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Re: Re: Le Guin and Tolkien

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  • Berni Phillips
    ... I think someone misunderstood my rather curmudgeonly spouse. I know he thinks very highly of Le Guin s writing. But this gave me an idea of a neat paper
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 24, 1999
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      > From: Joe Christopher <jchristopher@...>
      >
      > I haven't read Eddings, so I can't comment there; but I do like Le Guin's
      > works. I've read more of the Ekumen series than the Earthsea, I must admit.
      > In _The Left Hand of Darkness_, the inset myths and legends function rather
      > like Tolkien's references to earlier Middle-earth history, giving a depth to
      > the culture being depicted. And _The Left Hand of Darkness_ has a _There
      > and Back Again_ plot, in addition. Is it a general consensus that she is
      > not a good stylist? I thought she was sometimes praised for her style.

      I think someone misunderstood my rather curmudgeonly spouse. I know he
      thinks very highly of Le Guin's writing.

      But this gave me an idea of a neat paper idea (for someone else to
      write), comparing the anthropological science fiction of Ursula Le Guin
      with Eleanor Arnason. Le Guin's "The Word for World Is Forest" (among
      other things) would make an intesting comparison with Arnason's _Woman
      of the Iron People_ and the other stories she's written about those
      people.

      Berni
      ----Abandon hope, all ye who read further ----
    • Joe Christopher
      I haven t read Eddings, so I can t comment there; but I do like Le Guin s works. I ve read more of the Ekumen series than the Earthsea, I must admit. In _The
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 24, 1999
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        I haven't read Eddings, so I can't comment there; but I do like Le Guin's
        works. I've read more of the Ekumen series than the Earthsea, I must admit.
        In _The Left Hand of Darkness_, the inset myths and legends function rather
        like Tolkien's references to earlier Middle-earth history, giving a depth to
        the culture being depicted. And _The Left Hand of Darkness_ has a _There
        and Back Again_ plot, in addition. Is it a general consensus that she is
        not a good stylist? I thought she was sometimes praised for her style.

        --Joe
      • David Lenander
        I m dubious about whether we can ever agree about what is good style. Probably, most of us *on this list* can agree that there is much good in Tolkien s
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 24, 1999
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          I'm dubious about whether we can ever agree about what is "good style."
          Probably, most of us *on this list* can agree that there is much good in
          Tolkien's style--but if I tried, I think I could attack it pretty effectively.
          I noticed that in Butterbur, we've often disagreed radically about different
          writers' styles. My belief is that reading any writer's work requires an
          investment, a sympathy on the part of the reader. I happen to like McKillip's
          style, for instance, and Angela Carter's, but I could attack them both for
          being florid and overblown (I could also defend them, I think). I could attack
          Le Guin for being spartan and colorless, but I actually think she's an
          outstanding stylist, a better writer than Tolkien, imho. Based upon _The Book
          of Suns_ I would've been willing to say that Nancy Springer was a very bad
          writer, but either she's much improved or my recollections of that book are
          unfair, many have praised her work, and I noticed none of the stylistic errors
          I remembered in _Fair Peril_, which I thought was very well-done.

          Steve Brust, who has himself written effectively and sometimes beautifully, has
          in my hearing spoken sensitively about the stories and prose of such writers as
          Pamela Dean and Gene Wolfe and Roger Zelazny, has also attacked and dismissed
          the prose and writing of Melville in _Moby Dick_. The latter is a masterpiece
          in every sense of the word, and while I might agree that Gene Wolfe IS a writer
          of comparable abilities and stature, it seems clear to me that Brust is missing
          something.

          I have read only one book by Sara Paretsky, and don't remember much impression
          of her style, though my spouse has read and enjoyed a number of her novels. I
          have heard her read aloud from a collection of short stories, and I was
          favorably impressed with her style and sense of character and place (Chicago).
          Aside from Joe Christopher, I've seen no positive judgements about her book,
          _Ghost Country_, in Butterbur or from others who commented here about the
          book. But I wouldn't rush to judgement. I can think of several reasons why a
          writer not a part of our Mythopoeic Society
          "interpretive community" (to cite a theory since abandoned by Stanley Fish)
          might write a book that we would not be very sensitive to, but which might be
          impressive to readers in other communities. I respect Joe's opinion enough to
          want to read that book for myself. I actually will need a lot more
          recommendations to make me want to read Eddings or the Wheel of Time things, or
          perhaps a different sort of recommendation.

