Ursula K. Le Guin: A Message about Messages

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AlienEeeter
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Ursula K. Le Guin: A Message about Messages

Postby AlienEeeter » Sun Aug 21, 2005 8:21 pm

http://www.cbcbooks.org/cbcmagazine/mee ... ula_k.html

It's her reaction to the way ppl look for 'messages' in books. I totally agree with her. I always hated it when in class the teacher would ask me about messages and meanings.
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Postby luminosity » Sun Aug 21, 2005 9:01 pm

I'm glad I read that, AE...thanks for sharing. I've always disliked breaking books down into messages and meanings, myself...i just know how they make me feel...how they change me, and my perspective.
There will always be those who feel the need to "break it down", though, in the search for "true meaning".

Isn't truth in art subjective?

I liked what this author had to say-- (I'm sure it won't stop the reviewers and critics though...get my message?) just the thought of having to explain the "messages" in my own work makes me cringe... :roll:

Discussing the work is great...but looking for THE message...uh-uh :yim[-(:
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Postby TheMudge » Sun Aug 21, 2005 9:14 pm

Dang. That IS good.
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Postby Sakkasie » Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:20 am

That is SUCH a fantastic article.

And it's the main reason why I no longer participate in my local Barnes & Noble reading group. The message in "The Devil Wears Prada"? Oh puh-leaze ...


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Postby LostCoastArtist » Mon Aug 22, 2005 3:28 am

"It doesn't work that way! I'm not an answering machine—I don't have a message for you! What I have for you is a story."


That's a great quote. I've never really believed there were all these hidden messages in stories that you had to dig out. Most of the time it's just what people make out of it.

One thing I didn't think was quite true is her statement that it doesn't happen as much in art. People are talking about symbolism and meaning in art all the time.
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Postby goody2shoes » Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:35 am

I really don’t agree with her, a story does not have to have a Messages, but some people like to think that they do, I have never wrote anything about hidden meanings or whatever but I don’t think she should insult people who like to do that kind of stuff. I think when people talk about the books Message, it is because they want more they want it to be longer, and by talking about it does that. And is how they saw the book themselves and why it touched them.

I made a note to myself a while ago: "Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them."


What do kids not have a brain, they can decide what they want and need. That is whats wrong with some adults they don’t think that kids can think. what is she talking about when she says kids all of her let me say attempts at writing a book are more for adults then kids.

"""Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids."""" Well if they want that sort of book, and need this sort of writing, that must mean that they liked it, and if she does not want people to like her writing then why write. I write ya for myself but if someone likes it, I am not going to change my writing style because it’s liked. The only reason she is still writing is that someone liked or even maybe needed her book. "I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers" what because you wrote something someone like is it caterering to them? Some people actually like her writing and she should be happy.

"And so kids ask me, in all good faith, "When you have your message, how do you make up a story to fit it?" All I can answer is, "It doesn't work that way! I'm not an answering machine—I don't have a message for you! What I have for you is a story." I very much doubt that ANYONE asked such a question. No one who likes books would ever ask such a questions, not even kids.

I despise this kind of writer who thanks she or he is better then everyone else because someone thought she or he was good and had a great idea to publish her or him, and make her or his head even bigger.
Sorry to anyone who likes her, I just have to say something of how wrong she is.
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Postby Delaney » Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:46 am

Am I the only one who is CONSTANTLY looking for messages? :?
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Postby LostCoastArtist » Fri Aug 26, 2005 1:48 am

goody2shoes wrote:I don’t think she should insult people who like to do that kind of stuff.


How exactly is she insulting them? I don't really recall anything like that.

What do kids not have a brain, they can decide what they want and need. That is whats wrong with some adults they don’t think that kids can think.


If you reread the quote, you notice that she also says that adults do not know what kids need, so I would not interpret this as an insult to children. I think she is just saying that it's sometimes diffucult to know what children need. I would agree with that and say that it's often hard to know what anyone needs, adult, child, whoever. Even that person may well be unaware of what it is they need. There's just no way of knowing everything about life.

Well if they want that sort of book, and need this sort of writing, that must mean that they liked it, and if she does not want people to like her writing then why write. I write ya for myself but if someone likes it, I am not going to change my writing style because it’s liked. The only reason she is still writing is that someone liked or even maybe needed her book. "I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers" what because you wrote something someone like is it caterering to them? Some people actually like her writing and she should be happy.


I think you're totally misinterpreting this. She's not talking about changing her style. I take this to mean she's not going to let other people tell her what she has to write about. Would you like someone telling you what you have to write? I wouldn't.

She also made no comments about wanting her work to be disliked. I'm not really sure how you come up with such a skewed interpetation of this.

I very much doubt that ANYONE asked such a question. No one who likes books would ever ask such a questions, not even kids.


But someone interested in learning to write might, and I'm sure they probably have.

