Read Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin John Scalzi Online


Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far futurUrsula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast....

Title : Always Coming Home
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 1473205808
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 525 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Always Coming Home Reviews

  • Ivan
    2019-02-24 23:01

    This is only book from Ursula Le Guin I didn't enjoy. Second read and my opinion remains unchanged so my original reviews will remain unchanged as well. This is ethnology book, the fact that it's ethnology of made up civilization in post-apocalyptic world doesn't make it less so.Because of that I find it hard to rate this book. On one hand there is evident effort to create culture of one entire civilization with it's unique culture poetry, folktales, myths, plays and songs and all that in world that used to be technologically advance before catastrophe. It's something that is extremely hard to do in high quality and thematically consistent but luckily Ursula Le Guin is great writer and manages to pull off something that only few authors could. After all that praise why am I leaving it unrated? Simply, while I can see that why this book is great it definitely isn't my cup of tea. I don't care much about poetry, I didn't find most of folktales or plays interesting . I can appreciate this superbly written book for what it is but that doesn't mean I had much fun with it.

  • Nathan
    2019-03-07 17:45

    The Millions discusses Always Coming Home ::"The Utopias of Ursula K. Le Guin"by Kelly Lynn Thomas, me saying things I'm not authorized to say :: If you've not read Always Coming Home you've not really read LeGuin's vision. ___________Okay and then so for a few scrambled thoughts and reflections and impressions and way=off course remarks.This is, true, only the second Le Guin I've read. It may be the last.Most possibly so because I suspect that this may be her masterstroke, the iceberg cap, the little tassel on the mortar board swung to the other side upon a stroll cross the stage. But don't take it from me.I mean of course specifically in what she has done here with the form of the novel. And that's really what's going to hold my interest. I've not caught wind that she's done more or similar elsewhere. I'm not interested in what she does with genre tropes ; sci=fi and fantasy. She may do all that stuff veryvery well but that one other of Le Guin I read didn't raise itself above the water line of the genre. This one did. This one rose right up into the realm of the Novel. And what a novel can do. And what you can put into a novel. And how wide the waistband of the novel is. Stuff it all in like a bagful of jelly (tis the season still!) [I saw someone say it's not even a novel!]This isn't it but I once thought (and still do) that Benjamin's Arcades Project would make an excellent formal model for a novel. Le Guin did something very similar here.In other words, there is a reason this volume has such a miserable gr=score -- 2,232 Ratings · 166 Reviews -- relative to the Le Guin readership. Because there is much more here than story.And as to the story, like with that famous Hopscotch, you are invited to (freely of course) decide which path to take ; the novel path or the story path. If story is all you are in for, just read the three parts of Stone Telling. But if you want Novel, read the rest and even The Back of the Book. There is a cassette of Kesh music included with the first editions pb/hd. Of course this novel may be read as more than in-itself. I was rather impressed how closely it could be (I won't) described as a precursor to the Seven Dreams--from all the formal (and superficial) elements (all that back matter! all those illustrations!) right down to the clash of cultures and imperialisms and things of this nature. Either as a prequel volume or sequel, depending how you signify what's here.And too Tom LeClair, in his The Art of Excess, places this novel at the end of the Rainbow, as the epilogue of the Systext ::Gravity's RainbowSomething HappenedJ RThe Public BurningWomen and MenLETTERSAlways Coming Homein such a way, so LeClair, that Always Coming Home provides a kind of wholeness of human existence which at first, at the beginning of the rainbow arc, is found torn asunder by Control. Let's quote a bit ::"The novelist Le Guin is both White and Sun Clown, but Always Coming Home is the most reconstructive work in the systext, more explicitly oriented to the subjects of home, children, and future. A masterful combination of bildungsroman and ecological model, Always Coming Home joins human part and cultural whole, is simultaneously a psychological study that offers an active alternative to Heller's regressive self and a systems novel that provides a steady-state alternative to Gaddis's runaway. As epilogue to the systext, Always Coming Home both circles backward--in time to a past before our civilization, in space to Pynchon's prologue--and casts forward to a time after our civilization, a time without excess." [204]And--make it explicit--"I believe Le Guin intended Always Coming Home to be read as a direct reply to Gravity's Rainbow." So should we say, if you've not read Always Coming Home, you ain't yet read GR? And further making it explicit. Always Coming Home is not a model is not a map is not a program for us. It cannot be "applied" to our situation. It is not the politicalsocialeconomic solution to our situation. Nor are the Amish. But, like the Amish, Always Coming Home is an exercise of the imagination which goes towards evidence, towards 'proof', that the way things are now is not inevitable and necessary. It is an exercise in imagination which would invite us to exercise our own imagination in building a world for our selves in which we can live as we dream, freely and justly. I recently saw a comment which to me epitomizes our chains. The sense of it is this--don't bring me a problem if you don't first bring me three solutions. Thus is criticism cut off before it begins and things continue as they were. And so most of the Systext does indeed bring you three criticisms and complaints and diagnoses but no solutions. Not their job. That's your job. In rare exception however, Le Guin steps up to the rare plate of offering an imaginative path one might trod. All the more beautiful because impossible. Remember, always dream impossible.

