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Always Coming Home (California Fiction) Paperback – February 5, 2001
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Envisioning a possible future (and attacking present folly), Le Guin reinvents a ``primitive'' past. The autobiography of a woman of the Kesh, living in the Napa Valley in a distant post-Industrial age, occupies 100 pages. The rest of the book (and a cassette) provide documentation of Kesh spiritual and material culture, from kinship and language to arts and philosophy. Dancing their oneness with nature, valuing cooperation over competition, the Kesh survive contact with the hieratic, war-making, death-dealing Condors, who are a lot like us. If it's hard to believe in a people who use computers and electricity but plow with oxen and see wealth as giving, that's part of the point. The narrative is interrupted by poems, tales, and ``data,'' which demand patient pondering--something Le Guin's many admirers are certain to provide. However, the considerable pleasures of this book are not the pleasures of the novel. Patrica Dooley, formerly with English Dept., Drexel Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Adds up to a gorgeously complex portrayal of a yet-to-exist society."--"Globe and Mail
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We all know about digging up the past; how about digging up the future! Not only does LeGuin tell stories about people living in a post holocaust future, she lays out all the artifacts and cultural items that archeologists and anthropologists might find.
Māori of New Zealand talk about looking forward into the past and the future, which we cannot know, being behind us. Le Guin begins her book with a similar statement.
I won't say that this book is an easy read because it isn't, but it is well worth the effort needed to understand the full story. It is also one of those satisfying books that one can read again and find new treasures.
I read this book when it was first published in paperback in the mid-80's. It planted and nurtured in me a seed of hope that humans are capable of someday living in community in different ways than we do now. It opened in my imagination doors that I had never before noticed. Here is an example of a new narrative structure, or anti-structure. Here, too, is an example of a new-old social structure, a post-modern tribalism that has returned to "traditional" values such as living in harmony with oneself and one's environment, and recognizing the strength and beauty in ritual and tradition.
Though others (including she) may disagree, I personally have always considered this work Mrs. LeGuin's crowning achievement. As Tolkien did in his Middle Earth stories, LeGuin in "Always Coming Home" creates a new-old world that is unfamiliar yet recognizable, someplace we want to go back to again and again. We are lucky indeed that this book is now back in print!