Ursula K. Le Guin on Literature Vs. Genre

I don’t usually use a blog post only for a link, but I believe everyone needs to read this brilliant essay by Ursula K. Le Guin. And then, if you haven’t already, read some of her books. My favorite is “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

An excerpt from the essay: “If we thought of all fictional genres as literature, we’d be done with the time-wasting, ill-natured diatribes and sneers against popular novelists who don’t write by the rules of realism, the banning of imaginative writing from MFA writing courses, the failure of so many English teachers to teach what people actually read, and the endless, silly apologising for actually reading it.”

Read the whole thing here:

Le Guin’s Hypothesis

Fathers in Memoir and Fiction

I meant to have this done and posted yesterday, but life had other plans for me. Squeaking in just before Father’s Day is over, I present you with a list of books featuring dads.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. In this memoir, Sheff speaks about the pain of having meth as a rival for his son’s devotion. He questions his parenting. He sees his hopes raised and dashed repeatedly. And then there’s the effect on his other kids. As any parent of more than one child can tell you, any decision you make for one has ramifications for the others.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Eggers is a brother who filled a father’s role. He was only 21 when his father and mother both succumbed to cancer within a few weeks of each other, leaving Dave in charge of his 8-year-old brother. This memoir had me laughing and crying, often at the same time.

Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker. Neely Tucker, a white American journalist, recounts the story of how he and his black wife, Vita, relocated to Zimbabwe, where they volunteered at an orphanage and fell in love with a little girl who they believed might have AIDS.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Written in spare, but beautiful prose, this novel introduces us to small town high school teacher, Tom Guthrie, who is raising his two sons by himself. Meanwhile, he’s dealing with a student who bullies, a student who is pregnant, fellow teacher Maggie Jones, and wait – how do two bachelor farmer brothers come into this picture? Read and find out.

Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. What started as a Twitter account turned into one of the funniest memoirs I have ever read. At 28, Halpern lost his job and moved back in with his 73-year-old dad.  “Remember when you used to make fun of me for being bald?…No, I’m not gonna make a joke. I’ll let the mirror do that.” People who get the vapors over cursing should avoid it. Despite being extremely salty, Halpern’s dad does seem to have his son’s best interests at heart, in the end.

Silas Marner by George Eliot. In today’s world, Silas Marner would never be approved to adopt a child. But in Eliot’s novel, the reclusive miser turns out to be a pretty good father to the little girl who wanders into his life. Father and daughter both learn love really is more important than money.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. In this novel, the setting is a Midwest family farm in the 1970s. But the seemingly average Cook family is living out a 20th-century version of Shakespeare’s King Lear, complete with the division of the estate, the exile of one daughter, the love triangles and the onset of patriarchal madness.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus Finch is one of the greatest literary fathers of all time. He is wise and kind and understanding of his children, while holding expectations of the same behavior from them. Then there’s his courage in standing up for the underdog. “Truth, justice and the American Way” – Superman, or Superdad Atticus Finch?

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. This novel, set in 1909 Montana, is narrated by the oldest of widower Oliver Milliron’s three boys. Their father hires a housekeeper through a newspaper ad, a housekeeper who brings along a character of a brother, and a mystery.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Though Ree Dolly’s father is more talked about than shown, the reader certainly comes to know a lot about him. The things we find out right way are: he has drug charges pending against him, he has put up the family home as bond, and he can’t be found. It’s up to 16-year-old Ree to find him and thus save the home.