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The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth

(The Unreal and the Real #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  940 ratings  ·  134 reviews
The Unreal and the Real is a major event not to be missed. In this two-volume selection of Ursula K. Le Guin's best short storiesas selected by the National Book Award winning author herselfthe reader will be delighted, provoked, amused, and faced with the sharp, satirical voice of one of the best short story writers of the present day.

Where on Earth explores Le Guin's
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Small Beer Press (first published November 20th 2012)
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Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Unreal and the Real, Volume One: Where on Earth: A selection of her non-SFF work
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Having just read two long, dense space opera epics, I was in the mood for shorter work, and who better than Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the giants of the SF/fantasy field, and a respected American novelist who has transcended genre and literary categories. I discovered two volumes of her stories available on Audible, with Volume One:
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Again and again I am amazed at the brilliance of Le Guin's storytelling and her commitment to exploring the human condition.
This volume of Le Guin's stories contains the work that is perhaps furthest from what you expect of her, which would usually be science fiction and fantasy. These are her realist works, which doesn't mean straight forward or more serious or anything like that. It just means that they do, or could, take place in the world we're used to.

While Le Guin's writing is always beautiful, and I love the atmosphere of her stories -- there's something cool and clear about them, something steady and patient
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have read nearly all these stories before, in all the places they were previously published. Most I remembered, but I was struck with how powerful, and how elegantly written, they were and are. There were a couple (e.g. "The Diary of the Rose") whose remembered pain was so intense I could not finish them, all these decades later. "Buffalo Gals, Won't you come out tonight" is one of the great short stories of the 20th century, and it still is in the 21st. Treat yourself and read it. Read them ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stuff I Read The Unreal and the Real Vol 1 Where on Earth by Ursula K Le Guin

To be completely honest, this was not the volume of Ursula K Le Guins stories that I was most excited about. That would be Volume Two of this two volume set, which explores the more speculative, otherworldly stories that she has written. But being a bit of a book nerd who wants to have things in the proper order, I got this one first. And I must say I was surprised with the quality and fantasy that exist even in these
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
These short stories were a revelation to me. Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite authors, and books like The Left Hand of Darkness changed my understanding of what's possible in life and the largeness of the human spirit. I think of her, naturally enough, as a sci fi writer -- one of the best. These short stories are written with all the artistry and nuance one expects of Le Guin, and yet they are not really sci fi -- at least not in atmosphere. They read more like John Steinbeck or (even, a ...more
Dawn C
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le Guins poetic prose takes you through her stories of different make and structure, sometimes philosophical, sometimes sharp, sometimes dreamy, but never boring. While I wasnt always clear on what the purpose of the stories were, her writing still holds a special, spellbinding quality to me that makes the topic less important than simply enjoying the words themselves. I swear, she could narrate the phone book and Id listen. ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-books
Reading this first "Unreal" volume of stories from Ursula K. Le Guin is like floating down a complex river on a spring day. Eddies, calms, and steady currents punctuated by brief, thrilling rapids. She selected the included stories herself, and they are mostly--not all--set in non-fantastical homes and places, among non-fantastical people. But holy cow, are Le Guin's characters and ideas ever fantastic. No author has ever better succeeded in riveting me with family dynamics. If you're looking ...more
Some of these stories are absolutely beautiful, poetic, immediate, and stirring. Some others are a little obtuse, as if Le Guin was experimenting with things, but in such a way that made them feel a bit remote. But her writing is always fascinating and full of wisdom, keen observations, and a deep and abiding respect for the mysterious, epic, gorgeous natural world.
Werther Azevedo
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: quit
I loved The Left Hand Of Darkness, and bought this collection of short stories assuming that Id have more of Ursulas creativity. These stories are not in the sci-fi genre, though, and are really slow paced. I read three, fell asleep twice, and gave up. Ill keep trying Le Guins sci-fi books. ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some better than others, but overall beautifully written stories.
Marjorie Jensen
This lovely (autographed) two-volume set was a very thoughtful gift from my partner's parents. Volume 1 was a good mix of stories I had read before and stories I hadn't. One reason why I admire Ursula Le Guin is that she can do it all--poetry and essays as well as SF/F and realistic fiction. Several of the stories that I hadn't read before were realism, and they made me consider the link between this genre and tragedy. I have to mention that "May's Lion" destroyed me. There were only one or two ...more
Matthijs Krul
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice collection of short stories by Le Guin that are set on this earth, i.e. neither fantasy nor sci-fi. I don't like her political short stories so much (oddly), but there are some brilliant classics in here, like "Buffalo Gals". The selection is by herself. Vol. 2 is the fantasy/sci-fi I think.
Ashlea (
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
LeGuin may be better known for her fantasy fiction, but these are a mix of dystopian and odd. Not at all what I expected - it was a great deal more. Amazed by both her imagination and imagery.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'm going to come straight out and say that I think this book was too cerebral, abstract, and "out there" for me. Ursula K. Le Guin is a well-known name in writing circles and she is touted for her sci-fi/fantasy prowess. Surprisingly, I had never read anything by her and so I set out to remedy that by picking up a short story collection entitled The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth. I should have been wary after that convoluted title but I went in ready to be ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, short-story
While I was reading and loving these I wondered if I indiscriminately like everything Le Guin writes. Can I trust my own judgement? I decided I'm not indiscriminate in my affection for her work -- for example, her classic The Left Hand of Darkness is not a favourite of mine -- but that I love her prose so much that I can forgive a lot. That being said, I don't think there is too much to forgive in this collection: it's uneven, but almost always compelling. This selection features stories that ...more
I've only listened to 1 story and half of the next. The first was beautiful. It's amazing how LeGuin makes you care about the characters in such a short time. The 2nd story features one of the same characters, but instead of in some made-up place it's in Ohio. ??? Maybe I misunderstood something. The character may not be the same person even if he has the same unusual name. I'm looking forward to the rest.
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you havent watched Le Guin featured on PBS American Masters its worth a viewing. Shes simply a national treasure. ...more
Deborah Sheldon
DNF. Wow, I definitely chose the wrong book for my introduction to Ursula Le Guin. I'll read "The Lathe of Heaven" then get back to this one. No, I won't give up!
Matthew Hunter
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Along with Kij Johnson's At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories, The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth is the second really good collection of short stories I've read in recent months. Both were up for the World Fantasy Award, neither won. I give Johnson's collection the edge, but UKLG has nothing to be ashamed of.

