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The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
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The Left Hand of Darkness > General Post-Read Discussion (Contains Spoilers)

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Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
Until we have a much larger group with more people participating in our reading selections, it might be useful to create a catch-all thread for each book where we can hold a general discussion for people who've read it.

Feel free to discuss anything about The Left Hand of Darkness here!

I quite enjoyed it. I always enjoy first contact or fish-out-of-water stories. This one was great. I did feel the gender theme could have been much more vigorously explored.

I especially liked the very counter-cultural take on patriotism. I've struggled with the idea of patriotism for much of my life because the patriotism I see is so often ugly and violent. Mean-spirited. Le Guin offers up an alternative.

She warns of patriotism as an expression of fear (which leads to hatred). I think we see a lot of that these days. The alternative offered is love of all the experiences that can be said to make up a life lived with others, in a particular place. Such love requires openness to "the other", rendering it something to be welcomed, rather than feared.


John (johnred) Just finished this book an hour ago, so I'm still digesting it, but if there was one word in my head on finishing, it would be "precise" -- LeGuin seems to know exactly what she's doing here; she sets up and takes out every shot perfectly. This was the first LeGuin that I've read and it sets a high bar.

The story was a bit cold emotionally, but it was clear from the start that this was not LeGuin's priority, so it's hard to fault it too much there.

Basil wrote: "I did feel the gender theme could have been much more vigorously explored. "

This was a little surprising to me, I thought she dug quite deep on that subject. How do you think it could have been expanded?


Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
Maybe I am forgetting things or missed something important. I just didn't get the sense that there was any real consequence (I don't mean that in a negative way) to the neuter society. Apart from Ai finding women and men strange after a few years among them, and his mild observations about international bickering/skirmishing as opposed to all out war being a possible result of a lack in masculinity, I didn't get too much.

Help me see more?


John (johnred) Well, definitely the most pointed dissection of the gender theme was in chapter 7, The Question of Sex. But I thought it loomed very heavily over the entire third act of the book, during and after Estraven's rescue of Genly. What was the relationship between the two? What would it have been if Estraven had been male? If he had been female? It throws into sharp relief the fact that any assumptions we make on these kind of things are gross generalizations at best.

I'll admit there was a part of me that was hoping that their relationship would be consummated...it may be kind of puerile of me, but I'll own up to it :)

My favorite quotable line of the book, from Chapter 7: "One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience."...LOL!


Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
Hmmm. I see what you mean. I'm going to risk being controversial and blame the author for choosing to use the male pronoun throughout. (Although I have no clue what a better alternative would have been - English fails us here.) Unless she was specifically mentioning a character's androgynous nature, I tended to picture a man, because she used the word "he".


Brendan (mistershine) | 58 comments Also wasn't the entire organization of their society different, due to not being divided along gender lines?


Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
Yeah, but I didn't really see how that mattered much. Like I said, no real consequence to the story.

Could be I'm expecting too much from a book written in the 60s...?


message 8: by John (last edited Aug 10, 2015 12:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) Brendan wrote: "Also wasn't the entire organization of their society different, due to not being divided along gender lines?"

I get the feeling there may have been some more subtle commentary here in terms of the difference between the Orgota and Karhide cultures...possibly:

Orgota: "female" culture: (fear of the Other manifests as insidiousness, underhandedness)
Karhide: "male" culture: (fear of the Other manifests as brutality and forced exile)

Keep in mind this is not a thought-out interpretation, and may be totally off-base?

Basil wrote: "I'm going to risk being controversial and blame the author for choosing to use the male pronoun throughout. (Although I have no clue what a better alternative would have been - English fails us here.)"

I definitely agree that there doesn't seem to be much of an ideal solution here.


Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
That would bear out given the way I interpreted some of her comments on what is male vs. what is female.


message 10: by Brendan (last edited Aug 10, 2015 12:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brendan (mistershine) | 58 comments The alternative is to go the Ann Leckie route and everyone wastes their breath complaining about the pronouns. No ideal solution indeed.


message 11: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) Brendan wrote: "The alternative is to go the Ann Leckie route and everyone wastes their breath complaining about the pronouns. No ideal solution indeed."

Yeah, it's hard to not compare Ancillary Justice to this. I think the reason it was such a problem in Leckie's book was because, unlike LHoD, the characters actually did have the normal two sexes, they just didn't acknowledge it socially, i.e. they recognized the entire gender spectrum instead of just the two ends.

I think there's a lot more to be gotten out of this theme especially in terms of the changes in our real-life society, and I'm excited to see what future authors do with it.


message 12: by Basil (last edited Aug 11, 2015 10:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
"Thon", a contraction of "that one", is in my mind, the most promising gender neutral pronoun ever proposed. It was also one of the first, dating back to the mid-to-late 19th century. (sauce: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-...)

It's a damn sight better than "zhe". Ugh.

I do feel, however, that it works better with a UK accent of some kind :)

I would presume to pronounce it "thun" with a voiced "th", as in "that".


Brendan (mistershine) | 58 comments "Thon" in French means tuna :)


Basil Godevenos (basilgodevenos) | 135 comments Mod
Two words for you: baby seal


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