  • Terence
    2019-02-26 18:39

    It is unfortunate but my “book-reading biorhythms” rarely coincide with the books being read by the various groups I belong to here on GR so I missed out on the reading of Always Coming Home that took place in the Always Coming Home group a few months ago. I originally read the book nearly 20 years ago, probably in my first year or two of graduate school, and it didn’t lodge itself overly much in my conscious but what a difference twenty years makes. My latest nonfiction reading has focused on the impending collapse of Western civilization as 7 billion (soon to be 9 billion+) humans outstrip Nature’s ability to provide the resources or to absorb the wastes our way of life generates so it seemed “natural” that I would fall back on UKL to see a positive vision of the post-industrial future.And it is a powerful vision of what humans might be capable of. When I was compiling my GR shelves, I gave ACH three stars because I remember liking it (and UKL defaults to three stars) but having reread it I have to revise my rating to four – it’s a remarkable accomplishment and deserves greater recognition.*Always Coming Home is not a novel, though you can find one in there if you want to. The setting is an indeterminate future on an Earth slowly recovering from its industrial age. The vast, destructive technologies of our time have vanished though advanced technology exists: “All that had been replaced by the almost ethereal technology of the City…which had no use for heavy machinery, even their spaceships and stations being mere nerve and gossamer….” (p. 404)But that’s not Le Guin’s focus. Her attention is centered on the Valley of the Na and the Kesh who live there. The Nine Towns are not Utopia. UKL is too perceptive a writer to think humans will ever live in a perfect society (however defined). For example, the Kesh are a peaceful folk and violence is almost unheard of but when the Condor People** pass through the region, it sparks the emergence of the Warriors Lodge (for men) and the Lamb Lodge (for women), a recurrence of the “sickness” that tore the old world apart: “Only in war is redemption; only the victorious warrior will know the truth, and knowing the truth will live forever. For in sickness is our health, in war our peace, and for us there is only one, one house. One Above All Persons, outside whom there is no health, no peace, no life, no thing!” (Skull’s speech, p. 409) The culture she describes through Stone Telling’s tale, myths, poetry, song and stories, as well as the anthropological reports that frame it simply exists. It makes no claim to special wisdom nor does it harbor designs on its neighbors. The people who live their lives there are born, grow up, form friendships, fall in love, fall out of love, dance, sing, tell stories, suffer pain and disaster, and then they die. But – unlike our industrial age – they haven’t made a fetish of violence and they’ve recognized that you can’t live in a perpetual war against your environment. I think it’s safe to say which society Le Guin prefers; and I agree with her.Always Coming Home is probably not the place to start your love affair with Ursula. It’s more the type of thing you want to learn about after the first bloom has come off the romance but it’s all the better for being an expression of a mature, loving relationship.* I should clarify here that I picked up my copy at a used book store and it didn’t have the accompanying cassettes of Kesh poetry and songs – an early example of interactive literature.** Anthropological Note: The Condor People comprise the culture Le Guin contrasts to the Kesh (primarily through Stone Telling’s story). They’re a resurgence of the exploitative, hierarchical, patriarchal, violent cultures of the past, and the only thing that keeps them from becoming a greater threat to the cultures of the Inland Sea is that the world is too poor to support that type of society for very long.

