November 20, 2005

Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin

woman dancing on a hillside beneath a sky filled with swirly glowy light trailsThe conceit of this book is that the period of loose-endedness one has while waiting in an airport for one's connecting flight, far from being boring wasted time, puts one in a position to (literally) visit other planes of existence. The book is made up of 16 short pieces describing different planes visited by the narrator through the auspices of the Interplanary Agency which mediates and facilitates travel between the various planes. Each entry is part travelogue and part fable, using the strange ways of living on these other worlds to examine the variety of ways in which thinking beings can relate to their environments and each other.

I could reduce many of the planes to a brief description (the plane where no one speaks aloud, the warrior plane, the plane where never sleeping was a very bad idea), but condensing Le Guin is not a satisfying activity. She is an author who has more original thoughts before breakfast than I have in a week, and a facility with prose that is unmatched. I have a hard time being reasonable about Le Guin. She is a true master.

That said, I had a hard time getting through the book. I think I've had it out from the library for three months. This almost surely has more to do with my state of mind than any failings of the book. I did plow through the last third in a few hours on vacation last week. I was just flipping through the first couple of chapters before writing this entry, and I can't see what could have been holding me up, so probably just mood. If you're the sort of person who likes Le Guin, then this is the sort of thing you will like.

Posted by jeffy at November 20, 2005 11:49 PM