Cheek by Jowl
Ursula K. Le Guin. Aqueduct Press, $16 (149pp) ISBN 978-1-933500-27-0
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.
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009