  • Joanne
    2019-03-06 18:57

    There are few books I have read, none of them being fiction until now, that have required such a concerted effort of study on my part to even read through the book. If it wasn't Ursula... I doubt I would have bothered. But it was, and I did, and of course it was well worth the effort.The woman has created an entire culture. I don't know when I will have enough time to create an entire culture in my own head and then write a novel about it, but the fact that another woman had the time and did it is inspiration by itself.The book is written in little tidbits, a morsel here, part of a story there, then bits of poetry, history, explanations of various aspects of their society... Besides a few flips to the back of the book for glossary explanations and then a few flips back near the front for the chart on the different houses of society, I read it front to back. It was tempting, really tempting to skip ahead, especially with Stone Telling's story being cut into three parts, but I trusted Ursula's wisdom to teach me what I needed to know so that I could properly appreciate the next bit of the story as I got to it, and I was not let down.I thought the review on the cover was a bit much, something about it being "her best work yet", but after finishing the book I just may have to agree.The clever comparisons to our own societies are an immense banquet of food for thought.An easy read, it is not. But it is worth every minute you spend.

  • Valerie
    2019-02-21 14:48

    Though the introduction describes this as 'an archaeology of the future', it's no such matter. It's an ETHNOLOGY of (part of) the future, after the style of the Bureau of American Ethnology Reports, to which LeGuin has no doubt had access for most of her life. Most people who read LeGuin's works apparently are unaware that she is the daughter of the famous anthropologist AL Kroeber, and of the writer Theodora Kroeber, both of whom specialized in Northern Alta California. AL Kroeber was a friend of Ishi, last of the Yahi, in his last years, and Theodora wrote at least one biography of Ishi, as well as several volumes of legends and folktales from the area.Contrary to the comments of many reviewers, I don't see much sign of any global catastrophe so far. The story is set, not in the current location of Northern Alta California, but on an island in the North Pacific, created during the normal processes of continental drift. There may have been quite a few severe seismic events in the process (the area is very seismically active, after all). But continuing processes were probably predominant.The island is not on any major shipping routes, evidently, and there may no longer be any widespread travel. This may be because of one or more pandemics, since epidemiologists have repeatedly warned that our current culture of continuous mass migration is extremely dangerous.There is also evidently little in the way of mass communications, though I seem to recall some later in. The population is quite a bit less than present day...but there's mention of widely available contraceptives. There are also electrical devices, though few electronic ones that I can see. There are floodlights, for example--but they're not used generally to saturate the night: only for special festivals, etc.The society in question is matrifocal (NOT 'matriarchal'. With the exception of the 'childish' (almost exclusively male) warrior societies, there are no customs of unquestioning obedience. Though there are normative customs (such as 'people are not property'), enforced by clowns, there is little coercive behavior, and pretty much EVERYTHING is the subject of negotiation and discussion.) There is kinship from both sides (Stone Teller is regarded as a halfling because she has no paternal grandparents to call on, and at one point acquires a 'side grandfather' to help in not only ceremonies but also in material support), but the primary kinship is through the mother. There is also a culture of adoption.There's a trace of homophobia, at least in the early parts. The warrior societies are regarded as fairly childish because of their authoritarian and violent tendencies, and because they are almost exclusively male. But I didn't catch at first that one of the insults leveled against them is that they are presumed (accurately or not) to be homosexuals. There's no necessary connection between homosexuality and childishness, even in the book--but at least one of the characters implies such a connection. She herself is viewed somewhat askance as being prejudiced, but she's not argued with.This is a rich and long book, and should probably be read in short segments, with a chaser. I've recently acquired some new Wodehouse books, so I'll use them as interfilers, until I finish them. Then I'll have to pick something else, because Wodehouse is a quick read. I'll add more on this book as I go on: but it'll likely take a while to read. When I tried it at first, I didn't get more than about halfway in. I hope that by rationing it out, I can finish it this time. If you do read the book from beginning to end in sequence, you run into problems at first, as things are foreshadowed but not explained until later. There's quite a careful attempt to avoid observer bias by presenting things from several perspectives. It's middling successful, but it's often strained, as people try