocean to submerge much of northern California’s viable land, supports.
Always Coming Home revels in Native American themes, symbols, imagery, and storytelling precepts to demonstrate not only how much Le Guin was influenced by her parents’ work—her father, Alfred, published the well-regarded-for-its-time Handbook of the Indians of California in 1925 while her mother, Theodora, first released The Inland Whale: Nine Stories Retold from California Indian Legends in 1959—but also Le Guin’s awareness of significant Native American authors and their work. Always Coming Home’s forebears include N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968) and The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969), Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977) and Storyteller (1981), and, perhaps most powerfully, Paula Gunn Allen’s The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983). Like these earlier texts, Always Coming Home intermixes poetry, first-person narration, as-told-to oral accounts, and ethnographic observation (complete with scientific charts, graphs, and maps) into a book that challenges its readers’ preconceptions of how a novel functions.
Samuel R. Delany begins his 29 September 1985 New York Times review of Always Coming Home this way, and no better description exists:
Mrs. Le Guin has created an entire ethnography of the far future in her new book. It’s called a novel. But even to glance at it is to suspect it’s more than, or other than, that: the oversize trade paperback is boxed with a tape cassette of delicate songs, poems and haunting dance pieces, purportedly recorded on site. Liner notes are included. Are they by the composer, Todd Barton, or by Ursula Le Guin? It’s not indicated. I would like to know, since each entry, with its song or poem, is a small story in itself. Margaret Chodo’s fine line drawings portray animals, birds, sacred implements and symbols, tools, mountains and houses (but no people); and we have charts, maps, alphabets and a glossary.8
LOA’s reproduction of Le Guin’s bold 1985 project (the terms book and novel seem insufficient considering the effort Le Guin put into this narrative enterprise) does not incorporate the music Delany mentions, but interested readers can easily locate digital copies of Le Guin and Todd Barton’s album Music and Poetry of the Kesh by performing a quick online search.9
The Dispossessed—both despite and due to its high-flown theorizing—is a blessedly quick read whose narrative moves at a steady clip that obscures, as the best fiction does, how expertly Le Guin constructs the novel’s two extrasolar societies.
Brian Attebery, however, includes ample additional material in LOA’s Always Coming Home volume to offset this deficiency. This fresh section—titled Pandora Revisits the Kesh and Comes Back with New Texts—was prepared by Le Guin in 2017, houses the new novella Dangerous People, includes additional poems known as “Blood Lodge Songs,” and appends a linguistic guide-cum-syllabary titled “Kesh Syntax.” Each entry is fascinating in its own right, but, taken together, make LOA’s version of this wonderful book as close to definitive as we will ever get.
The massive scope and creative intricacy of Always Coming Home disclose just how visionary an author Le Guin was. Literary observers may too loosely and too frequently throw around terms such as visionary and genius, but LOA’s Le Guin volumes prosecute their case so well that every cultural jury must render the same verdict: Le Guin remains one of twentieth-century America’s greatest authors.
All aboard: Ursula K. Le Guin, national treasure
Delany’s Always Coming Home review concludes with words as accurate today as when he wrote them in 1985:
Mrs. Le Guin is among the half-dozen most respected American writers who regularly set their narrative in the future to force a dialogue with the here and now, a dialogue generally called science fiction. She is also a much-loved writer. And Always Coming Home is a slow, rich read, full of what one loves most in her work: a liberal utopian vision, rendered far more complex than the term “utopian” usually allows for by a sense of human suffering. This is her most satisfying text among a set of texts that have provided much imaginative pleasure in her 23 years as an author.10
“Hear, hear!” I say, even though the present review has yet to consider LOA’s inaugural Le Guin entry, The Complete Orsinia. Attebery presents Orsinia first because this volume demonstrates how Le Guin, in her career’s earliest days, so thrillingly imagined her fiction’s invented landscapes that the collected Orsinian tales predict the narrative glories yet to come.
To say that Orsinia creates a fictional European nation that Le Guin populates with fascinating characters, fantastic plots, and cultural complexities worthy of her later work may seem paltry indeed, just as noting that Orsinia feels less refined than that later work may be no surprise since Orsinia is as close as LOA comes to offering Le Guinian juvenilia. Yet nothing I say here can replace the magical embrace into which Le Guin’s words in Orsinian Tales (1976) and the novel Malafrena (1979) enfolds their readers.
The Complete Orsinia, as Le Guin writes in her introduction to LOA’s opening volume, comes not from her rejection of midcentury American realism, exactly, but rather from her dissatisfaction with its constraints:
I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved [James] Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara and the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.
At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me.¹¹
Although she first conceived Orsinia while a student at Radcliffe College during the late 1940s, Le Guin did not begin drafting Malefrena (then titled A Descendance) until 1951, while living in Paris, France. She rewrote this book more than once before its 1979 publication, three years after Orisinian Tales appeared to little fanfare, so all her Orsinian stories—despite their provenance as some of Le Guin’s earliest forays into fiction—do not truly qualify as juvenilia because they appeared when Le Guin was just coming into her own as a force in American SFF circles. Yet LOA’s (and Attebery’s) inaugural Le Guin volume gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the fresh-faced author developing concepts, characters, and cultures near the beginning of her career that would blossom into the fertile narrative fields she harvested for the rest of her life.
Near the end of that long life, the National Book Foundation awarded Le Guin its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on 19 November 2014. Her short speech that evening has become a legendary statement of principles about the necessity of literary art and the significance of SFF fiction to such art. Le Guin also strikes some marvelous jabs against the American publishing industry’s obsession with profits, with electronic books, and with attempting to regulate the diversity of work that reaches the American reading public. Here is my favorite part of this fabulous speech:
My family, my agent, editors know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last fifty years watched the beautiful awards go to the so-called realists.
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.12
Encountering these words in the year 2020, with the triple pandemics of COVID-19, noxious racism, and global fascism running unbridled throughout our world, makes these sentiments more precious than Le Guin could ever have imagined. The realists of a larger reality have become so necessary for daily living during quarantine that no further commentary is necessary, except to note that Le Guin’s 2018 death was a hammer blow to people that value not simply great art but also the artists who produce it.
To say that Orsinia creates a fictional European nation that Le Guin populates with fascinating characters, fantastic plots, and cultural complexities worthy of her later work may seem paltry indeed, just as noting that Orsinia feels less refined than that later work may be no surprise since Orsinia is as close as LOA comes to offering Le Guinian juvenilia.
Ursula K. Le Guin was—and is—one of those great American artists. Based on all available evidence, she was also a lovely human being who brought tremendous wit, intelligence, and compassion to her writing. The Library of America and editor Brian Attebery cannot include all the work that Le Guin produced during her exceptionally fruitful career, but their four-volume collection allows even longtime readers like myself to realize, afresh and anew, how vital a voice she was—and is—to American literature.
Discovering why will give you hours, days, and weeks of pure reading pleasure. So to all the cultural gatekeepers who would close the doors of America’s literary heritage to the realists of those larger realities, please know that Ursula K. Le Guin’s legacy has now been enshrined in our national canon.
No one deserves it more than she.