Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

9780441478125_p0_v2_s550x406I’m not sure where to begin because there is so much here and hard to explain.  The assignment is examine how Ursula K. Le Guin uses language to tell her story.  The language is very lush and full of descriptions of the strange world of Winter.  A harsh world that is like living on the Artic in our world.  The people of this world are gender neutral and assexual for most of the life except for when they are in “kemmer” where partner with another person in “kemmer” and could be female or male depending on things went.  They could be the a father to one child and mother to another.  Le Guin uses the “he” pronoun for all the Getheren even though they are not male or female.  I believe it was used more simplistic reasons then insinuated that they are more male most of the time then female. It was hard as the reader to understand that, that when “he” was being used it wasn’t that the character was a male but a Genthen.

Genly Ai is an evnoy for the Ekumen.  He has come to Winter to try to get an alliance with them but things don’t go as planned.  Through out the novel he is mislead , betrayed and betrays himself.  He is lead throughout the novel by the Estrevan, first as Prime Minister and then as friend.  Ai has trouble first trusting him as he doesn’t understand where he is coming from.  Is he a friend or foe?  Ai also had to get over the human thinking of people as only one gender, which he struggles with as much as the reader does, I think.  Over time they become friends and maybe more as they work together to get the alliance done.  This was a beautifully written novel that I’m glad I read it because I don’t think ever read anything like it.

Pop Culture Homework Assignment for Beth: Language

This summer, I am sharing with Beth something that has been a passion and a profession for me: the study of language. At the end of the month, I will defend my dissertation. If it all goes well, I will have a PhD in linguistics. Language and its study have been a huge part of my life for a long time now, but the details of it haven’t really been something that I have shared with my family. I know that they know what I do, but I worry that they find the discussion of it way too boring. To be honest with you, coming up with this list felt a little self-indulgent and unfair. (So much so that I have a back up assignment, in case she protests and boycotts this one.) But, I love the work that I do and find it exciting, so I have decided to share a little bit of general linguistics with my sister (and anyone who wants to join the challenge!) this summer. The four books I have picked are half non-fiction and half fiction (huge hat-tip is Jessi Grieser on twitter for asking for book suggestions and Gretchen McCulloch for this blog post! It helped me pick the fiction on this list!).

  1. What Language Is: and What it isn’t and what it could be by John McWhorter

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John McWhorter has written a number of pop science on language and I’ve found them to be quite enjoyable. I haven’t read this one, but the reviews suggest that it will be a good introduction to what linguistics is, while also providing some fun trivia about language.

2. Left hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

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I couldn’t resist adding an Ursula K. Le Guin book to the list following our read along last February.  Le Guin uses language in interesting ways in this novel. I look forward to hearing Beth’s thoughts on the book, after having read McWhorter’s thoughts on language.

3. The Last Speakers by K. David Harrison

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Depending on how you count, there are between roughly 6,0007,000 languages in the world. For many of them, the possibility that they will still be spoken in one hundred years is slim. This book highlights that and brings attention to speakers of some vanishing languages.

4.  Embassytown by China Miéville

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Language is at the center of my final selection. Living figures of speech, a unique language humans must be modified to speak. Danger! Catastrophe! Hard choices! So fun. I can’t wait for her to read this.

In fact, I can’t wait to hear what Beth thinks about all of them!