An Unacknowledged Debt: Le Guin

Le Guin died, and I joined the crowd of people tweeting about it, with probably my favourite single quote of hers, but it’s hard to pick a favourite from her work, isn’t it? because she said so many resonant, authoritative things, in and out of fiction. I read A Wizard of Earthsea when I was seven, and then I re-read it when I was, I don’t know, eleven? and I still remember how I could not get through one page without it feeling familiar, because every page has something that leaves a mark. Most books you re-read don’t feel like that.

Anyway I possibly didn’t realise until this morning how fundamental the influence of her work – not exclusively the Earthsea books, but particularly those, because I read them early – has been on me. I have occasionally mentioned her in interviews, but not often, because I don’t think about Le Guin when I’m writing, and I do think about Peake and Renault and Zelazny and Hambly, whom I read later, and whom I have to work not to imitate consciously. Le Guin (like Tolkien and Lewis) gave me the whole landscape. Magicians are like this; death works like that; here is the nature of things. The canniness of the everyday and the sudden intrusion of the numinous and the gifts of aphorism and the awareness of nuance and consequence in everything. And of limitation: “Bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.”

And some of it is bloody obvious. Sunless Sea is an archipelago, for flip’s sake.

I just wanted to acknowledge the debt. If you’re looking for a graceful ending, this blog post doesn’t have one, but I hope she did.

on An Unacknowledged Debt: Le Guin

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