I receive the wonderful postings from ‘Advice for writers’ by e-mail. They are so affirming for my writing projects. This is today’s:
Ultimately You Write Alone
Posted: 12 Aug 2017 09:05 PM PDT
Ultimately you write alone. And ultimately you and you alone can judge your work. The judgment that a work is complete—this is what I meant to do, and I stand by it—can come only from the writer, and it can be made rightly only by a writer who’s learned to read her own work. Group criticism is great training for self-criticism. But until quite recently no writer had that training, and yet they learned what they needed. They learned it by doing it.
URSULA K. LE GUIN
Some writers just ‘hit the spot’ for us as readers, don’t they? I read Le Guin’s science fiction book ‘ The Left Hand of Darkness’ years ago as a book club choice by my friend John Ainsley.
It didn’t grab me as a particularly good choice. I envisaged made-up stories about characters with made-up names living in made-up worlds. Groan. The front cover was intriguing, though. It reminded me of a combination of paintings by Gustav Klimpt (e.g. Tree of Life’):
and Tamara De Lempicka (e.g. Portrait of the Duchess of La Salle):
Part of my academic responsibilities at the time of this book club choice was to act as the e-learning co-ordinator for fellow academics in my UK business school. I was due to attend a development programme on designing and implementing e-learning programmes enterprise-wide. It was held on the United Nations site just outside Turin. Nothing to do in the evening but retire early to our cell-like bedrooms and read. So I began my reading of ‘The Left Hand of Darkness. What a revelation.
The Wikipedia entry says:
‘The novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a native of Terra, who is sent to the planet of Gethen as an envoy of the Ekumen, a loose confederation of planets. Ai’s mission is to persuade the nations of Gethen to join the Ekumen, but he is stymied by his lack of understanding of Gethenian culture. Individuals on Gethen are “ambisexual”, with no fixed sex. This fact has a strong influence on the culture of the planet, and creates a barrier of understanding for Ai. Left Hand was among the first books published in the feminist science fiction genre and is the most famous examination of androgyny in science fiction. A major theme of the novel is the effect of sex and gender on culture and society, explored in particular through the relationship between Ai and Estraven, a Gethenian politician who trusts and helps him. Within that context the novel also explores the interaction between the unfolding loyalties of its main characters, the loneliness and rootlessness of Ai, and the contrast between the religions of Gethen’s two major nations. The theme of gender also touched off a feminist debate when it was first published, over depictions of the ambisexual Gethenians.’
I’m still processing the learning from that book in relation to characterisation, plot and narrative. Wow.