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Cheek by Jowl Paperback – April 30, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The work of poet and novelist Le Guin (Lavinia, The Left Hand of Darkness) spans genres, including science fiction, fantasy and kid lit, and here she collects scholarship and opinion on the importance of fantasy in every stage of our lives. Aside from taking on "the whole misbegotten procedure" of condemning a genre with the standards of another (why not "judge Moby Dick as science fiction" or "Pride and Prejudice as a Western"?), Le Guin delineates a number of intriguing points just by focusing on animal characters, and their relationships to humans, in her multi-part essay "Animals in Children's Literature": Jack London's White Fang, for example, uses the perspectives of canine and human characters to create a genuine understanding of the love between them. Le Guin's most charged argument tackles the idea that fondness for fantasy equals lack of maturity; instead, Le Guin attests that fantasy is the only type of fiction that can be fully appreciated at any age, and is often involved in important poetry and unique imagery. This compact collection will stoke readers' affection and appreciation for fantasy by highlighting important but overlooked qualities in many familiar tales (such as the duplicity at work in Lewis Carroll) that prove its lasting value as literature.
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About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin is the renowned author of many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the National Book Award, five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, 18 Locus Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Margaret Edwards Award. Her most recent novel is Lavinia, hailed by critics as ''delightful,'' ''sublimely composed,'' ''masterful.''
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Aqueduct Press; First edition (April 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933500271
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933500270
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,181,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Tonatiuh Moreno Ramos on July 4, 2009
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Ursula K. Le Guin is not only one of the greatest writers of our time, but also a very aware of why and what she writes, and this collection of essays and lectures proves it.
I found this book enlightening and informative. The short essay "A message about messages" helped me clarify some doubts I had as a narrator myself, and "Cheek by jowl: animals in children's literature" (the longest chapter) made want to read some of the books reccommended in it. Overall, the books makes you ponder about the value of fantasy and the so-called "realistic" literature, and what role does meaning play in that.
I liked the fact that she chose a painting from my country to exemplify some concepts and to illustrate the cover!
It disaponted me a bit that I already had read some of the chapters, but I think is an advantage to have them all complied.
Ursula must be the wisest fantasy writer alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lyle Bjork on March 8, 2010
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Le Guin continues to write lucidly, perceptively and with her trademark combination of gentle humor and firm opinions in this series of essays on writing for children (of all ages). The title essay is an expansion of previous lectures and essays and makes me want to head for the children's section of the library to reread old classics and get acquainted with new ones. The first essay on fantasy writing for children is succinct, the essence of how she writes, and should be required reading for everyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ann C. Byrne on September 23, 2009
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You may or may not be enthralled by LeGuin's fiction, but this engaging collection of her thoughts on fantasy, the imagination, children's literature (she lists some of the best!!!) and the Young Adult category devised by publishers ("require a ptotagonist who is over 12 and under 20:") is worth every penny you pay for it. Make sure your kids have been exposed to the masterworks (and I do not exaggerate) on her list. Ann of Rhode Island
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on January 17, 2011
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"Cheek by Jowl" is a short collection of speeches, worked out into essays, delivered by the world famous science fiction and fantasy author Ursula le Guin. The essays connect two themes close to her heart: first, the legitimacy and importance of fantasy as a genre and respecting it on its own terms, and secondly, literature for children and young adults. She defends both categories (and their overlap) passionately, refuting the usual charges of childishness, escapism, 'genre fiction' being inherently inferior, and so forth. The main part of the book is taken up by the title essay, a lengthy analysis of the role of animals in children's and young adult literature and what this tells us about the moral and imaginative meaning such literature can have for us, with reference to everything from Black Beauty to Alice in Wonderland. Although most of the essays are fairly brief and not very 'deep', Le Guin's comments on fantasy and imaginative literature generally are often accurate and well phrased. Interesting for people who enjoy young adult novels past that age and/or those who want to read Le Guin's ideas on literature. For more of the latter, see also "The Wave in the Mind" (The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Ivanoff on April 14, 2012
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far. Cheek by Jowl is a series of essays and talks by Urusla K. LeGuin about fantasy. I believe they were all written, and given as talks, in the last decade. My favorite, I think, was "The Critics, the Monsters and the Fantasists. Leguin goes on to praise Harry Potter but to also show that it is a pretty typical book in the tradition of the school story in fantasy. She's appalled that people who read for a living, who should know better, being completely in the dark about fantasy literature. She criticizes the critics and university English departments that have marginalized a swath of literature that people love, that people relate to from childhood through adulthood, and that they dismiss it out of hand. Wonderful.

Also quite good is the longest essay "Cheek by Jowl: Animals in Children's Literature" and "Why Kids Want Fantasy, or, Be Careful What You Eat" the end of which sounds a bit like Neil Gaiman's "Instructions". if you think fantasy deserves to be taken seriously, you should enjoy this.
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