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Old 01-19-2019, 07:56 AM   #61
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And yes, we should appreciate the book for its trail-blazing qualities, rather than simply find fault with it because it was written 50 years ago, and would have been done differently now.
That's no duality; we can be quite Gethenian about it. The flipside is that a book shouldn't get a pass because it was groundbreaking. There's nothing wrong in saying, "But it would have been (even) better, if...." It's also fun and instructive to look at it for its role in the development of the genre.
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Old 01-19-2019, 08:25 AM   #62
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I did like the answering the wrong question part of the foretellers in Karhide (it made me wonder if this provided inspiration to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), but it seemed to me this didn't really go anywhere (unless we are supposed to question whether the answers provided by this book are to the wrong questions?).
I also thought of Adams; I also felt that it was a throwback to Western myth, as with enigmatic/gnomic responses from oracles, such as the one at Delphi. I hesitate to comment on Eastern myth since I know so little about it, but perhaps there's a similarity to Zen koans?

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The rest of political/religious/spiritual aspects of the novel, for me, were less interesting, because they didn't feel particularly new and they didn't feel as if they reflected what these people were. We have talk of kemmerhouses and hearths, but I felt that none of this was really reflected in what we saw in the book.
I agree. The societal structure seemed to me a throwback to the European Dark Ages and not especially organic to Gethen, except perhaps as a way to weather harsh conditions. The Gethenians if not humanoid are certainly humanish, and to what extent could they reflect whatever experimentation in regard to biology took place, that is, was a side effect to inculcate "human" responses to environment and socialization, an unconscious preference on the part of the breeders?
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Old 01-19-2019, 10:34 AM   #63
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I also thought of Adams; I also felt that it was a throwback to Western myth, as with enigmatic/gnomic responses from oracles, such as the one at Delphi. I hesitate to comment on Eastern myth since I know so little about it, but perhaps there's a similarity to Zen koans?
Because Le Guin didn't really explore this any further, I ended up unsure whether she was having a sort of sideswipe at all those gnomic responses (probably Eastern and Western), or whether there was a more serious intent.

A similar curiosity was the telepathic thing that Genly could do. I guess it provided an extra little bit of intimacy between Genly and Estraven ... but it hardly seemed worth introducing just for that. It seemed an unnecessary distraction to me.

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I agree. The societal structure seemed to me a throwback to the European Dark Ages and not especially organic to Gethen, except perhaps as a way to weather harsh conditions. The Gethenians if not humanoid are certainly humanish, and to what extent could they reflect whatever experimentation in regard to biology took place, that is, was a side effect to inculcate "human" responses to environment and socialization, an unconscious preference on the part of the breeders?
I think I found the Gethenians more human than I expected/remembered. When I nominated this for the lost in translation theme I had it in my memory that the "lost in translation" aspect was a clearer situation than it seems to me on this re-read. On this read it's almost a case of: we didn't need aliens to explain this misunderstanding.
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Old 01-19-2019, 06:18 PM   #64
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I certainly found the Gethenians to be human in their behaviour, their belief systems and their faults. In a way, they reminded me, with their avoidance of warfare, like bonobos in comparison with chimpanzees. Almost the same, but not quite.

One other theme we haven’t explored, of which I was reminded by Le Guin’s essay, was that of loyalty and betrayal. Genly felt at the end that he had betrayed Therem by bringing down his colleagues before Therem’s condemnation as a traitor had been revoked. Therem was betrayed by the man who owed him loyalty.

Did Therem feel he had betrayed Arek by going on living, and having another relationship? I think he did, given his reaction when Genly mindspoke to him in what seemed to be Arek’s voice.
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Old 01-19-2019, 08:27 PM   #65
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I found some confusion between Therem (multiple) & Arek in the legend (history?) of chapter 9, and the Therem & Arek as siblings (our Therem Estraven). This isn't helped by the fact that other siblings and other betrayals show up in other legends and some of it starts to jumble in my mind this far from reading it. A quick re-read of ch9 reminds me that "Estraven the Traitor" is a legendary name that our Therem/Estraven comes to wear in its own right, and yet the betrayal is with the best of intentions.

And yes, Therem is betrayed by a person who owed him loyalty, but I got the sense that it was not unexpected by Therem, that perhaps Therem even felt that it was deserved. I was almost surprised to see Therem make a run for it, but perhaps that was as much to force a quick end as anything else.
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Old 01-20-2019, 11:10 AM   #66
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One other theme we haven’t explored, of which I was reminded by Le Guin’s essay, was that of loyalty and betrayal. Genly felt at the end that he had betrayed Therem by bringing down his colleagues before Therem’s condemnation as a traitor had been revoked. Therem was betrayed by the man who owed him loyalty.

Did Therem feel he had betrayed Arek by going on living, and having another relationship? I think he did, given his reaction when Genly mindspoke to him in what seemed to be Arek’s voice.
I also think he did. And betrayed Ashe Foreth as well, with his second kemmering vow after the first taboo one.

When Genly first mentioned that having a single child with one's sibling was licit, but that the siblings had to break up afterwards and were prohibited from vowing to each other, I thought it was clunky, that it stuck out. Why have this? First, of course, the modern reader finds the concept of incest icky, so to speak. But alien race, so ok, just another example of Le Guin's getting everything out there. But why allow it and then forbid it? Is it icky, or isn't it? You could argue bloodline in its favor in regard to property, but why only the one time? Or you could argue eugenics against it, but then why allow it at all? It didn't make sense to me, but then it turned out that it provided a necessary plot point.

