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The Left Hand of Darkness
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Monthly Book Reads > Left Hand Of Darkness, The - May 2015

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Lisa (lisadannatt) | 184 comments Sci- fi


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments I'm greatly looking forward to re-reading this book, but I want to object to the denigrating term "sci fi." Le Guin herself prefers "speculative fiction," the novel of what if.


Leslie | 825 comments I like Le Guin but have never read this one, so looking forward to it!

Dennis, I think the Guardian has some pretty loose definitions of what qualified as sci fi!


Phil (lanark) | 428 comments Not just lose in their definition of sci-fi but also comedy :)


Leslie | 825 comments Phil wrote: "Not just lose in their definition of sci-fi but also comedy :)"

Oh good, I just assumed my sense of humor was deficient! ;)


Kaycie | 455 comments Mod
I felt the same way about the comedy books:-)

Who all is reading this this month? Is anyone having a hard time finding the book? I am moving and need a kindle version, but it seems to be lacking...

I want to read it, but getting it in this month will rely heavily on if I can find the ebook!


Leslie | 825 comments I have gotten a copy from my library but have to finish up some of what I am currently reading first.


Leslie | 825 comments I have been reading this but slowly. I am liking it but found the plunge into another world's culture a bit difficult at first. So many terms are not defined and you have to figure it out from the context (kemmering for example).


Kaycie | 455 comments Mod
Hi Leslie! I also have been reading slowly, but am almost done.

I agree about the terms. I have found some are described later in the novel, but by the time they are described, I've already sort of figured it out for myself! I do find that once I can really get into it, I can read much more and faster. Unfortunately, I don't have many big chunks of time, so each restart takes a bit to get going...

ANyways, this is my first Le Guin. It seems pretty sci-fi/fantasy to me, though, regardless of what Le Guin herself considers it. There definitely isn't a better category for it in Guardain, at least!


Leslie | 825 comments Kaycie wrote: "Hi Leslie! I also have been reading slowly, but am almost done.

...this is my first Le Guin. It seems pretty sci-fi/fantasy to me, though, regardless of what Le Guin herself considers it. ..."


I'm just a bit past halfway. If this is your first Le Guin, I would just comment that the Earthsea books are much easier/faster reads imo.


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments I remember Junot Diaz talking about his novels, in which Spanish and Spanglish words appear without explanation. He reminds us that when we are children, we read lots of books that employ terms we haven't learned yet. We pick them up from context. That's part of the fun of reading. I think his insight applies just as well to words like "kemmering" and "Ekumen" as it does to words in English or Spanish.


Leslie | 825 comments Dennis wrote: "I remember Junot Diaz talking about his novels, in which Spanish and Spanglish words appear without explanation. He reminds us that when we are children, we read lots of books that employ terms we ..."

So true!


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments Just finished re-reading The Left Hand of Darkness and wondering what thoughts it provoked among my fellow readers.


Leslie | 825 comments I finally finished. I am impressed by how Le Guin made the people of Gethen so alien yet so human.

This sort of "first contact" type book seems to have been popular back when this was first published (late 60s/early 70s), perhaps as a result of NASA's space program. I wonder if the many sci fi books, movies, and TV shows since then have changed the reactions of people to possible 'first contact' now compared to then?? Do you think that people in power would be any more likely to believe an alien envoy now?


Kaycie | 455 comments Mod
Interesting questions, Leslie! In some regards, I think today's society is pretty skeptical (there are still people who don't believe we landed on the moon...), so they might not be more willing to believe an alien envoy!

I finished as well. The book was...just okay for me, really. I know this isn't my usual type of book, but it seems to be a bit lacking. I was excited at the beginning that we were going to see some other-worldly politics, but that sort of fizzled for a bit into an adventure story that ended up back at a political one. I enjoyed the read, and I enjoyed each part as it came, but overall, I would have preferred more of the politics. I was very hopeful early on that it would be much more inter-galactic planetary chess moves, so I think that set me up for a bit of a disappointment. Otherwise, it was super interesting to see the moves that did take place among the colonies and how two men could manipulate them and each other in order to get what they thought best for the galaxy as a whole.

