Tag Archives: Ursula Le Guin

Reading novels…

Found this over on reddit (this is the full link) concerning “majchek’s” favorite quote about books, from author Ursula Le Guin:

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.


I hadn’t read that quote before, which is presented in the introduction to her novel The Left Hand of Darkness.

As others have noted, reading a book is the closest you get to entering someone else’s head and, yes, joining/sharing in their dreams.

Most stories presented in novels, short/long stories, comic books, movies, and TV are, let’s be clear, mostly nonsense.

I love works that dwell on the fantastic.  I love the play Oedipus Rex.  I love the 1978 film Superman.  I consider Fritz Lang’s Metropolis one of the best movies, IMHO, ever made.  I love Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Over in the literary field,  I love the Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  I love most of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories/poetry.  H. P. Lovecraft’s horror stories are a source of endless fascination, as are the works of Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Robert E. Howard (Conan).  I love the hard boiled works of Raymond Chandler (one of, IMHO, the best pure writers out to ever come around) and Dashiell Hammett.

In comics, I love the earlier writings of Alan Moore.  I find Len Wein, Denny O’Neil, Doug Moench, Marv Wolfman, Archie Goodwin, etc. etc. etc.’s storytelling.

This stuff is a source of constant wonder and amusement and, in some cases, awe.

Yet, looking at almost all the stories that I love so much logically… they are indeed nonsense.

Sure, some of the works I mentioned above address societal issues (Metropolis, for example, dealt -at times in a very heavy handed way- with the idea of societal divisions between lowly -and at times exploited- workers and those who run the industries they work at, and how these two parts of society could eventually understand each other).  Others, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe, worm their way into a person’s feelings of guilt and mounting horror… to delightful effect.

And, as stated so eloquently by Le Guin, if the work is good and we absorb what the author/actor/etc. is offering us, we come away with a potentially very positive thing: We learn something new.  We experience a feeling we may not have had before.  At the very least, we potentially come away with a richer feeling than before.

What a positive feeling to have!

Makes me want to jump right into my novel… which I’m about to do! 😉