Friday, February 10, 2006

"Always Coming Home" by UrsulaK. LeGuin is a fictional book written by a novelist that isn't a novel.

It's a lot of fragments, stories, descriptions of customs from a Northern California society of the far, far future.

It's a small scale society, living at the level of villages. The weather and the landscape and the plants are the same as Northern California now, but fewer people, no cities mentioned.

Written in 1985, it's kind of wildly optimistic because the fact that the plants and life systems are about the same means Northern California got to a much simpler far, far future without a nuclear war, which would have been a very heavy-duty re-set event.

Ursula K. LeGuin grew up in Northern California, lives in Oregon, and a lot of ways "Always Coming Home," is a love letter to the land and weather of her past. She shows how she loves the land and weather by giving it much more room, fewer people to get in its way.

Little bits of this and that is "Always Coming Home." Life is often little bits of this and that. That may be the healthiest most life-supporting thing for it to be.

Stories that take the form of stories as we know them around here may be inherently violent--happening too much, too definitely for this small planet, its hills, its local weather.

I haven't even come close to reading all of "Always Coming Home." I read a little. I argue with some parts--too cute, I think, too heavy-handed. But that isn't the problem. The problem is that certain of its fragments demand that I change my life.

So I have to go off and leave the book and either change my life or avoid the demand.

Then, years later, I go back to find that bit that demanded change and I don't find it. I find stuff too cute, too heavy-handed and then another demand. Of course, the bits I critique may not be too cute or whatever, but making the demands I really am not ready to hear.

When we find how to tell our real stories that may sound nothing like what we've been trained to hear as "story," that may be a life-saving change.