***Group Read: Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin (spoiler thread)
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Always Coming Home is more an anthropological collection of cultural data about a future civilization than a typical novel. You will find stories, poems, and encyclopedia-like informative entries mixed together. There is an extensive appendix with songs, maps, alphabet and language information, crafts, and much more.
Suggested reading schedule (realizing that many people will read it at their own speed, which is perfectly fine):
March 1-7--"Stone Telling Part 1" through "The Four Histories".
March 8-14--"Pandora worrying" through "Eight Life Stories"
March 15-21--"Some brief valley texts" through "POEMS: 4th Section"
March 22-28--"The Back of the Book" These are the appendices and are optional, but fascinating to dip into.
The spoiler thread will be used this time for those who have finished as much of the book as they intend to in this time and space, with no limits on discussing things that happen outside of the schedule. Those who want to comment as they are reading, which is welcome, will please use the general Future Women thread.
In response to some of the comments on the Future Women thread I asked:
Ask yourself why the author chose this format instead of a straight narrative, as in all of her other books. What is the function? Are we supposed to slow down, as we are unable to plow ahead through a single story line? What do the other materials add to our experience? Does reading it slowly, dipping into it, savoring this bit and that, add to our immersion in the cultural thought? Is it worth it or not?
I picked it up again for this read because other people have told me that all the notes really added to the story for them, but it's just not working for me. I'd rather be reading some real anthropology rather than mucking around in Leguin's mind.
Of course, some of this is due to reading most of what she's written in the intervening years. She's returned to these themes again and again. So I'm not getting anything new and Stone Telling's story isn't my favorite, so additions to it aren't satisfying any itch.
Not a bad read but I would have preferred it in the novella form that folks here have mentioned. Even then, I think it's flawed...but, interestingly, not for the sometimes-heard complaints about this book being "matriarchy good, patriarchy bad," since I don't think it said that at all.
The first Stone Telling section--the way the two cultures find each other's POVs almost incomprehensible. The best they can do is for Kills to say, make this little adjustment, the bridge, let my culture pour through to its goal so it will have minimal impact on you. It's not such a big deal. And the Kesh saying, there is no need to disrupt the river here. Obsidian's comment, and the reaction, say it all.
Why are the four romantic tales labeled romances? They do all have to do with male/female relationship, yet the first three are definitely cautionary tales as per the note in the second. I liked the last one the best.
I am enjoying the poems. I am reading this, a section or two at a time, as my bedtime reading each night, a good pace for this type of writing. It allows me to savor each bit.
I struggled a bit, speaking of time, with the two city 'chapters' and the 'explanation' of how the Valley people (I keep having to push away 'valley girls' btw) regard the passage of time. It's very sophisticated, a 'willed' way of viewing things that, I think, is meant to convey that the way Valley people view time affects the choices they make - everything you do is always and now, so..... a harmful choice doesn't go away. It takes a load of mindfulness to do that.
I took the romantic tales to be about 'love' moving out of balance into extremes, a bit Romeo and Juliet style, that excessive love is destructive. And yet, I also felt the stories, as with the pig war, also accept that this is something that happens, that people can't help. So the only thing you can do then is try to be kind (as the people tried to help ease the suffering of the man who died instead of his wife, although they couldn't do much.) I thought that story had a great deal of wisdom in it -- that you can't 'take on' someone else's illness, no matter how much you love them.
I'm glad we're reading along together Roni.
I also liked the Four Histories but I found myself really surprised when The Trouble with the Cotton People mentioned trains and then was really pleased when The Time and the City section started to explain it.
#22 Lucy, I think The Time and the City section as been my favourite section so far. Having said that I found some of the stories in this section a bit too preachy.
I'm hoping to finish The Time and the City and the second Stone Telling section soon. I feel like I've been plodding along with this book but it feels like I'm starting to get the hang of how to read it.
I'm very glad I read it, and I think it was a sincere effort to try something different.
This was re-read for a group read, and I enjoyed reading it again. Le Guin's parents were anthropologists, with her father concentrating on cultures in the American Northwest, and their influence has always been discernible in her science fiction, but nowhere more so than here. This is not a linear story but an immersion into a post-apocalyptic world from the viewpoint of one cultural group. Both for this group, the Sinshan in their valley, and for the Condor, Le Guin accurately uses many features present in the aboriginal cultures of the Northwest and the Northern plains. The culture is shared not only by narrative but by song, poem, legend, and infrastructure, giving a rich, multi-layered texture to the society. The author, as Pandora, frets about her approach, but ultimately speaks her true purpose, I believe, in the chapter of Pandora speaking with the archivist.
ARC: But I have no answers and this isn't utopia, aunt!
PAN: The hell it ain't.
ARC: This is a mere dream dreamed in a bad time, an Up Yours to the people who ride snowmobiles, make nuclear weapons, and run prison camps by a middle-aged housewife, a critique of civilisation possible only to the civilised, an affirmation pretending to be a rejection, a glass of milk for the soul ulcered by acid rain, a piece of pacifist jeanjacquerie, and a cannibal dance among the savages in the ungodly garden of the farthest West.
"Not so much a novel as it is an ethnography of a people who, in the words of Le Guin, 'might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.' And for me in most ways far more interesting than a simple novel would be, because as a book it's the difference between standing outside events, being told about them, and being inside a world and being invited to experience it. It's not just world-building wankery, however; Le Guin's gift to the reader is to give you enough of a view into the life of this world that you can't help but reflect on both your own world and your own life. There's also the fact that as a native Californian, I like the idea that the state of my birth is still going to have been around a long, long time from now--and will still have been a singular, imaginative place."
The other two books, btw, were
By Mark Helprin
A Mencken Chrestomathy
By H. L. Mencken