On another note, I was hugely interested to find that I pictured almost all of the people from Gethen as male. I just could not figure out a way to picture "properly" as a mix of the sexes. Le Guin notes that the first thing we ask about a baby is its gender, and I can see how ingrained gender is in our daily lives in ways we cannot even see.

How did you like it, Dennis?


Leslie | 825 comments Kaycie wrote: "On another note, I was hugely interested to find that I pictured almost all of the people from Gethen as male. I just could not figure out a way to picture "properly" as a mix of the sexes. Le Guin notes that the first thing we ask about a baby is its gender, and I can see how ingrained gender is in our daily lives in ways we cannot even see...."

I also tended to think of everyone as men. I felt that Ai himself thought that way so perhaps it isn't surprising that we readers did too. Perhaps Le Guin herself couldn't sufficiently visualize these "bi-sexed" creatures either and that was how she got out of the difficulty!!

I also found it fascinating at the end when the ship comes down that Ai felt that the "uni-sexed" people were somehow wrong!


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments Leslie, your last point reminds me of a friend of mine, a tall white-skinned blond-haired American, who spent some time in rural China in the 1990's. At some point, she absorbed their attitudes so much that when a group of Europeans came hiking along, she said to her Chinese friends, "Look, a bunch of foreigners, let's stop and stare at them!" For a long moment, it seemed perfectly normal.


message 18: by Dennis (last edited May 26, 2015 12:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments I loved the book when I first read it in the 1970's. I'm still impressed by both the vision and the writing.

Kaycie, I see what you mean, and I remember that Le Guin's parents were both anthropologists. To her, I think, the first part of the book wasn't political and the second part was only an adventure story incidentally. I imagine that to Le Guin, the first part and the ending were really all about culture,, on the macro level, and the second part was also about culture: as it determines how two people can misunderstand each other despite their best attempts.

To me, the second part was also a bit of a love story. Neither gender nor sex got in the way of that.

If you want a book by Le Guin that is almost all about politics, I strongly recommend The Dispossessed https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...


Leslie | 825 comments Dennis, I agree that the second part was at least partially a love story. I was so sad when (view spoiler)!

I did pick up on the communication issue - so much of the misunderstandings came from the different cultural backgrounds leading to different interpretations of both spoken and unspoken cues.


Kaycie | 455 comments Mod
Dennis wrote: "the first part and the ending were really all about culture"

Oh I can agree with this completely! I think if I were expecting a more cultural book, I would have liked it a lot more, too! :-)

I also agree that the second part was a love story!

I do think I may have to try the Dispossessed someday, though. Thanks for the recommendation!


message 21: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil (lanark) | 428 comments I have got this out of the library and will be visiting it in the next few weeks :)


Jackie | 88 comments Hope you enjoy it!


Leslie | 825 comments Phil wrote: "I have got this out of the library and will be visiting it in the next few weeks :)"

I have been thinking about rereading this recently too!


message 24: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil (lanark) | 428 comments Finished it. My review (5 stars, by the way)

*****

"It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We nothing else to give."

"Hate Orgoreyen? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain ploughland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. ..... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope."

This book. the first I've read by Le Guin, wasn't at all what I was expecting. It was far better. I can see why she's so influential in the world of speculative and science fiction. Her vision is so broad and all-encompassing and her world view is more important and more relevant now than it's ever been, in our fragile, unpredictable current political world.

It reminded my of Doris Lessing's science-fiction, such as "The Making of the Representative of Planet Eight", where science fiction is used not for its outward trappings of spaceship and aliens, but for the opportunities it gives the writer of delving inwards and seeing what it is to be human by looking at us from the utterly foreign.


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 130 comments I'm so glad you liked it, and I would heartily recommend reading more LeGuin.


Jackie | 88 comments I am glad you liked it too. I agree with you about Doris Lessing. Have you tried her novel "The marriages between zones three, four and five"? You might enjoy it.


Leslie | 825 comments Phil wrote: "...where science fiction is used not for its outward trappings of spaceship and aliens, but for the opportunities it gives the writer of delving inwards and seeing what it is to be human by looking at us from the utterly foreign."

This is exactly what I like about Le Guin's books! Not that I dislike spaceships and aliens - I enjoy a good space opera, but this book has so much more depth.


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