Monday, November 5, 2012

Little World, Left Hand of Darkness & My Life (in 37*37 sentences), or: what are you reading?

Big Backpack, Little World (a chance encounter)
So many places in this world, and so many books - the eternal question probably is: from the million of possibilities, how to figure out the journeys to take, and the books to read? Just try it, is one option. That's how I came across the travel memoir "Big Backpack, Little World", which happened to be free for the day just when I checked the e-book travel listing. So glad I ordered it:

"Big Backpack, Little World" is a fine read - a travel memoir by Donna Morang, who lived in Montana and Alaska. After retirement, she decides that she is ready to try something new again, and starts backpacking and teaching English abroad. She has a wonderful humour and a perspective of someone who has seen a lot already, and at the same time is open and excited about life, and keeps learning herself. It's a joy to follow her trails to Mexico, Spain and Cambodia, and made me also think of my own days of solo traveling in other countries. As starting point, I'd recommend her blog updates from Mexico, which have the same warm touch as her book: ESL Donna

The Left Hand of Darkness (a modern classic)
A modern classic, and the second book ever that won both the prestigious Hugo Award and the Nebula Award: that's "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's labeled science fiction, but in the introduction Le Guin suggests to read it rather as a thought-experiment: not as a future prediction, but as a story that describes reality, the present world, "a truth - wrapped in fiction". The story itself has the form a of journal or a travel report. It starts with the words: "I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination..."    

On first glance, a very different book than "Little World", but both books are about getting in touch with the previous unknown, and sharing knowledge with people that live in a different place, in a different kind of society, and who speak another language (and then with the reader). The traveling in Le Guin's book has a much larger dimension, though - it's to another world, a world named Winter, as messenger. Here's a quote that gives an idea of the concept, which was informed by Le Guin's family, too: both her parents were anthropologists, and the theme of cultural encounters runs through her book:

"Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal: it is individual. Not We and They, not I and It, but I and Thou." 

Beyond the book: Wired Interview and a literary course
Le Guin is over 80 now, and still giving fascinating interviews - WIRED spoke with her last year, they have the talk up on their page both as transcript with images and as podcast: Still Battling the Powers That Be

And here's a short interview that is moving - Le Guin about life, age, books in time, and being an author:

For some background information of the book, you can check out the online literary class of Eric Rabkin at Michigan University, several video lectures are dedicated to Le Guin's book (here's the course link: English literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Human Mind, Our Modern World.

"My Life" by Lyn Hejinian, and "My Emily Dickinson" by Susan Howe 
I am still following the "ModPo" Modern Poetry Class, and it's like a guided tour through modern poetry with a lot of reading samples. Interesting also how the themes of this week connect: from the traditional travel memoir of Small World, to "My Life" by Lyn Hejinian, who created an experimental biography, written at age 37 in 37 segments of 37 sentences each, and later, at age 45, revised into 45 segments of 45 segments each - by format itself already a reflection on the nature of life and memory. Here are 4 sentences from one of the childhood segments: 

"A pause, a rose, something on paper. Solitude was the essential companion. The branches of the redwood trees hung in a fog whose moisture they absorbed. Lasting, "what might be," its present a future, like the life of a child."

And - Susan Howe, and her writing that is sparked by Emily Dickinson, especially by her poem #754. Reading it is a reminder again of the power of words that still stand on a page, that remain, that are an open side of a dialogue waiting for a reader, long after the writer has gone.
The starting lines of said poem #754, one of those that still echo from the reading:

"My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - 
In Corners - till a Day.."

For more, try this google link. It leads to 1.750.000 pages loaded with words - quotes, notes and responses to a poet unforgotten.


It's Monday! What are you reading? This blog post is inspired by the blog series "It's Monday! What are you reading?" which is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. participating blogs are listed in this Linky Book List

Previous reading blog entries are collected here: bookshelf + monday reads. there also is a visual bookshelf, just click it to get there:

Some lines about me: I'm into roads, stories, places, crossings, and all the things they lead and connect to. I edit BluePrintReview and the blueprint book + lit blog. Apart from being an editor and blogger, I am also an author myself. My new book Worlds Apart launched some weeks ago:

Worlds Apart: the true story of 2 friends, 2 journeys, and 10 life lessons  
In the global world, a traveler from Europe and a teacher from Asia meet in the web, share their journeys, and the joys, longings, and life lessons that wait along the road. Captured in letters and photos that reach from China and India to Germany and the Mediterranean Sea, a dialogue across continents and cultures unfolds: Worl(d)s Apart


The Relentless Reader said...

I've never read that Le Guin...sometimes I get sad thinking about all of the books I've not had a chance to read yet! It sounds lovely

Reese's Reviews said...

Huh haven't heard of these but it sounds very interesting and the cover looks very pensive. Good choices this week. Thank you so much for commenting today and Bohemia definitely seems like a good book for those who like description and poetry.

Dorothee said...

Thinking about all the books out there can be truly overwhelming - a spare life to read would be nice :),

The Brunette Librarian said...

Can I just say ditto to Jennifer's comment - Utterly lovely :)
Whatcha readin' this week @ the Brunette Librarian :)

TP said...

I haven't read anything by Le Guin yet - but she is an author who I've long wanted to read. Thanks for sharing the links to the interviews & more info about her.

Tanya Patrice

Anonymous said...

Thank you for featuring my book,Big Backpack--Little World. Now I am on my way to your book, it sounds lie a very good read.
I love your blog, and so happy to be a new follower.
Gracias mi amiga.

Dorothee said...

So glad you enjoy the reading posts with the extra info - those weekly reading reflections are such a good way for sharing reads, and for me they also part of processing the reads - and also to honour the authors.