          Where is all of this going? I have two more anecdotes. Despite my love for Le
          Guin's work, I did not especially appreciate _The Tombs of Atuan_ until a
          Rivendell Group (Twin Cities local discussion group) discussion of the (then-)
          Earthsea Trilogy, back in 1976 or so. At that meeting, Lesa von Munkwitz-Smith
          spoke up and loudly disagreed with me and others who'd mourned the falling off
          in the second volume of Le Guin's artistic vision and vigor. In just a few
          sentences she verbally sketched out a reading of _Tombs_ as the yin to
          _Wizard_'s yang, the feminine side of the Earthsea experience, that completely
          transformed my understanding of the book. Unlike many of us, Lesa didn't need
          _Tehanu_ to further explicate the book, she caught what Le Guin had to say,
          almost before Le Guin herself could fully articulate it. Similarly, Lesa
          again, along with Bruce Blake, strongly encouraged me to go back to Michael
          Moorcock's very silly, pretentious and precious trilogy, The Dancers at the End
          of Time. Although I had read _An Alien Heat_, I had no desire or intention to
          read any more of it. The second volume seemed little better. However, upon
          starting to read the third volume (_The End of All Songs_) I realized that
          these characters and their stories were beginning to grow upon me. By the time
          I finished the book, I realized that Moorcock had written a masterpiece, almost
          in opposition to Tolkien, hewing much closer to his beloved Mervyn Peake, but
          truly in his own voice. (Remember that Moorcock was once a major Tolkien fan,
          as Paul Edwin Zimmer used to remenisce). Even more amazing to me was that the
          first two books were now transformed. I think that (as C.S. Lewis suggests in
          his essays) I had managed to escape the prison of my own limited mind and see
          outside the cell, through another pair of eyes. Similarly, Lois Kuznets'
          recent book, _When Toys Come Alive_, enabled me to understand a book that I'd
          hated, seemingly unreasonably out of proportion, as a child. I really don't
          dislike the book much less, but I find that understanding why has changed how I
          think of it and of myself, the child reader. I think that the Inklings often
          bitterly argued about books, but I hope that they enjoyed some of these
          experiences: coming to appreciate something that they'd previously disliked or
          misunderstood, or at least better understood their own objections. I hope that
          in comparing apples and oranges, Paretskys, Eddingses and Tolkiens, we may
          also.

          Joe Christopher wrote:

          > From: Joe Christopher <jchristopher@...>
          >
          > I haven't read Eddings, so I can't comment there; but I do like Le Guin's
          > works. I've read more of the Ekumen series than the Earthsea, I must admit.
          > In _The Left Hand of Darkness_, the inset myths and legends function rather
          > like Tolkien's references to earlier Middle-earth history, giving a depth to
          > the culture being depicted. And _The Left Hand of Darkness_ has a _There
          > and Back Again_ plot, in addition. Is it a general consensus that she is
          > not a good stylist? I thought she was sometimes praised for her style.
          >
          > --Joe
          >
          > > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        • Stolzi@aol.com
          ... Oh well, if we re taking votes, I think LeGuin s style is =masterly=. Mary S
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 25, 1999
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            > I thought she was sometimes praised for her style.
            > >
            > > --Joe

            Oh well, if we're taking votes, I think LeGuin's style is =masterly=.

            Mary S
          • Madame K
            ... Moi aussi! Mary Jo Kapsalis, with her vote
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 26, 1999
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              >From: Stolzi@...
              >Reply-To: mythsoc@onelist.com
              >To: mythsoc@onelist.com
              >Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Le Guin and Tolkien
              >Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 09:16:25 EDT
              >
              >From: Stolzi@...
              >
              >
              >
              > > I thought she was sometimes praised for her style.
              > > >
              > > > --Joe
              >
              >Oh well, if we're taking votes, I think LeGuin's style is =masterly=.
              >
              >Mary S
              >



              Moi aussi!


              Mary Jo Kapsalis, with her vote
              >------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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