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The birthday of the world and other stories /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: HarperCollins, 2002
Edition: First edition.
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For more than four decades, Ursula K. Le Guin has enthralled readers with her imagination, clarity, and moral vision. The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, this renowned writer has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds and rich characters reminiscent of our earthly selves. Now, in The Birthday of the World, this gifted artist returns to these worlds in eight brilliant short works, including a never-before-published novella, each of which probes the essence of humanity.

Here are stories that explore complex social interactions and troublesome issues of gender and sex; that define and defy notions of personal relationships and of society itself; that examine loyalty, survival, and introversion; that bring to light the vicissitudes of slavery and the meaning of transformation, religion, and history.

The first six tales in this spectacular volume are set in the author's signature world of the Ekumen, "my pseudo-coherent universe with holes in the elbows," as Le Guin describes it -- a world made familiar in her award-winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness. The seventh, title story was hailed by Publishers Weekly as "remarkable . . . a standout." The final offering in the collection, Paradises Lost, is a mesmerizing novella of space exploration and the pursuit of happiness.

In her foreword, Ursula K. Le Guin writes, "to create difference-to establish strangeness-then to let the fiery arc of human emotion leap and close the gap: this acrobatics of the imagination fascinates and satisfies me as no other." In The Birthday of the World, this gifted literary acrobat exhibits a dazzling array of skills that will fascinate and satisfy us all.

Review by Booklist Review

Le Guin's compilation of eight stories, six set in the universe of the Ekumen, which she introduced in her best-known book, The Left Hand of Darkness(1969), requires knowledge of the complexities of her Ekumenical works to be fully appreciated. In one story she expands on the workings of androgynous sex on the planet Gethen, looks at the effect of gender imbalance (16 women to one man) on a planet where men have all the privilege and women all the power, and explores the marriage and kinship customs of the people of the world called O. "Old Music and the Slave Women," another Ekumenical tale, is a fifth story to go with the four connected ones in Four Ways to Forgiveness(1995). Le Guin, in the foreword to this book, says that the title story "may or may not take place on a world of the Ekumen," and readers will probably feel the same about it, but knowing the Ekumen canon will help them ascertain that feeling, just as it will make the others more comprehensible. The concluding novella, "Paradises Lost," is the only first publication here. It offers a change of pace and stands well on its own as it follows the experiences of Earth people on a spaceship that takes centuries to get to its destination, centuries during which people are born, grow up, develop a religion, and die without seeing "planetfall." That Le Guin continues to be a master of literary sf is brilliantly borne out in these stories. Sally Estes.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Deeply concerned with gender, these eight stories, although ostensibly about aliens, are all about ourselves: love, sex, life and alienation are all handled with illuminating grace. Le Guin's overarching theme, the journey, informs her characters as they struggle to come to terms with themselves or their worlds. The journey can be literal, as in "Paradises Lost," set on a generational ship, where the inhabitants, living in a utopia, learn they will land on the planet their ancestors set out to colonize 40 years earlier; and as in "Unchosen Love," where a young man falls in love with someone in another country and must decide if he can build a new life in a new place. Or the journey can be figurative, as in "Coming of Age in Karhide," in which an adolescent in a genderless society enters sexual maturity; and in "Solitude," as outsiders visit and study a planet where the men and women live apart and a young woman seeks to perfect her soul in the only place she knows as home. In "The Birthday of the World," the nature of God is considered as hereditary rulers, literal gods to their subjects, give up their power when new gods aliens come, throwing their culture into chaos. Gender is a constant concern: "The Matter of Seggri" takes place on a planet where women greatly outnumber men, and in "Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways," society is based on complex marriage relationships comprising four people. Le Guin handles these difficult topics through her richly drawn characters and her believable worlds. Evocative, richly textured and lyrically written, this collection is a must-read for Le Guin's fans. (Mar. 13)National Book Award, Le Guin published two major books last year, Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

From a tale of a youth's sensual and bittersweet initiation into the world of adults on the planet Gethen ("Coming of Age in Karhide") to a story of a child's spiritual and political journey into womanhood ("The Birthday of the World"), this collection of eight short works, including a never-before-published novella, "Paradises Lost," reflects the storytelling expertise of one of the genre's most intelligent and courageous authors. Le Guin grapples with gender roles, religion, politics, and social concerns in prose at once luminous and graphic, tender and incisive, never backing down from difficult situations or selling her audience short. A good choice for sf collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/01.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Ursula K. Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber in Berkeley, California on October 21, 1929. She received a bachelor's degree from Radcliffe College in 1951 and a master's degree in romance literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance from Columbia University in 1952. She won a Fulbright fellowship in 1953 to study in Paris, where she met and married Charles Le Guin.

Her first science-fiction novel, Rocannon's World, was published in 1966. Her other books included the Earthsea series, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, The Lathe of Heaven, Four Ways to Forgiveness, and The Telling. A Wizard of Earthsea received an American Library Association Notable Book citation, a Horn Book Honor List citation, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1979. She received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2014. She also received the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. She also wrote books of poetry, short stories collections, collections of essays, children's books, a guide for writers, and volumes of translation including the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and selected poems by Gabriela Mistral. She died on January 22, 2018 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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