…is the title of the last book published by Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last Monday. She’s been one of my favorite authors since high school, and I was pleased to get the book for this Christmas. It’s full of wise reflection and humor. It’s actually derived from writings on her blog. Although she felt the “well had run dry” in regard to her writing fiction, she still had plenty to say. The NYT obituary gives some sense of how special she was. I like her responses to the Time’s “By the Book” column from August of 2015, “By the Book” is a regular spot asking writers to list their favorite books and authors. Ms. Le Guin characteristically refused to be boxed in by the questions. She says she doesn’t want to compare literature to horse races. She does, however, describe a standard she applies –the “Dirri test” –“Do I reread it?”
For me, so much of her work passes the “Dirri test!” Her earliest (1966) science fiction novel, Rocannon’s World, is one of those much beloved and often reread marvels. This also is the first appearance, in the world of fiction, as far as I know, of flying cats, a completely improbable and wonderful invention.
Much later (1988), she wrote a series of children’s book beginning with Catwings, which featured winged tabbies on our own planet. I’d never seen them and was curious and I got the email notice that Catwings was being held for me at the nearby branch library on the same day I found out she had died. It’s a lovely little book with charming illustrations by S.D. Schindler.
In No Time to Spare, Ms. Le Guin has some wonderful descriptions of her own cat, Pard, a “tuxedo cat” as she calls him. (There are wonderful photos of Pard and Le Guin on her blog.) She liked animals in general, but preferred cats to dogs as animal companions because she didn’t want a pet that put her at the center of its universe. Most cat lovers will agree, I think, that cats are quite comfortable being at the center of their own universe and unlike humans, who often are similar in this respect, cats are much more suited to this placement.
Thank you, Ms. Le Guin, for your wisdom and wonderful story-telling!
Since cats come up a lot in my doodles, often in anthropomorphic guise, I thought I would close this posting with a few cat-doodles.