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And yes, Therem is betrayed by a person who owed him loyalty, but I got the sense that it was not unexpected by Therem, that perhaps Therem even felt that it was deserved. I was almost surprised to see Therem make a run for it, but perhaps that was as much to force a quick end as anything else.
I agree with this, too, and not only that, that Therem knowingly forced the situation by insisting that calling the ship had to be Genly's first action. However, I thought it a little tired and obvious to sacrifice the character who had essentially redeemed himself, for the sake of love. But that said, I don't know that there was an alternative; it wasn't going to be hugs and puppies afterward for Genly and Therem.

I continue to struggle with this book, trying to figure it out. Overall, I think Le Guin's execution wasn't up to the ideas she was trying to convey, and that she was taking on too much at once in a rather slender novel. Even she seems to concede that, with her changing take on the story in the various essays she wrote over time (although as we've said, I'd have preferred it if she'd shut up about it).

I think it's a pity that the focus seems almost entirely on the gender issue, and issues of politics, nationality and religion have subsided into the background. I'm not sure there's a lot to say about the different means of government, but I think the extent to which the different societies reflected their different religions is potentially fascinating.

And no one's said it yet, so I will. George R.R. Martin was inspired by the Wars of the Roses in creating his monumental epic, but the influence of Le Guin is also obvious. Winterfell and "winter is coming," the Old Gods as a representation of Handara and the Faith as a representation of Yomeshta, and the influence of religion on politics and nation-states is obvious.

As I've said, I know nothing at all about the genre, so I'm sure that Left Hand represented a seismic shift and that many other works reflect its influence, but I'm clueless.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:02 PM   #67
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I in turn know nothing about Game of Thrones so I can’t add anything to this. It would be really good if a few others could join in here, or has everyone else stopped reading?
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Old 01-20-2019, 07:23 PM   #68
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Here is an interesting article on her influence on the science fiction genre and other authors.

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/24/58010...sula-k-le-guin
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Old 01-20-2019, 07:51 PM   #69
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Thanks for that BG! I shall certainly read it with interest.
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Old 01-20-2019, 09:04 PM   #70
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I in turn know nothing about Game of Thrones so I can’t add anything to this. It would be really good if a few others could join in here, or has everyone else stopped reading?
I've been steering clear of this months discussion so far. I read left hand many many years ago and have absolutely no desire to re-read it. I am not a Le Guin fan.

Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire world including Game of Thrones was undoubtedly influenced by the War of the Roses. I have seen speculation that her work (but not necessarily this particular book) influenced both Game of Thrones and the movie Avatar. I'm not aware that these suggestions have been confirmed by either Martin or Cameron, but then again I have not researched the matter. There may well be such links. However, I am also conscious that the themes concerned are hardly rare ones to either literature or history, and even the names used are hardly definitive.
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Old 01-20-2019, 09:31 PM   #71
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[QUOTE=darryl;3801161]I've been steering clear of this months discussion so far. I read left hand many many years ago and have absolutely no desire to re-read it. I am not a Le Guin fan.[/question]

Why not? What are your objections? Left Hand is the first and only book of hers I've read and while I had issues, I still found it thought provoking.

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Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire world including Game of Thrones was undoubtedly influenced by the War of the Roses. I have seen speculation that her work (but not necessarily this particular book) influenced both Game of Thrones and the movie Avatar. I'm not aware that these suggestions have been confirmed by either Martin or Cameron, but then again I have not researched the matter. There may well be such links. However, I am also conscious that the themes concerned are hardly rare ones to either literature or history, and even the names used are hardly definitive.
Absolutely. It still could be (or not) interesting to try to see where Le Guin falls in the literature. And while the "winter" aspect seemed more of a direct homage to me, the religious one seems to provide more fodder for discussion.
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Old 01-20-2019, 10:00 PM   #72
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I in turn know nothing about Game of Thrones so I can’t add anything to this. It would be really good if a few others could join in here, or has everyone else stopped reading?

I read it within a week of it being selected, but stopped commenting here because I had nothing further to add. As a story, it was mehdiocre for me, the parts of it that interested me enough to trudge through the book are the parts that held the least interest for most participants in this thread, so, in the wise words of David Byrne, "when I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?"
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Old 01-20-2019, 10:08 PM   #73
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I'm still in progress. Reading has not been able to be a priority for me this year.
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Old 01-20-2019, 10:32 PM   #74
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I remember that the Daily Mail UK had an interview with Martin in which he discussed the influences for Game of Thrones. It could have been anytime the last one to three years. Time flies such that I can't remember how long ago I read the article! I tried searching for it unsuccessfully.
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Old 01-21-2019, 01:12 AM   #75
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Why not? What are your objections? Left Hand is the first and only book of hers I've read and while I had issues, I still found it thought provoking.
I posted only because I have read the Song of Ice and Fire books and enjoyed them, and felt Bookpossum's post was worth replying to.

There are a variety of reasons. It is not so much that I have objections. So far as my participation is concerned, it is simply that I thought I would have to read the book again to be able to contribute usefully. My recollection from reading it years ago is that it was very disappointing and not an enjoyable read. I acknowledge that I may perhaps enjoy the book if I read it now when I am so much older. But I think the themes of gender in her works have been covered far better later by better writers, though she no doubt deserves some credit as a pioneer in this respect.

I am also somewhat jaded recently in relation to gender themes. I have simply read too many books and articles with this theme, both good and bad. In the former category Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy comes readily to mind. In the latter category I would signal out Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee.

I must also confess that my luke warm opinion of her was turned into one of distaste by her pronouncements shortly before her death calling for a boycott of Amazon. I don't think this played a role in my decision not to re-read the book, but it certainly didn't make it any more likely. In the end I have many books I would rather be reading than re-reading this one.
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