to put themselves in other roles, and find themselves unable to leave their own perspectives completely behind.The island in the book has not gotten very far in its progress into the North Pacific. Well, after all, it's only been about 50,000 years: a millisecond by geological reckoning. It has a Mediterranean climate: wet winters and dry summers, with virtually no snow, except at the highest altitudes. The flora and fauna are mixed: at one point the partially hidden narrator comments that the grass, for example, was introduced by Spanish (Mexican, but Mexico was still under Spanish rule at the time) missionaries. This is possible, but not certain. There are grasses in Alpine meadows in the mountain ranges bifurcated by the rifts, but they may not be native, and they probably aren't Bermuda shortgrass, or the other shortgrasses introduced by the missionaries. There's an oddly gappy ecosystem. Bats. for example, are mentioned at one point (but not elaborated). Honeybees are mentioned, but native bees are not. Honeybees pioneered the area about fifty years ahead of Europeans, following the clover which was also introduced at that time. But in no place did they completely replace native bees: and as of the present time, it's not likely that they will. I don't much care for the sublimation and displacement of violence. The representation of violence as a childish behavior, disciplined and restricted even in children, and socialized out of adults by shame and gossip, doesn't really resolve the problem. And while several people admit (often in shame) that they don't really fit into their society (the tongue-tied, the maladroit, the lazy, and the tone-deaf too often become 'forest-living', because they can't participate in the society fully, even if they want to), and though this defection is marginally accepted, it's apparent that it too rarely occurs to people just to leave.The traumatic changes that occurred to the world during the interim between our time and that depicted are pretty clearly not one common disaster. There are references to 'poisoned' places: but these seem to be mostly landfills, including nuclear waste dumps and defunct nuclear reactors. The people are inbred and subject to all manner of congenital and environmental illnesses (some are pretty clearly both). The incest taboos, which seem extreme by our standards (many of the forbidden people are what we would call 'kissing cousins') are probably at least partly an attempt to temper the results of the inbreeding.The society as represented is a self-exiled part of a larger society that is in some ways more advanced than ours, technologically. The computer systems which are literally and figuratively subterranean in the isolated society are described as engaged in a massive experiment trying to model the cosmos, though it's not clear what the computers and their attendants hope to gain thereby. But even (or perhaps particularly) this complex is far from monolithic, and such self-exiled communities may be common in the solar system at the time. Like such enclave communities in our own societies (Mennonite communities are the most obvious, but there are 'ethnic' communities in other places, which have a strong element of tourism, but do genuinely maintain a separate identity), the people of 'the Valley' select what technologies they will use and innovate on. They have solar-powered looms--and pedal powered ones, most likely. They have electricity, but they don't always use it. It's not clear what kind of hot water systems they have: in some places it seems to be geothermal (hot springs and suchlike). At one point it becomes positively abhorrent to a librarian: there's a repeated ceremonial purging of libraries and archives. Often a literal bookburning. Though the narratives, recipe books, etc are not fully lost (the computer archives keep copies, which are, however, very poorly indexed), still this perennial destruction (even with recycling) of history is disturbing. LeGuin recognizes something that most people in our society aren't conscious of: the indecent (almost obscene) haste we live our lives in. There's too much hurry in everything: indeed, it's one of our predominant causes of injury and stress. The people in the stories and observations have made (and are still making) a conscious attempt to slow things down. The fact that their primary compliment is 'mindful' is important. Slapdash haste causes all kinds of ills: the deaths and injuries attributable to sleep-deprivation alone are so common that unless we make a deliberate effort we can't even notice them. The people in the book blame a lot of their ills on the haste as well as the simple massive numbers of their ancestors. And there's quite a bit of justice in that assessment, as there was when the indigenous peoples blamed the plagues that swept through them on the arrival of (often literally) unclean Europeans pouring into their lands.Minor linguistic note: The name 'Shinshan' kept nibbling at my mind, and finally I tracked it down. Looking up 'Tsimshian' I found that they lived (among other places) in the 'Na'a' valley. I don't think this is a deliberate gloss. I think it was just one of those odd bits of unconnected data that float around in our minds, and alight on the page when we're looking for a name for something.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2019-03-03 21:34

