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The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination

(About Writing)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,718 ratings  ·  285 reviews
Join Ursula K. Le Guin as she explores a broad array of subjects, ranging from Tolstoy, Twain, and Tolkien to women's shoes, beauty, and family life. With her customary wit, intelligence, and literary craftsmanship, she offers a diverse and highly engaging set of readings. The Wave in the Mind includes some of Le Guin's finest literary criticism, rare autobiographical wri ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published February 17th 2004 by Shambhala
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Average rating 4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,718 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Recently I’ve been working on a novel, wrote like the wind for two weeks. Then it stopped. Busy-ness interfered. This morning, to break the block, I lay on the couch at nine a.m. something I do not allow myself to do on a bright spring workday full of energy and ideas. Determined to do nothing unless the novel resurrect. What made me stop the flow? Some slight or silent criticism perhaps, the Easter Retreat, worry about money, wrinkles, the cat. Doesn’t matter – to an author any excuse will do i ...more
Jenny Baker
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I didn’t read the entire collection. My rating is based on the following essays:

1) Stress-Rhythm in Poetry and Prose
2) Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings
3) Off the Page: Loud Cows: A Talk and a Poem about Reading Aloud
4) The Writer and the Character
5) Prides: An Essay on Writing Workshops
6) The Question I Get Asked Most Often

If you enjoy reading essays, I highly recommend this collection, especially if you’re also a writer.
Marck Rimorin
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Five essays stand out:

"Being Taken for Granite"
"Things Not Actually Present"
"Rhythmic Pattern in Lord of the Rings"
"Fact and/or/plus Fiction"
"Unquestioned Assumptions"

This is a REALLY important book to read. :)
Jun 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In lieu of review:

We have been told that there is only one kind of people and they are men. And I think it is very important that we all believe that. It certainly is important to the men.

If I’m no good at pretending to be a man and no good at being young, I might just as well start pretending that I am an old woman. I am not sure that anybody has invented old women yet; but it might be worth trying.

I didn’t know enough French yet to read Cyrano, but that didn’t stop me. That’s when I learned yo
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This eclectic collection of essays offers an interesting insight into Le Guin’s mind. In listening to this book, I was struck by not only how well-considered Le Guin's view of the world was, but also the tremendous amount of thought she put into her fictional work. I always knew there was a lot going on beneath the surface of her stories, but this collection made me see (to some extent at least) just how deep those layers go and how multifaceted her fiction really is.

Le Guin's characteristic wi
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I started a read-all-the-Le Guin-I've-never-read kick a couple of months ago in order to feel good about my presence on a The Works of Le Guin panel at Worldcon. The panel is over. I'm still reading.
This book is less focused than the magnificent Steering the Craft. There are pieces on writing, but also speeches and notes and random essays donated to various projects. They're all worth a read. Le Guin's thoughts on aging and being a woman and being a human and being an island are as prescient an
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Ursula K. Le Guin; all readers and writers
Shelves: read-again
Although I'm not usually drawn to collections of essays, I couldn't pass up this one by Le Guin; she has been a favorite of mine ever since I first read the Earthsea books in middle school. Her writing here (as always) is beautiful, never tedious. All the essays were arresting in one way or another; some were deeply inspiring. Her discussions of her own writing process were fascinating. As a whole, this book helped reinforce my respect for Le Guin as an artist and a master of her craft. It left ...more
Diane Barnes
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slow-reads
One of my bedtime reads, mostly very good. A few of the essays were a little boring because a little too technical on the hows and whys of writing.
One of the best books I've ever read- well, in general, but particularly related to books, reading, writing, etc. I spent so much time with this, just thinking, thinking, thinking.



Ahem. So. On to my favorite things about this book:
-UKLG's quietly sure-footed feminism throughout
-Her intolerance of ego, particularly ego of the white male ivy league variety
-Her refusal to accept that there is a right way to read, to think, to express, a
Marina Fonseca
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read something by LeGuin, I wish I could just sit down with her, drink some tea, and talk story. She blows my mind.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books about writing I have ever read.

Essential reading for all writers: "The Operating Instructions", "'A War Without End'", "Telling is Listening", "Unquestioned Assumptions", "A Matter of Trust", "The Question I Get Asked Most Often", and "The Writer and the Character".

Other essays which are particularly fascinating/illuminating: "My Libraries", "Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings", "On the Frontier", "Off the Page: Loud Cows—A Talk and a Poem about Reading Aloud", "Fact
Mafalda Fernandes

Favorite Essays from chapter Personal Matters
- Introducing myself
- Being take for granite
- My Island

Favorite Essays from chapter Readings
- Things not actually present: on the book of fantasy and J.L. Borges
- Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of Rings
- The Wilderness Within: The Sleeping Beauty and "The Poacher"
- Off the Page: Loud Cows: a talk and a poem about reading aloud

