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2006.02.09

[WTC_Bookclub: The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness, Part_2]

Greetings, WTC Bookclubers!

Today we wrap it up on Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. If you have not finished the book, and want to be surprised, then it is advisable that you stop reading this thread now, and carry on with pitying me for being in love with Trent, or something.

I hope you all enjoyed this book, because I certainly did. In the end, it reminded me of something Vaclav Havel, the playwright and dissident who became the first President of the Czech Republic after an oppressive communist regime crumbled in that country, said about the difference between "hope" and "optimism," and which was, for him, a reason for not letting cynicism defeat the struggle for something worth struggling for, even if the opponent seems totally intractable:

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

I love, love, loved Genly Ai and Estaven's long, arduous trek over the Kurkurast Domain in midwinter. I loved the bond that was forged in their common purpose, and I loved that they both had their own motives for doing so; that, even though they knew their chances were slim, they were as meticulous in their planning as faith could make them. Somewhere on that frozen wasteland, I fell in love with Estraven, and came to see Genly Ai's strength and courage as a reflection of the purity of his heart and hopes for his mission.

I don't know if you all know this about me or not, but I am a sucker for idealism. I loved Genly Ai's response when Estraven asked him why he came alone to Genthen? Why make the task so difficult?

"It's the Ekumen's custom, and there are reason's for it. Though in fact I begin to wonder if I've ever understood those reasons. I thought it was for your sake that I came alone, so obviously alone, so vulnerable, that I could, myself, pose no threat, change no balance: not an invasion, but a mere messenger-boy. But there's more to it than that. Alone, I cannot change your world, but I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I make, if I make one, is not impersonal, and not only political; it is individual. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou. Not political, not pragmatic, but mystical. In a certain sense, the Ekumen is not a body politic, but a body mystic. It considers beginning to be extremely important. Beginnings, and means. It's doctrine is the reverse of the doctrine that says the ends justifies the means."

Is there anything more thrillingly gorgeous than the human urge to perfect the soul and its relationship with other souls? I think not. It's that effort, more than anything else, that makes me love Trent so much.

So, today, my dears, let's hear your thoughts on the conclusion of The Left Hand of Darkness, and also, let's relate all this back to the subject of our dearly beloved raison d'etre, Sparklepants Reznor. I think there are about a million places for comparisons to be made, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Finally, let's hear your suggestions about a next book to take up. Personally, I am suggesting the controversial J.T. LeRoy's book The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things because it arrived in my mailbox just yesterday, but what do you think?

Posted by Dierdre ~ in wtc_bookclub | Permalink

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Comments

Well, there's a lot of material to cover here, but I do want to point out that Estraven's death left me with a sense of "Goddamnit!"

Excellent Vaclav Havel quote, btw.

I felt that there were definitely echoes of the Bush administration on Winter, especially in Tibe's broadcasts, wherein he twisted the ideas of love and pride into fear and hatred of others, pushing the people of Winter ever closer to real war. The "voluntary farms," although probably meant to be more of a reference to oppressive communist tactics, aren't terribly different from places like Guantanamo. Of course, you can't make a one-to-one comparison of this fictional planet written about in 1969 to the War on Terror, but I think it's generally true that we have the choice of living in constant fear or reaching out to others, and the people who truly embrace the idea of reaching out to others are the vast minority.

I dunno, that's all I've got right now. It's early.

Posted by: maise | Feb 9, 2006 7:16:32 AM

So, should I take this lack of response to meant that no one liked it?

Damn!

Posted by: Dierdre | Feb 9, 2006 11:03:21 PM

Noooooooo!!! As you know, I adore the book. Bitches are sitting on me right now, though. :(

Posted by: Baal Glyttr | Feb 10, 2006 6:28:07 AM

Okay, I'm just going to say it. I'm just a teensy bit disappointed that there was no hot earthling-on-androgynous-alien-sex. One glare of feminine lust, and then some philosophizing. Sigh...okay...let's get back to pulling the sledge.

Posted by: maise | Feb 10, 2006 7:55:22 AM

I know, Maise! When Estraven died, I was thinking, "FUCK! Now they can't get it on!"

Posted by: Dierdre | Feb 10, 2006 8:10:40 AM

Btw, before I go to bed, I just wanted to say that JT Leroy is fine with me, although I wouldn't mind a week or so to get my shit together.

Posted by: maise | Feb 12, 2006 12:44:09 AM

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