    It's a great mistake to try to read this book as a "novel", since it isn't one. It's purported to be more like an anthropologist's notebook of field work: a collection of cultural facts, legends, poetry and song, writings--and obliquely, the story of one woman raised among the Kesh people who rebels against their close-knit Valley community and seeks something "outside the world." The "coming home" referenced in the title is her journey of discovery from adolescent rebellion to mature choice-making. Interleaving her story among many hundred pages of "anthropological musings" of a post-apocalyptic future northern-California is indeed annoying for most readers, who would prefer to get to the story--but I'm sure the author realised that if she had separated the story from the rest, well--most readers would probably not have bothered to trudge through all the rest of it. The book's structure strongly echoes that of Tolkein's The Silmarillion; however Tolkein's was indeed a personal writer's notebook, never actually intended for publication (and not published in his lifetime). Also, Tolkein avoided the pitfall of placing himself in the work, while Le Guin does not resist the temptation; the character of Pandora/the editor is probably her attempt to make the notebook more credible. However, of course, it is never explained how this character got into Kesh valley--from where or when, and how or if she got out again. I felt that by using the Pandora character, the author was looking over her characters' heads, talking to the reader directly, and I understood a friend who complains about actors who talk to camera, breaking the fourth wall of a movie. That doesn't bother me in movies, but it did here because it simply doesn't fit.Published in 1985, Always Coming Home has deep roots in the N. California of the 1960s-1980s: living "off the grid", dropping out of consumerist society, going "back to the land" and all the rest. The Kesh culture is a mixture of Native American and New Age, with its drumming, dance rituals, free sex and open marriages, communal living, and distrust of the Condor people and what used to be called "the military industrial complex." However, their world is controlled by computers in the City of Mind and in other spaces. (Does anyone remember all the references to the Information Superhighway? Le Guin's computer-culture is very much of her own time.) Curiously, the Condor seem to be desert nomads; whether this was merely to add a touch of exoticism, or an oblique reference to those countries which provide fossil fuels (and were seen as "the enemy" in the US of the energy crisis), I'm not sure.As a novel it wouldn't work, but then it's not a novel. As a book, I would not advise sitting down and reading it straight through justlikethat, as it would quickly pall. That is exactly what happened the first time I read it back in the early 90s, and I gave it away. Twenty years later I have come back to it, having realised that certain aspects of the work and the language used in it have continued to resonate. Reading it now, from a different perspective (and indeed, having become a different person in the twenty intervening years)I found a great deal more in it than the first time.Is it my favourite book? No, it is not. Interesting, yes, in the same way I found My Dinner With Andre intriguing. Andre's journey is rather like North Owl's journey, but in reverse. Reversal, gyre...Le Guin would have appreciated that.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-14 15:41

    I have to admit -- I didn't finish it. I did enjoy what I read. It felt like getting to look through a viewfinder at a future tribalistic society. The trouble is, I always hated seeing Native American museum dioramas and glass cases full of spears and pottery. In some ways, this book gave me that same sense of ennui. Why? Because it takes a mostly anthropological approach to the fictional world she's created. While I believe LeGuin aims to celebrate this culture, she ends up creating something rather dry and distant. There's a stiltedness that prevents the reader from really connecting with these people and I think that's a mistake. It's almost like she would be better suited as a historian or anthropologist -- though this wouldn't allow her to study the future. She doesn't let herself feel the characters. It seems like a very strict allegory to the people of our times, but it won't reach many because of its dryness and intricacy. I respect LeGuin and what she's done, but I wouldn't recommend this book to the average person. I think it's very intelligent, but without beauty or joy.

  • Wealhtheow
    2019-02-21 21:02

    Sort of an exercise in building a low-tech society set after our industrial modern age. The people of the Valley live a largely peaceful, non-hierarchical communal life that prioritizes listening and understanding, and considers being generous synonymous with wealth. The poor are those who do not give; giving makes one rich. It's fascinating, and I loved the ways the world building was woven into Stone Telling's story, and how the world building sections (hundreds of pages of an anthropologist's notes) enriched my understanding of Stone Telling's sections. That said, the notes were so very long that at times I skimmed them. This is not a novel, and expecting it to follow the conventions of that form will lead to disappointment. There's a fourteen page glossary, several hundred pages of songs, poems, and novel excerpts from the Valley culture, even extracts from the galactic computer system of the future about the Valley. And there are wonderfully meta moments, like this interchange between Pandora the anthropologist and her interview subject, a librarian of the Valley people: Pandora: I never did like smartass utopians. Always so much healthier and saner and sounder and fitter and kinder and tougher and wiser and righter than me and my family and friends. People who have the answers are boring, niece. Boring, boring, boring.Archivist: But I have no answers and this isn't utopia, aunt!Pandora: The hell it ain't.Archivist: This is a mere dream dreamed in a bad time, an Up Yours to the people who ride snowmobiles, make nuclear weapons, and run prison camps by a middle-aged housewife, a critique of civilization possible only to the civilized, an affirmation pretending to be a rejection, a glass of milk for the soul ulcered by acid rain, a piece of pacifist jeanjacquerie, and a cannibal dance among the savages in the ungodly garden of the farthest West.Pandora: You can't talk that way!Archivist: True.Pandora: Go sing heya, like any savage.Archivist: Only if you'll sing with me.This is a complex work, and I know I didn't get all of it--if I read this many times, I think I would understand something new, or differently, every time.

