Closeup of a paperback copy of ALWAYS COMING HOME, split open to page 210, with a line drawing of a condor on one page

The Fan Letter I Never Sent to Ursula K. Le Guin

Published 2018-01-23

Ms. LeGuin,

I’ve been meaning to write you since I first read Always Coming Home, which was before I moved to Oregon, and that was in 1995. So I’ve been putting this off a long time.

I think I’m on my fifth copy of Always Coming Home, and it’s getting harder to find replacements. Back when Powell’s used to sell books and not just cocktail shakers I could reliably find a copy but I never did buy the nice edition with a cassette tape of Kesh songs. That one is $75 on Amazon right now. I keep buying the Bantam paperback. Inevitably the spine breaks. My current copy is broken such that it always falls open to page 210/211, the scene where North Owl first meets her grandfather in the Condor city.

Like a lot of people my age (b. 1971) I discovered your work through A Wizard of Earthsea, which I first read at at 12, probably the best age for a young atheist to discover Taoism. I think I read the remainder of the then-trilogy in high school. In college I was a clerk at the school library (Love Library at the University of Nebraska). While shelving books I happened across The Lathe of Heaven. I read it all in one sitting there in the stacks instead of doing my job.

It would be a bit of a stretch to say you’re the reason I moved to Oregon but it’s not entirely coincidental. Neither is my spiritual view of the universe (such as it is) which I guess I could describe as Taoism. Nor my politics, which strive to be feminist. Nor my sense of what constitutes “good writing” which I could describe as “parsimonious” but also “attentive to earthly details.” I finished Tales from Earthsea this summer and I love that you spend about three pages describing the moss in the Immanent Grove, but wrap up Irian’s climactic conflict with the master summoner in about two sentences. That’s a good balance.

For all that I put this off, I began writing it this very weekend. “Eh, I’ll finish it up this week, print it and send it.” It is uncanny and depressing that I never finished it, or that I never sent it.