I despise this kind of writer who thanks she or he is better then everyone else because someone thought she or he was good and had a great idea to publish her or him, and make her or his head even bigger.
Sorry to anyone who likes her, I just have to say something of how wrong she is.


I'm not sure where this "I'm better than you" vibe you're talking about is coming from. I didn't catch it. The author has a very definite opinion, yes, but that does not mean she thinks she's better than anyone.

I'm not trying to change your opinion or anything, but it seems like you made up your mind about this article before you even read it.
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Postby luminosity » Fri Aug 26, 2005 4:02 am

LCA, I agree with you completely...well said. :thumbwink:

Goody...of course there always have been, and always will be messages in books, just as there are, have been, and probably always will be, people who want to delve into (dissect, even) those messages.

The author does not seem to me to be saying that no one has any business doing this...only that she does not want anyone directing her to write anything other than what she FEELS like writing, and that there is no way to completely break a fictional story down into something as simple as a "message." A good story is sooo much more--it can shape who we are...who we become--moving us in ways too subtle or too personal to convey with mere words...it is art...to be absorbed...savored...pondered...not just tucked neatly into a little box of "messages."

I think it's great that other people enjoy searching out hidden meanings in books, paintings...whatever. Just so they don't try to tell others HOW and WHAT to write...or how to feel...cramping the style of someone who just plain loves to write--to create--to share something that comes from deep within.
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Postby goody2shoes » Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:27 pm

LostCoastArtist wrote:
goody2shoes wrote:I don’t think she should insult people who like to do that kind of stuff.


How exactly is she insulting them? I don't really recall anything like that.

What do kids not have a brain, they can decide what they want and need. That is whats wrong with some adults they don’t think that kids can think.


If you reread the quote, you notice that she also says that adults do not know what kids need, so I would not interpret this as an insult to children. I think she is just saying that it's sometimes diffucult to know what children need. I would agree with that and say that it's often hard to know what anyone needs, adult, child, whoever. Even that person may well be unaware of what it is they need. There's just no way of knowing everything about life.

Well if they want that sort of book, and need this sort of writing, that must mean that they liked it, and if she does not want people to like her writing then why write. I write ya for myself but if someone likes it, I am not going to change my writing style because it’s liked. The only reason she is still writing is that someone liked or even maybe needed her book. "I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers" what because you wrote something someone like is it caterering to them? Some people actually like her writing and she should be happy.


I think you're totally misinterpreting this. She's not talking about changing her style. I take this to mean she's not going to let other people tell her what she has to write about. Would you like someone telling you what you have to write? I wouldn't.

She also made no comments about wanting her work to be disliked. I'm not really sure how you come up with such a skewed interpetation of this.

I very much doubt that ANYONE asked such a question. No one who likes books would ever ask such a questions, not even kids.


But someone interested in learning to write might, and I'm sure they probably have.

I despise this kind of writer who thanks she or he is better then everyone else because someone thought she or he was good and had a great idea to publish her or him, and make her or his head even bigger.
Sorry to anyone who likes her, I just have to say something of how wrong she is.


I'm not sure where this "I'm better than you" vibe you're talking about is coming from. I didn't catch it. The author has a very definite opinion, yes, but that does not mean she thinks she's better than anyone.


I'm not trying to change your opinion or anything, but it seems like you made up your mind about this article before you even read it.




I already disliked her books. I read something she wrote about a year, I read this and thought maybe I was wrong about her but i was not. almost every article I have read that she wrote she is putting down someone or something, like this article she is being kinda rude to the people who like this kind thing. I'm better than you thing was kinda off ya, but when i read somethings she wrote she kinda sounds like that.
"If you reread the quote, you notice that she also says that adults do not know what kids need" I did not see that anywhere. :?

I dont see why she is so defensive, and no one is asking her to write a story there way because they something about a hidden message
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Postby LostCoastArtist » Fri Aug 26, 2005 2:49 pm

goody2shoes wrote:"If you reread the quote, you notice that she also says that adults do not know what kids need" I did not see that anywhere. :?


Le Guin wrote:But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them." [My emphasis on we.]


I take "we" to mean adults here or possibly writers, who would more than likely be adults. So she is clearly saying that neither adults or children really know what they need.

I dont see why she is so defensive, and no one is asking her to write a story there way because they something about a hidden message


I don't see this as being defensive, I think the "defensivness" is part of your preconceived notion of this author.

Le Guin wrote:Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing...


This sounds like someone telling her how to write to me. Of course I can't say if anyone has really made these kinds of comments to her, but I have no reason not to believe her.

Personally, I have never read any of this author's work, so I have no bais one way or the other. You have every right to disagree with her opinion, I just think that you are being a bit unfair and heavy handed in your arguments against her. It is possible to disagree with someone in a respectful way.
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Postby goody2shoes » Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:07 pm

I am not being disrespectful, all I said was my opinon
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Postby CycoMerlin14 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 2:48 pm

First and foremost, there's these things called chocolate and vanilla icecream. Why were they made? Because some people preferred one over the other.

