Ursula K. Le Guin is justly celebrated for her extensive work in multiple genres: her novels helped shape the landscape of modern science fiction, and her poetry, essays and literary criticism have proved both reflective and thought-provoking. Late in her career, Le Guin (who died in January 2018) met with writer and radio host David Naimon for three interviews broadcast by an Oregon public radio station. These interviews are collected in Conversations on Writing, a slim but powerful storehouse of insights on the craft, politics and philosophy of Le Guin's vocation.
In her introduction, Le Guin compares a good interview with a good badminton rally. The metaphor is apt: readers can delight in watching the repartee fly. The first interview, on fiction, begins with language at the level of sentence and sound: the gait and rhythm of a piece, the importance of cadence. The talk moves along to the systemic erasure of women writers, the politics of genre fiction, contemporary trends in style and tense. The interviews on poetry and nonfiction are similarly packed with insight and wit; Le Guin notes wryly that "dictators are always afraid of poets." She muses on the state of literature and publishing, the American fear of "dragons" (read: imagination) and the shameless delight she took in writing the memoirs of her cat, Pard. Fueled by Naimon's incisive questions and peppered with excerpts from Le Guin's books, these wide-ranging interviews are a treat for both longtime fans and newcomers to her work. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams