“Dancing at the Edge of the World . . . is Ursula Le Guin at her best: insightful, funny, sharp, occasionally tendentious and nearly always provocative. . . . This is an important collection of eloquent, elegant pieces by one of our most acclaimed contemporary writers.” Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post Book World
Dancing at the Edge of the World
Thoughts on Words, Women, Places
978-0-8021-3529-2 • $17.00 • Paperback • Oct. 1997
“I have decided that the trouble with print is, it never changes its mind,” writes Ursula Le Guin in her introduction to Dancing at the Edge of the World. But she has, and here is the record of that change in the decade since the publication of her last nonfiction collection, The Language of the Night. And what a mind—strong, supple, disciplined, playful, ranging over the whole field of its concerns, from modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos, with an eloquence, wit, and precision that makes for exhilarating reading.
Le Guin is a self-declared “aging, angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off”—the hoodlums including, among others, opponents of abortion rights, destroyers of the environment, macho writers, and an administration that wants to kill Amtrak funding (“Roll on, Coast Starlight! Take us to those far places your lonesome whistle tells about, and bring us on back home!”). She’s angry about the whole range of inequalities that women still face, angry about the destruction of Native American peoples and cultures, “the world Coyote made,” angry about the arms race and world hunger (“No house worth living in has for its cornerstone the hunger of those who built it”). She is a poet who decries the parochialism of modern poetry, which often seems “like a big fish tank, and its inhabitants come rushing out of their nests of weed like sticklebacks in mating season, shouting, Out! Out! Go write novels.” She is a novelist who rejects the traditional Aristotelian view that “the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead).” And she is a science-fiction writer who eschews laser beams, little green men, and the “Life Goes On, even though two-headed and glowing faintly in the dark” school of futuristic fantasy, preferring to look ahead “at what is, in fact, in front of me: the earth; my fellow beings on it; and the stars.