Review: No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin

Cover of No Time to Spare which shows a blue background with leaves cut from book pagesI have been a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin for a long time. I received No Time to Spare for Christmas last year. But then Le Guin passed away and I couldn’t bring myself to read it. It was too upsetting to know that it was the last book she had published before her death. But some distance and summer holidays offered the opportunity to finally get to it.

Summary

After decades of taking readers to imaginary worlds, renowned author Ursula K. Le Guin, facing old age and inspired by José Saramago, turns to a new literary frontier: the blog. Blogging gives the freedom to explore the political and the personal, the serious and the trivial. No Time to Spare collects the best of Le Guin’s blog, presenting her thoughts on ageing, culture, and the world.

Let’s Get into It

This is of the more autobiographical works I have read by Le Guin. (Though it should be noted that this book is essays and opinions rather than straight memoir.) So, it was a pleasure to experience her more personal writing after years of admiring her fiction.

No Time to Spare explores a wide range of topics, from discussion of writing to musings on womanhood and ageing, to stories of cat ownership. The subtitle of this collection is Thinking About What Matters, and as you read,  it is very clear that the subjects within do indeed matter to Le Guin. Even those pieces that at surface level seem trivial or silly showcase Le Guin’s careful thought, smooth prose, and unabashed wonder at life.

Of course, Le Guin’s wit and humour are also on display. In a piece on the perhaps negative proliferation of cursing, Le Guin uses copious cursing herself, for example. In her piece about answering a survey from Harvard, she shares her sarcastic responses while calling out Harvard’s misogynistic past. She doesn’t shy away from pointing out absurdity or being a little absurd herself, which makes this collection rather entertaining.

Even though there is much to enjoy in this bookwhat I loved the most about it is its honesty and humility. Through both age and experience, Le Guin could position herself as a figure of authority. She could simply make claims and leave us with them. Yet, as much as she presents her points of view and defends them, Le Guin admits when she doesn’t know the moral to a story she has told. Rather than acting as prescriptions, the pieces in this collection act as invitations, welcoming voices calling us to question as Le Guin questions, to wonder as she wonders, and to think critically and examine topics or, even, ourselves as she does the same. In this way, reading No Time to Spare is like listening to an old friend.

Final thoughts: No Time to Spare is a welcoming invitation into the mind of a great writer. One all the more meaningful to me now that she is no longer with us.

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