Same thing with Ursula K.

She prefers that people read stories just to read stories. As she said, the intellect can't exactly put into words what the body and soul is feeling after reading a story, so any looking for 'a message' would be taking something for just its face value and nothing more. I don't think she's putting down the whole idea of searching for a message, but when it's JUST that, I too would negate it. That's why I STRONGLY disagree with most compulsory schooling methods of professing literature as a message-harvesting. Often times that's all they ever do without ever leaving room for anything else.

A great film I'm sure most of us have seen is The Dead Poets' Society. I remember Robin Williams' character saying this: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
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Postby Delaney » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:47 am

Okay, sorry to chime in here, but it needs to be said that sometimes people read books FOR the messages or the feeling they evoke, which becomes a message in itself... I don't think it's black or white, people SHOULD read for entertainment, and not look for messages that aren't there, but just because somebody says they don't write stories solely to illustrate a message to the reader, does not mean that it is wrong for other people to do so, OR for readers to prefer one. It is highly a matter of preference. Many classic writers and current ones too have changed lives by the messages in their books, and it is a GOOD thing for readers to be searching for one.

I kind of agree with G2S...
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Postby snowbird » Sun Aug 28, 2005 6:45 am

Very interesting thread. Appreciate all the various communications. :) Here's mine.
All writing, speaking, acting, painting, sculpture, cooking, decorating, (ad infinitum) are forms of communication. We each understand what's being communicated as a whole person, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; according to our experiences in life to that point. Can we ever understand all the shades of meaning being conveyed in any communication? Single words themselves have so much depth of meaning to one person while another doesn't know what the word means. Some communication is just for expression, but then again, is there ever just one reason for communication? :)
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Postby luminosity » Sun Aug 28, 2005 12:26 pm

It amazes me how differently people can interpret the same piece of work. This article is a prime example. And, you're right, snow, our life experiences do shape our perspective...as our moods have a lot to do with how we percieve those "shades of meaning."
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Postby LostCoastArtist » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:17 pm

Delaney wrote:...sometimes people read books FOR the messages or the feeling they evoke, which becomes a message in itself...


I think this was part of the point, that some stories are valid based on the feelings they evoke and not on some predefined message from the author. Individual readers are going experiance different emotions when reading a book and to have someone tell you that you didn't get "the message" because you had different feelings about the book would be wrong in a case like that.


Delaney wrote:just because somebody says they don't write stories solely to illustrate a message to the reader, does not mean that it is wrong for other people to do so, OR for readers to prefer one.


No one has said it was wrong. I think that the main point of the article was to express that a story does not HAVE to have a message. It seems that the majority of us have agreed with that, but I don't think anyone here or the article itself attacks people who want to have messages in their story. I believe the target of the article is the assumption that EVERY story must have a message. The author states her prefrence in a very unappologetic manner and it seems that certain people are taking that as an attack. Le Guin does come close to it with some of her statments, but I don't think that's truly her intent. I feel that the following quote sums up the spirit the article was written in.

...it is a grave error to teach or review them as mere vehicles for ideas, not seeing them as works of art.


"...Mere vehicles for ideas..." - as if a story had no other purpose. That is the target of the anger here. Isn't it alright for a story to just be a story?
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Postby Delaney » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:15 pm

Hehe... I didn't READ the article... duh :roll: ... I read the arguments ABOUT it... and I was trying to point out both sides. If I didn't convey that well, well who cares... disregard my statement :-D I still think I'm right though (even if I don't know what I was talking about) :D :D :D
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Postby LostCoastArtist » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:22 pm

:roll:
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Postby Delaney » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:24 pm

You know you all love me :D
<i>It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people. - Terry Pratchett</i>
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Postby charlesp » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:24 pm

Delaney wrote:Hehe... I didn't READ the article... duh


:)) :rofl:

Reminds me of that song

"I am so afraid, of living in oblivion."

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
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Postby Delaney » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:31 pm

You purposely say things that leave me confused, don't you?
<i>It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people. - Terry Pratchett</i>
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Postby charlesp » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:34 pm

Delaney wrote:You purposely say things that leave me confused, don't you?


:-k O:) :wink: :whistlinginnocent:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
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Postby Delaney » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:36 pm

... which means, "Charlie, you stud you, tell me what the *&#% you're saying!" :evil: .... :D
<i>It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people. - Terry Pratchett</i>
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Postby charlesp » Sun Aug 28, 2005 5:38 pm

:rofl:

Just saying how amusing it was that you were in there arguing the arguement oblivious to the actual article they were arguing about.

and I try and assume that every statement directed my way is prefaced by "charlie you stud"... it just makes life more enjoyable.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)

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