Where on Earth is the first of two volumes in this short story collection. Outer Space, Inner Lands includes stories of speculative fiction, while
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read. I was unaware that Le Guin had written realistic, non-SF stories and I'm sure the decision to put them all together in the first volume was an intentional one. Although I am certainly not an SF purist and read in a lot of genres including literary I didn't always enjoy these modern literary-style tales but I do believe the book proves that Le Guin can hold her own among the New Yorker crowd.

I was very grateful for the introduction which explained a bit of the
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
According to the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Ursula Le Guin has written over 150 pieces of short prose fiction. This 2-volume anthology has 38 pieces that she herself chose as her best, the first volume more realistic ones, and the second volume more in line with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy. I read her collection The Compass Rose a week ago, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea some 20 years ago, so many of the stories were already familiar to me. One story in the ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I'd read most of the stories in this collection before, but it was still worth picking up - many I hadn't read in years, and I've found that most Le Guin tales stand up beautifully on multiple rereads.

It took me a while to get going in this collection because it starts off with four stories from Orsinian Tales, which quite honestly is among my least favorite of her books, but she definitely chose the right stories to include here, because "Brothers and Sisters" and "A Week in the Country" build
Silvio Curtis
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Unreal and the Real is a newer collection of Le Guin short stories, it wasn't published yet when I read all the other Le Guin I read, though the stories in it are from her whole career. This volume is stories set on Earth, though not necessarily Earth as we know it. The ones I like best are the Orsinian stories, three from Orsinian Tales plus "Unlocking the Air." Then there is "The Diary of the Rose," from a futuristic dictatorship which is probably not in Orsinia, according to the author, ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
The first few stories in this collection are slower going, but from 'Imaginary Countries' they get very engaging. If you read one short story this year, make it 'Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight'. This is like the folk tale/myth for this century that needs to be read and memorised and told in the evenings.

Other standouts are 'Direction of the Road' 'The Diary of the Rose', and 'May's Lion', but most of these stories are beautiful and affecting, plenty of them made me cry on the train.
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
So I fiiiiiinally got a hold of volume 1 from the library. And while Where on Earth has stories all set on earth, they are just as full of fantasy as the stories in volume two. Le Guin's prose is clear as water, even when she is experimenting with different narrative styles ("The Water is Wide") or exploring familial relationships from all angles ("Half Past Four"). My favorite story by far is "Buffalo Gals," which is the closest to actual fantasy this collection comes. So many great moments in ...more
Mandy E
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
These stories have such an intimate voice. I have the sense that LeGuin holds her characters in her hands like small, wounded creatures. Tenderness for vulnerable things, sorrow over their flaws.
My favorite is Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight. It's like a better version of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Grittier, more profound. LeGuin doesn't inflict a morality. She allows for the oscillations of mood and occurrence.
"you can't trust a good story-teller not to make the story suit herself,
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Confession time: I've never much liked Le Guin's literary-flavored stories. I adore her fantasies and her science fiction, but the literary stuff has never grabbed me as a reader. So your mileage may vary on this one. I admired the craftswomanship of the stories but it took me awhile to get through. And now I'm excited about Vol. 2, so there it is. If you liked her "Orsinian Tales" period, you will like this better than I did.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some stories are absolutely stunners, others are a more meandering. The third person omniscient isn't that common these days, and you can see why. It does work brilliantly for some of these stories, whereas in others I did get a bit lost. Will be reading vol 2 (if the library has it).
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'd already read many of these, but there were some amazing ones I'd somehow missed. Recommended to all fans of UKL.
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, ...more

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The Unreal and the Real (2 books)
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