Aubrey's Reviews > The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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I hated the harsh, intricate, obstinate demands that he made on me in the name of life.
4.5/5

This is no The Dispossessed, a judgment equal parts quality of the work and personal taste of the reader, unfair and yet true if one keeps in mind that, regardless of individual ratings, I regard Le Guin as a gift to literature. Plenty are the authors who forge ahead with little regard for the reader, nearly ubiquitous are the ones who stay stolidly put in the kiddy pool out of want and necessity, leaving a mere few willing and able to serve as a bridge. One would think sci-fi would attract more of her kind with its natural inclinations towards melding wheeling extension with kindred reality, rather than endlessly sludging in circles of privileged solipsism whose talents lie in viciously retaliating against the slightest veering of status quo, but no matter. I will pity them for their ignorance, if nothing else.
...it certainly was difficult to imagine him as a young mother. He was a hard shrewd jovial politician, whose acts of kindness served his interest and whose interest was himself. I had met him on Earth, and on Hain, and on Ollul. I expect to meet him in Hell.
There is a term I cannot remember that has to do with the skill of the author in taking on a believable voice without hinting at the personal beliefs of the writer behind the curtain. Whatever it is, it is a good one, a mindset that both circumvents the endless diatribes on whether authors may write assholes as well as makes the avoidance of caricature and stereotype an ability to be aspired to. In this work of seeming eradication of gendered double-standards, Le Guin writes a man with little recognition of feminism, developing along lines that aggravated and enlightened me in equal amounts. While it is obvious from her writing that she could have gone much further in breaking down the patriarchy, her aim was a narrative of culture and climate, not a polemic. Had the latter been the case, this work may not have won the Hugo and Nebula, her name might not be as revered on the popular level as it is, and ultimately a conversation about gender and its sociocultural effects may never have started in the unlikely breeding grounds of Star Wars conventions and Internet forums dedicated to Dune.
As we ran the sledge across the snow-bridges over narrow crevasses we could look down to left or right into blue shafts and abysses in which bits of ice dislodged by the runners fell with a vast, faint, delicate music, as if silver wires touched thin crystal planes, falling.
As said, Le Guin is a bridge, stronger all the more for its subtlety. Men the hermaphroditic Gethenians may be called, but out of limits of the narrator's androcentric language that is all too similar to my own English. Sexist dismissals crop up every so often, but far more powerful are the insinuations of what equal responsibilities for childbearing and domestic responsibility can accomplish on the national scale. Slowly but surely the narrator breaks the binds of his upbringing in order to appreciate the freedom beyond inexorable duality, handled in such a wonderfully constructed melding of thought, prose, and world building that any reader inclined to reading will find something to enjoy.
His loyalty extended without disproportion to things, the patient, obstinate, reliable things that we use and get used to, the things we live by.
It must be mentioned that the narrator is one whom US Americans like to describe as black. Take that as you will, but bear in mind the rarity of this in the esteemed literature of a genre that calls itself forward thinking, the narrator's own thoughts on the lack of women in the science and art of his own world, our world of reality and its obdurate copings with physical variance and biological fact. Expansion of horizons is sci-fi's game, yes? You don't need another world for that.
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Reading Progress

July 8, 2013 – Shelved
July 8, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
July 8, 2013 – Shelved as: reality-check
July 8, 2013 – Shelved as: rage-against-the-sexuality
December 30, 2013 – Shelved as: prose-prose-prose
March 14, 2014 – Shelved as: virago
June 20, 2014 – Started Reading
June 23, 2014 –
page 118
38.82% "...it certainly was difficult to imagine him as a young mother. He was a hard shrewed jovial politician, whose acts of kindness served his interest and whose interest was himself. I had met him on Earth, and on Hain, and on Ollul. I expect to meet him in Hell."
June 25, 2014 –
page 153
50.33% "To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness."
June 27, 2014 –
page 245
80.59% "I hated the harsh, intricate, obstinate demands that he made on me in the name of life."
June 29, 2014 –
page 264
86.84% "As we ran the sledge across the snow-bridges over narrow crevasses we could look down to left or right into blue shafts and abysses in which bits of ice dislodged by the runners fell with a vast, faint, delicate music, as if silver wires touched thin crystal planes, falling."
June 29, 2014 – Shelved as: 1-read-on-hand
June 29, 2014 – Shelved as: r-2014
June 29, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
June 29, 2014 – Shelved as: 4-star
June 29, 2014 – Finished Reading
September 16, 2014 – Shelved as: r-goodreads
June 24, 2015 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-read
December 17, 2015 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-all

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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Kirstine I'm finding this book really difficult to review.
You're not so easily daunted, I see. Great review :)


message 2: by Aubrey (last edited Jun 29, 2014 01:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Aubrey Thank you, Kirstine. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and I've been reviewing early and often for a while now.


Kirstine Reviewing right after you've read a book is a very good strategy. I'll see if I can adopt it and perhaps get my reviews done in a more timely fashion.


message 4: by Aubrey (last edited Jun 29, 2014 02:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Aubrey The biggest aid to the quality of my writing has been committing to reviewing a finished work within the day, no matter the circumstances. For example, I now know that I'm capable of writing decent stuff while dead tired, hungover and sleep-deprived, or extremely sick and slightly hallucinating. It does wonders for self-confidence.


message 5: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Aubrey wrote: "The biggest aid to the quality of my writing has been committing to reviewing a finished work within the day, no matter the circumstances.."

This review really does smell fresh! Those sparks of connection which a powerful book inspires fade very quickly and when we try to reignite them later, we may actually end up inventing them - the original ones make for a livelier display.
I've begun to think I should write my reviews while still reading the book, each new thought thrown directly into the update boxes, still wriggling and glistening with the froth of the word sea in which I found it....


message 6: by Dolors (last edited Jun 30, 2014 01:54AM) (new) - added it

Dolors "Sexist dismissals crop up every so often, but far more powerful are the insinuations of what equal responsibilities for childbearing and domestic responsibility can accomplish on the national scale." Touché Aubrey. Reminds me of Margaret Atwood. I have Le Guin's Hainysh Cycle series spotted and your articulate endorsement makes it almost compulsory to read her.


Aubrey Fionnuala wrote: "Aubrey wrote: "The biggest aid to the quality of my writing has been committing to reviewing a finished work within the day, no matter the circumstances.."

This review really does smell fresh! Tho..."


That update style appeals to me, Fionnuala. I may have to update my own pracitices a smidgen.


Aubrey Dolors wrote: ""Sexist dismissals crop up every so often, but far more powerful are the insinuations of what equal responsibilities for childbearing and domestic responsibility can accomplish on the national scal..."

Atwood's an odd duck. I haven't decided whether I like her or just respect her.


Cecily Your final point is pertinent, and yet it barely registered with me. My failing perhaps.

Aubrey wrote: "Atwood's an odd duck. I haven't decided whether I like her or just respect her."

She's very varied, so it's entirely possible to like some of her works and dislike others.


message 10: by Aubrey (last edited Nov 23, 2014 11:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Aubrey Indeed. I still have quite a few more of hers on hand, so we'll see how those go.


Aubrey justLezfic wrote: "Thanks for the helpful review!"

My pleasure.


message 12: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin Great review! :)


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