Cover of book The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by: Ursula K. Le Guin

Check out the book on Amazon | your public library.
I picked up this book as a audiobook CD set narrated by George Guidall. A slow starting book with beautiful lyrical poetic prose and descriptions, with keen insights into what it is to “belong”, to be “other”. It took me the first (of 8) cds to get into the audiobook - then I was transported away to Winter. The description of the landscape and internal landscape it evokes reminded me of Peter Matthiessin's “The Snow Leopard”. As amazing as the book is, the notes and highlights are from the author's introduction - which are short, entertaining and deeply insightful.
7 Highlights | 1 Note
  • Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic.
  • This book is not extrapolative. If you like, you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought-experiment.

    The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrödinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future— indeed Schrödinger's most famous thought-experiment goes to show that the “future,” on the quantum level, cannot be predicted—;but to describe reality, the present world.
    Note: What happens when we consider everything anyone says as thought experiments?
  • A novelist's business is lying.
  • “The truth against the world!” — Yes. Certainly. Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That's the truth!
  • In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren't there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon. Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.
  • I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
  • In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, when reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find—if it's a good novel—we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it's very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.