11.2.11

At a glance: A Fisherman of the Inland Sea

I just finished reading A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Admittedly, the book has been out for a couple of decades, so you can probably survive without my thoughts on the matter. But the book came out before the internet, so maybe the internet is not clogged with reviews? Nah, she's famous. I'm sure they're there. To avoid idea-infection, I very carefully avoided researching the question. And she is famous for good reason. This feminist pioneer sci-fi writer knows what she's about.

Le Guin continues to be a good read, even in a time so alien to her own. Of course, she mostly writes about aliens, so this is no surprise. There isn't much to date the stories except for the date of publication. The book was enjoyable, but not every story was engrossing. As a collection, it did suffer from incoherency and structure. It would have been stronger if halved. Some stories were just tossed in but were disruptive to the strongly developed verse of the others.

This book contains an introduction and eight stories. If you read the introduction, it provides a guide for what to read and what to skip, but I didn't listen. She says she wouldn't explain two of the stories because they are jokes. Unfortunately, humor must have evolved beyond recognition since the early 80's and 90's.

Another is a story that originated from a single sentence someone else wrote in a workshop. It's a damn good sentence; you can skip the story.

Three of the stories have the makings of an excellent book. They build on each other. They explore the implications of a theory in a changing and engaging way. This is a universe traditionally limited by light speed. In comes Churten theory, or transilience, and you can be somewhere in the blink of an eye. But at what cost? Gone is the deeply human process of cause and effect. Of chronology. Of sanity. It's a beautiful synthesis of story and philosophy. If the whole collection continued developing this, or even led up to it, I would strongly recommend the book. The title story is the best, FYI.

Le Guin uses a traditional narrative approach, which is perhaps necessary. A postmodern approach to transilience would be bewildering; it would necessitate a rejection of chronology in the text, heavily influenced by stream of consciousness, and could be best expressed by text printed over other text for a more proper experience of simultaneity, and perhaps only as a hypertext web.
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