  • Nikki
    2019-03-21 17:55

    I expected to take a long time over Always Coming Home. In a way, I wish I had: there's a lot in it, and a lot to reward a slower, careful reading -- this time I went plunging through it for the narrative, such as it was, enjoying the layers of understanding that came to me, imagining and figuring out what I didn't know. I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, this time: another time, I think I will. I just wanted to fly through it, this time, total immersion in a culture that does not exist.Always Coming Home is a collection of stories, of fake-histories, of poems and plays and things that do not neatly fit into our genres, belonging to a culture that does not exist. The first note says it best, "The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern Carolina." It seems to be the story almost of the Native peoples, and then it begins to mention computers and other technologies of our day... The way the world came to be this way isn't really seen clearly, only seen in its effects on the people. It's very interesting to read this way: interesting, and frustrating, because like real history, it doesn't always show you the bits you most want to see.Ursula Le Guin's writing is beautiful, as always, and easy to read and understand despite the invented words and concepts. I sort of imagine this as the way she might build up any culture, in any book, through the scraps of their literature and histories that come to her... It's quite a nice thought, actually.I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, preferring to keep things vaguer, not spelled out. I will probably read it one day, but not now.Though I greatly enjoyed this, I don't know if I'd dare recommend it to anyone. For me it required some patience with the original idea, which turned into delight as Ursula Le Guin once more captured my heart. For others, who didn't find Earthsea compelling, it'd be dry as dust, I think. And as with many books, but particularly with those that are a bit different, someone might find they love it, when they have never loved Le Guin's work before -- or that they hate it, when they've always loved her work.

  • Cass
    2019-03-05 22:41

    This book is officially being abandoned by me. I can see someone would try to read this. I mean if this was a book by David Gemmell or Anne McCaffrey (authors that I love) I might see myself pushing on, almost as if I owed the author.I feel like the author is having a fleet of fancy, writing a book that noone can read in a bizarre 'not really a book' kind of way. I get the idea, it is a textbook written about the future, it is a compilation of anthropological notes and stories. The book has a composer listed alongside the author.However it is just hard to get into. I have heard others say that the author is very compact with words (in a way similiar to Hemingway), but I don't see it. I find the writing tedious, the tone fake. Why are people from non-technologically advanced societies always portrayed as having a greater amount of wisdom than 'us' (the readers)?This book is officially being abandoned and probably added to the bookcrossing pile. I may choose to reopen it if some of her other books take my fancy. I am feeling rather disheartened by it all (because I was hoping to find another amazing author that I could read). I suppose I will have to go reread* the Pern series (this is my tragic solution when I feel like this).*Reread the entire series can now be achieved in a single weekend as I have reached the point where I just skip through the books looking for the good bits!

  • Milla
    2019-02-22 17:41

    It took me a really long time to finish this book. The first time I tried to read it at the age of 13 the changing styles made it very difficult to follow. However, when I picked the book up again I finished it in a matter of days. The combination of characters, pieces of culture and storytelling create a whole that is difficult to appreciate if you are too eager to know the outcome and jump over sections of the book that seem unrelated to anything else. [return][return]I would definitely recommend this book but only for a reader who is able to appreciate the way the story is told as much as the actual main storyline. If you are bothered by multiple essentially unrelated story lines this book may not be for you. Personally, I enjoyed the book so much because it reminded me how important it is to know the context of the story in order to understand why things turn out the way they do. Much like contemporary books expect you to be familiar with the world around you to appreciate e.g. jokes or references.