Favorite Essays from chapter Discussions and Opinions
- Award and Gender
- Telling is Listening
- The Operating instructions
- "A
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ensayo
I think the thought I liked the most that Le Guin mentions in some of these essays, is the idea that a writer needs to find the rhythm in their prose, and that opens up everything. The idea came from something she read by Virginia Woolf, and its I had never thought about, consciously anyway, because I have always thought that once you get into the flow of a book, and a writing style, then you're in, and you enjoy the writers style and story. And I do think it is something truly different from wr ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, profound and inspiring. I found Le Guin's voice to be refreshing, present and ever so relevant in today's society for authors and readers alike. Topics explored include (but not limited to): imagination, life, society, oppression, feminism, reading and writing. Le Guin's progressive and well thought-out perspectives and critiques are insightful, honest, delightful and empowering to read. Highly recommended for those who is after an interesting, inspiring and provocative read. ...more
Madeleine Lycka
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Can I say that I've been waiting for this book my whole life? I've admired LeGuin as a SciFi writer for many years, but this book has shown me a whole other side of her -- a deep intellect, knowledgeable in a broad range of subjects, a voracious reader, and thoughtful critic, who is concerned with equality and feminism (and too many other subjects to mention here). She is at heart a writer, and it's wonderful to see her intellect focused on the beauty and power of fiction, and what it means (and ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Ursula LeGuin strikes me as the kind of woman it would be fascinating to have a chance to chat with. Her writing here is personal, personable, at times witty, and always wise.
Caroline Woodward
Unlike many readers, I have come to reading science fiction and fantasy decades after devouring all kinds of mysteries, literary fiction from many countries, Canadian literature (novels, poems, children's books, histories, political analysis and especially, short stories), and assorted other interests. Initially it was because I found so much of the so-called science fiction writing to be 2-D, filled with metallic gadgets, stick figure archetypes and stilted dialogue, with futuristic premises so ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
i loved these essays. savored them. read a few. skipped around. chewed on them. let them wash over me. they warrant reading again. delving in. pondering. And I suppose they appeal to me, because Le Guin says, "I did it in writing because I think best in writing." and I can so relate to that.

My favorite essay was Fact and/or/plus Fiction on the distinction between fiction & nonfiction and the role of memory and how a writer's experiences provide the compost for what she writes. She says, "Memory
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever thought about, dreamt about, or merely passed away the time with idle thoughts of writing, just start reading, listening, speaking the words you read aloud and of course, writing.

Ursula Le Guin doesn't offer any miracles, secret tips or any other form of short cut to writing. ThIs book is a series of her talks, essays and thoughts from over the years that are woven together into some of the ideas she considers fundamental to being able to write well and speak to the reader. She
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This collection of all kinds of short essays and writings covers a lot of ground: autobiography, history, reviews, commentary, writing advice, unclassifiable miscellany. It feels almost like a journal or collection of old notebooks that you might stumble upon in a box beside the writer's desk. And I mean that as a good thing for the most part. The book feels like hanging out with the writer as she daydreams and wonders and offers some things she happens to know a lot about. If it weren't for the ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazing collection of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin that offers a glance into her formidable knowledge and fascinating personal history. The fact she was raised by anthropologists explains a lot about the way she sees the world and her interest in human society as a construct.

Voracious consumer of literature, unabashed feminist and unapologetic in her defence of fantasy and science fiction, she flies through subjects as diverse as primitivism, beauty, genetic determinism, Tolstoi and Tolkien. A
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I haven't read much of Ms Le Guin's fiction yet, though (especially after this) I have a lot of respect for her and for the way she thinks. I liked most of the essays in this collection, especially "Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts About Beauty", though I was frustrated with her gender-related essays. They tended to focus exclusively on cisgendered men and women, when there's so much more to gender than that. Considering Ms Le Guin is the author of one of the more interesting fictional accounts ...more
Linda Robinson
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wonderful. Le Guin's genius has scared me for decades. Because we fear what we don't understand. I feel changed after reading this book. I tried to savor it all, but I'm too old to remember all the yummy stuff, so I'm grateful I bought it. And I remembered today that I had, so I'm free to read it again and again, and highlight those passages that sing to me, even if it is most of the book. Reading this book at this time in my life feels serendipitous; and today there was a twitter thr ...more
Becki Iverson
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This little gem wandered over to me thanks to Brain Pickings and boy, am I ever glad it did. What a treasure! Le Guin is an absolutely fabulous writer and has some gorgeous essays here. She is a study in eloquence and brevity and her treatises on writing and reading should be required for any aspiring authors. My favorite parts, however, where the biographical essays and her thoughts on political issues, including gender in just about everything, the problem of representation in art (there's not ...more
The essays, and the whole, are just fantastic. This is a writer who gets it. The fact that every book you open has the power to change your life.

“We force the world to be coherent— to tell us a story. Not only fiction writers do this; we all do it; we do it constantly, continually, in order to survive. People who can’t make the world into a story go mad.”
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of essays. Le Guin has a brilliant mind and has really some wonderful insights. Her feelings about libraries mirror my own, and I felt right at home with her as I read it. This is a great book!
Apr 26, 2012 marked it as to-read
How the heck did I not know this book existed? *adds to to-read list*
Jan 21, 2021 rated it liked it
This book has four sections, the first two ("Personal Matters" & "Reading") were truly boring essays on topics so far from Le Guin's areas of expertise that the most she was ever willing to say about them was impossible to disagree with or find interesting. The second two sections ("Discussions and Opinions" and "On Writing"), being actually about fiction writing, were much, much more interesting. Her style, which I like very much in her fiction, was actually present in these essays. A decent am ...more
Vehka Kurjenmiekka
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This collection was a blast. I found myself continuously delighted, in awe and deeply moved.

However, maybe a warning is in order. The title says this is about "the writer, the reading and imagination", but maybe one third of the essays isn't actually centered around any of those subjects. Those essays handle themes like being a woman in the world that is built for men; making choices about how to describe things; and what is the value of a person in a world that values money and profit.

This coll
Matt Puz
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The greatest folly of my life has been that it's taken 30 years for me to wander into the words and worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.

When Einstein writes, you learn about the universe.
When Ursula writes, you learn about humanity.

Physics says all things vibrate.
Virginia Woolf says words have rhythm and are created by a wave in the mind...paddle out and ride that wave.
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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, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

About Writing (4 books)
  • Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places
  • Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew
  • Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin (Literary Conversations)

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