I’ve been swamped at work this week, so I haven’t had much time or energy to write anything, including a blog post. Instead, I wanted to share a quote from a collection of essays I’m reading:
“A genre novel fulfills certain generic obligations. A mystery provides some kind of puzzle and its resolution; a fantasy breaks the rules of reality in a significant way; a romance offers the frustration and fulfillment of a love story. On the lowest plane, genre offers the kind of reliability hamburger chains offer: If you pick up a Louis L’Amour western or the eighteenth mystery in a series, you know what you’re going to get. But if you pick up Molly Gloss’s The Jump-Off Creek, a western, or Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy, or Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, a science fiction novel, although each reliably fulfills the obligations of its genre, it is also utterly unpredictable, a novel, a work of art.
“Above the level of the merely commercial, in the realm of art, whether it’s called mainstream or genre fiction, we can fulfill our expectations only by learning which authors disappoint and which authors offer the true nourishment for the soul. We find out who the good writers are, and then we look or wait for the next book. Such writers—living or dead, whatever genre they write in, critically fashionable or not, academically approved or not—are those who not only meet our expectations but surpass them. That is the gift the great storytellers have. They tell the same stories over and over (how many stories are there?), but when they tell them they are new, they are news, they renew us, they show us the world made new.”
—“Telling is Learning” in The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin
I’ve been reading this book for a couple weeks now (I always read nonfiction slower than fiction). When I’m done I might spend a blog post just gushing about how much I love everything of Le Guin’s that I’ve read; even now I wish I could just hand you all a copy of this book.
These paragraphs stood out to me because I feel their truth in my veins. They also summarize how I feel about Le Guin’s work, her fiction in particular. Hers are the books that I seek out, that I reread often, that always renew me, to use her phrasing (and can I fangirl a moment about that last sentence in the quote and its wonderful rhythm?).
Le Guin has a great many useful and insightful things to say about writing, reading, listening and creativity. This quote is just a small but wonderful sample. Enjoy.