No Time to Spare is a collection of her blogs
I laughed out loud while reading Ursula Le Guin’s No Time to Spare (2017), her last book collected from her blogs. She started blogging in her 80’s, inspired by another mature writer. I chortled at her assessment of platitudes of aging: “You are only as old as your feel” or “Age is just a number.”
Those platitudes may sound good to younger persons, but if your knees hurt and you have trouble getting out of the chair, or you don’t get down on the floor without a strategy for getting up again — per Ursula– you know how banal and just wrong cheerful denial can be.
I love that Le Guin doesn’t dwell on the aging thing very long. She is soon back swinging her vaunted intellect and critical mind at various subjects, or playfully describing the antics of her cat. Like us, she lived in the lands of physical reality, fluffiness, and good arguments.
One can visit her archived blog, as I did. Her thoughts on Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman alone were worth the visit. I also loved her description of the Sartre Prize for prize refusal, which she said has never itself been refused. The prize has honored authors who decline prizes of dubious recognition. The prize was named for Jean-Paul Sartre, who famously refused the Nobel Prize for literature. The noted philosopher had curmudgeonly ways and arrived at philosophical conclusions by interesting routes.
Different regions admire different authors, just as they have different food preferences and landscapes which shape how residents live. Ursula Le Guin wrote in Portland, Oregon, which makes her a local hero in my new home. I was aware of her as an author but dismissed her (as she was dismissed) as a science fiction writer.
I recently read one of Ursula Le Guin’s early novels for a book club. The novel imagined a genderless world. I want and will read more, as her imagination leaped ahead to places we only now explore in our public conversation and our lives. In her science fiction, she used other planets to work out “what if” questions for our world.
A friend said that while the realities of age might limit our physical activities, we can continue to inspire others. Whether it comes from books or journalism or a conversation, I need inspiration and can continue to inspire, I hope, by living my life meaningfully.
Ursula did not write bromides about aging. Instead, she focused on critical thinking and writing prowess, and curiosity about the world. For that, thank you, Ursula.