On with the discussion for those who have read it:
As my roommate puts it, any one who thinks gender studies is pointless should read LHoD. I’m not talking about the politicized aspect of gender studies. Just as a means of appreciating how deeply notions of gender influence our thoughts and actions.
The other things that make me so fond of the book:
* The beautiful, intricate relationship between Estraven and Ai.
* How central coldness is to the story. As someone who enjoys cold over heat, I loved reading about the ice world. Random conjecture: I wonder if people who prefer heat over cold have a harder time reading this book. Because Le Guin really makes you feel it at times.
I kinda live for good stories. LHoD was one of those books that invigorated me with life.
LHoD does a great job with this. It is thoughtful, fascinating, and not at all dogmatic.
It makes me so sad to see all the people on the left screeching about wrongthink and identity bullshit at the slightest provocation, and all the (willfully obtuse) people on the right hiding behind their dictionaries as if the fact that gender and sex have historically meant the same thing in some contexts somehow invalidates this whole domain of thought. Absolute idiocy, all of it. I'd say people have forgotten how to think critically but I don't have data to support the hypothesis that they ever had that ability.
Well put; this was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book as well. I began reading fully expecting to be immersed in the Gethenians' world and their foreign culture, just as Mr. Ai did at the start of his journey. By the end though I realized Le Guin had used these "aliens" to show Mr. Ai and the reader what it truly meant to be human.
The fact that some others here feel that LHoD was not Le Guin's best work makes me excited to read her other books!
Telling lies to show the truth, as she puts it in the introduction: http://theliterarylink.com/leguinintro.html
In December 2009, Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its endorsement of Google's book digitization project. "You decided to deal with the devil", she wrote in her resignation letter. "There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle." In a speech at the 2014 National Book Awards, Le Guin criticized Amazon and the control it exerted over the publishing industry, specifically referencing Amazon's treatment of the Hachette Book Group during a dispute over ebook publication. Her speech received widespread media attention within and outside the US, and was broadcast twice by National Public Radio
Reading this review I realize maybe I didn't read it closely enough or maybe I'm not invested enough in the topic.
But that's not what I used to say. I used to say that The Dispossessed was my favorite, and that the Left Hand of Darkness is overrated.
My opinion has flipped over the years. I now give Left Hand the edge, and I think that it's because the books are about such different topics.
The Dispossessed is all about matters I was concerned with when I was a younger man: the relationship of one's work with the world, and the ethics of the larger systems we operate in. It's a lot like other sci-fi books: a treatment of an idea, where the characterization (although strong for the genre) is secondary.
But The Left Hand of Darkness is, at its heart, about the relationship between Genly Ai and Estraven. The core sequence of the novel, the trek across the ice sheet, is beautiful and memorable as a depiction of a setting, but also as an exploration of human intimacy, with the device of Gethenian sexuality used as a kind of scalpel to shed light on how male and female shades our relations.
I used to think that the big ideas were what mattered. But the older I get, the more I appreciate that the big ideas are just extensions of what happens between individuals. The Dispossessed uses this technique as well, of course, but the intimacy of Left Hand just hits harder for me these days.
Very well put.
(Left Hand isn't my favorite, either. I'd probably give that to The Dispossessed).
Le Guin's parents were anthropologists. Her mother wrote two books about Ishi, last of the Yahi tribe. One novelized accounting of his life and another non-fiction accounting of his entering into the world of the US in the 1910s and the work Ursula Le Guin's father did with him.
When viewed from this anthropologist lens, Left Hand of Darkness and other books are fascinating. She makes a world, a history, a people, and she occupies it. Then she explores that world with the characters. LHoD does this in a very literal sense (with a foreign character learning along with us, the readers). I think that's one of the things that I most enjoyed while reading her books.
Ponderous while still interesting. The author did create a compelling alternate universe but I went in with such high expectations given the book's reputation I found myself a bit let down.