Once upon a time I used Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea in a first-year writing class centered on the theme of what makes a hero. I loved it. The students loved it. Since then, though, she has mostly hovered around the edges of my consciousness, even though she is among the most prolific and beloved American writers. In the 2010s, in her 80s, she took up blogging. No Time to Spare is a wonderful and engaging compilation of some of her blog entries.
The book is organized thematically rather than chronologically, starting with the matter most at hand—what it’s like to be old. In addition, there are several humorous sections about living with a new cat named Pard. The rest, like these, are about life—part memoir and part commentary.
The opening post, which provides the title for the volume, is a thoughtful and humorous reflection on the absurdity of the concept “spare time” for a person in her 80s, written in response to a questionnaire from Harvard in anticipation of her 60th Radcliffe reunion.
The pieces are short, engaging, and peppered with memorable observations. In response to those who denigrate “fantasy” literature, she writes, “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is “escapism” an accusation of?” And in 2012, long before we knew how low we could go, she wrote, “Can America go on living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country? I don’t know.”
“Belief in Belief” is an insightful meditation on science and religion. And perhaps my favorite, “The Tree,” is about her relationship with one year’s Christmas tree.
I could go on. I’m going to have to read some more Le Guin.
Postscript: I wrote this just a few days before Le Guin’s death. I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue in posthumous conversation with her via her books. At the moment my queue includes two classics: The Left Hand of Darkness and A Wizard of Earthsea.