March 27, 2018

Review: No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters

No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a marvelous essay collection from Ursula K. Le Guin, drawn from posts on her blog, and sadly the last. While reading it, I was struck by the relaxed, conversational tone that contrasted with the often serious subjects and deep thinking exhibited. As usual, her writing is exquisite, drawing the reader in to the point where she can make a discussion of soft-boiled eggs and egg spoons as riveting as a fast-paced story.

Just a few quotes.

On aging (from "The Sissy Strikes Back"):

It can be very hard to believe that one is actually eighty years old, but as they say, you'd better believe it. I've known clear-headed, clear-hearted people in their nineties. They didn't think they were young. They knew, with a patient, canny clarity, how old they were. If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.

On her cat, Pard (from "Chosen By a Cat"):

We call him the good cat with bad paws. The paws get him into trouble and cause loud shouting and scoldings and seizures and removals, which the good cat endures with patient good humor--"What are they carrying on about? I didn't knock that over. A paw did."

There used to be a lot of small delicate things on shelves around the house. There aren't now.

And from the aforementioned egg dissertation ("Without Egg"):

The sole imperfection of the egg spoon is that it's so small it gets lost. Horn spoons are larger, but the beautiful horn spoon my daughter gave me finally wore out, its edge becoming coarse and fibrous. Replacement can be a problem; most Americans don't eat their eggs from the shell, and the implement has become rare and hard to find. When I see one, I acquire it. My current egg spoon is stainless steel; on the handle are the letters K L M. I will not go into how we came to own this spoon.

The prose is lovely and deceptively simple, like clear running water. I can clearly see Ursula thinking carefully about each word, re: the difference between "lightning and the lightning-bug," via Mark Twain. These essays are a pleasure to read, and it's so sad that this marvelous voice has been stilled.

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