- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780802135292
- ISBN-13: 978-0802135292
- ASIN: 0802135293
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dancing at the Edge of the World Paperback – 1997
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"Dancing at the End of the World" (1989) is a collection of essays, talks, reviews and some travel notes by the highly esteemed author Ursula K. Le Guin. For many years I have greatly admired her novels particularly "The Lathe of Heaven". I am cautiously optimistic that by reading non-fiction books by authors I hold in high esteem I may become more nuanced in my appreciation of their fiction.
I sought out this book because I had reviewed the table of contents on the ISFDB (Internet Science Fiction Data Base) and I greatly desired to read a couple of items - a book review of a C.S. Lewis collection and an essay titled "Where Do you Get Your Ideas From". Both readings were informative but the essay was of particularly interest. To summarize ideas flow up from the subconscious and are an amalgamation of life experiences.
I surveyed the book from cover to cover sampling a page or two from each entry. To be honest, with one exception, and the two pieces noted I passed on the other writings. The unexpected gem of this book for this reader was a diary like essay about Ms. LeGuin's experiences during filming of her novel "The Lathe of Heaven" - note the 1980 version! Very interesting and informative indeed to this reader since I was not previously aware it had be make into a movie and as it turns out twice - but that's another story altogether.
Each of the essays listed in the table of contents is denoted with a glyph that categorizes the essay as dealing with feminism, social responsibility, literature, or travel. This categorization gives the reader a good idea of the range of the collection and of Le Guin's interests, which extend far beyond the science fiction genre for which she is most well known.
The quality of the essays is uneven. Some of the travel pieces are soporific ("Places Names," "Along the Platte" and "Over the Hills and a Great Way Off"), although they might be more interesting to readers who have been to the places Le Guin describes. Other pieces seem to suffer from the loss caused by transforming what were originally spoken presentations into writing. The feminist writings in some cases are the victim of changing times. What is useful, however, even in these weaker pieces, are Le Guin's introductions, which provide a useful contextual background that helps the reader understand the import of the essay.
While some of the essays are unremarkable, there also are several exceptional writings that are worth the price of admission. I refer, in particular, to the 1988 essay, "The Fisherman's Daughter," which provides a provocative and interesting discussion of women and writing, a text that follows in the line from Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" through Tillie Olsen's "Silences," drawing heavily on both authors for another view of this much discussed literary/feminist theme. I also refer to the essays from 1986, a very good year for Le Guin insofar as the six essays included here from that year all provide interesting and worthwhile glimpses at why her writing is so well regarded. In particular, I enjoyed "Bryn Mawr Commencement Address" and "Text, Silence, Performance," two essays that illuminate the ways in which spoken and written language, and the privileging of certain communicative forms over others, affects the world.
Despite the shortcomings of some of its essays, "Dancing at the Edge of the World" provides a fascinating picture of Le Guin's worldview, successfully painting the "mental biography" of one of America's more interesting and accomplished writers during one decade of her life.
I especially like her talk about working on the "Lath of Heaven" movie. Read and find out what she thinks.
The book covers 10 years of interviews, essays, papers, speeches, and related information. It is sort of like the little extras and the voice-overs that you get at the end of DVD's now days. However there are no pictures.
I read this book in 1991 or 1992, nearly 20 years ago. I've not seen the idea anywhere else (although she cites an anthropologist writing in 1975) but it has shaped my perception since. Not to diminish the rest of the book, but this single idea in this one essay is, I believe, worth getting the whole book for.