21.4.08

What Matters is The Work

There's an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin about her new novel, Lavinia, over at The Wall Street Journal. (Thanks to Endicott Studio for the link.)

Here's a taste:

Ms. Le Guin did as much historical research as she could about the Bronze Age. The early Latins were farmer-warriors, she said, and their world wasn't the "sick, luxurious empire of the TV sagas" but "an austere people with a strong sense of duty, order and justice." It's possible, Ms. Le Guin wrote, that they didn't even have wine or olive oil. "But I couldn't imagine Italians without wine and olive oil," she wrote in her afterword. "If it's any excuse, neither could Virgil."

Imagination is one of Ms. Le Guin's favorite words, and she doesn't think there's enough of it in America. In a 1974 talk, "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" she lamented Americans' "moral disapproval of fantasy," and their tendency to look on works of the imagination "as suspect or as contemptible."


Apparently this is Le Guin's second foray into historical fiction, following the 1979 Malafrena which sounds kind of fascinating. Some folks may already know her as a writer of fantasy and science fiction.

Lavinia gives a speaking role to Lavinia, formerly a supporting character as the intended bride of Aeneas in Virgil's The Aeneid.

Lots of great stuff at Le Guin's blog here.

I particularly liked this bit:

My parents never encouraged me in the sense of making a fuss about what I wrote or praising my determination to write. They encouraged me greatly in the sense that they believed that if you have a talent, you ought to work hard at it.
When I was getting near college age, my father talked with me about getting a 'salable skill' — learning a trade that I could live on. Because most writers don't earn enough from writing to buy catfood, this was wise advice. I loved languages, so I went into French and Italian literature in college, and went on for higher degrees that would qualify me to teach.
Then when I got married, my husband never questioned my right to write. This is fairly rare, especially in husbands. My advice to young writers is, if you can't marry money, at least don't marry envy.
When I was young, the few older writers I knew were encouraging; and the writers who are my friends now are generous people with a strong sense of community. I keep away from writers who think art is a competition for fame, money, prizes, etc. What matters is the work. (Ursula K. Le Guin)

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