  • Gülay Cansever
    2019-03-15 16:52

    LeGuin kitapları okumak zordur. Hep Yuvaya Dönmek de bir o kadar zor bir kitaptı. Elimde bu kadar uzaması tamamen benden kaynaklı. 4 yıldız vermem kitaptan değil benim istediğim gibi okuyamamam dan kaynaklı. Siz siz olun vakti gelmeden bazı kitapları okumayın :)

  • Dtyler99
    2019-03-07 19:45

    Wow. Totally original.LeGuin has been a major influence in my own writing and I have read most everything she has written, including her many short fiction collections and volumes on the craft of writing. Perhaps the only material of hers I've stayed away from is her YA stuff (A Wizard of Earthsea is NOT YA), although a couple months ago I read Very Far Away From Anywhere Else which is an exceptionally thoughtful mainstream coming of age novella.Everyone will discuss The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Lathe of Heaven, and with good reason. There is a reason the former two volumes are so beloved and highly-regarded. The one book of her's that gets short shrift, in my opinion, is Always Coming Home, her far post apocalyptic "anthropological study" of the Kesh, descendants of survivors that live in the Na (Napa) valley region of California whose lives are reminiscent of the Coast Miwok Indians who populated the region before the coming of the Europeans.It's no surprise LeGuin used this societal model, as her father, Alfred Kroeber, founded the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and chief among his research were the dwindling native American populations in California as they were being systematically exterminated. Additionally, her mother, Theodora Kroeber, wrote the volumes, Ishi In Two Worlds and Ishi: Last of His Tribe, recounting the life of the "last wild Indian" in California, who knew nothing of modern life. LeGuin's family also had a summer house in the Napa valley where she became intimate with the region and its flora and fauna.The structure of Always Coming Home is, to be charitable, unusual. Although there is a narrative (broken into three parts) that follows the life of Stone Telling, a woman born to a Kesh mother and fathered by a member of a militant tribe hundreds of miles away, the narrative itself only accounts for about a third of the book. The other two thirds consist of what you would find in an ethnographic fieldbook: social structure, marriage rites, recipes, stories, poems, and descriptions of how the Kesh conduct their day-to-day lives.When I first started reading, the structure seemed a little off-putting as there isn't the kind of straightforward narrative flow one expects from a novel, but the deeper into the book I got, the more engrossed I became and when I finished the last page I put the book down, realizing I had just read a novel! I have since re-read it twice and each time the book seems utterly new to me, even though I know the shape and the arc of the "story."When it was published in 1985, it was hailed and reviled; hailed because those that saw through to LeGuin's intent and dexterous construction, saw in the volume what I did, and some even welcomed her as one of the few crossover SFF writers to REAL LITERATURE. Reviled because it seemed like LeGuin was shaking her feminist-leaning finger at those who slaughtered the tribes and make people of European descent feel shame and guilt, though they had nothing to do with it.I won't deny it's cryptic, but the untangling is the reader's craft, n'est-ce pas?

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-02-26 21:49

    Why is it Ursula K. Le Guin always makes my life as a reader and reviewer difficult? Her books can’t be nice, straightforward stories—no, she has to create lyric, moving pieces of experimental literature that transcend our ordinary definitions of form and genre. I have a problem with Always Coming Home, but that problem is entirely independent of the book itself. It is, rather, a result of me and my particular biases and hang-ups.I can’t help it: I love novels.I know that, as far as literature goes, the novel is a relatively new invention—more of a fad, really, than anything else. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, studying novels really isn’t all that necessary when studying English. As much as I would love, as a teacher, to sink my teeth into a great novel with a class and watch them explore it … well, at least in the limited time we’re allotted these days in the school calendar, there are more pressing concerns. Literature isn’t the alpha and omega of English, and the novel is not the only entry or exit into that particular part of the discipline.But I can’t help it. I’ll watch a play, sure. Read a short story? In a pinch. Devour a novella during a car ride? Can do. None of those satisfy the itch like a good, well-written, honest-to-goodness novel. Novels are my jam. I crave semi-linear narratives about a defined and stable group of people.So when Le Guin sets out to deliberately break—well, shatter, really—these conventions with something like Always Coming Home, I can admire her aims even though I’m not particularly enthralled by the result.Far from a novel, Always Coming Home is an intricate collection of texts by and for and about the Kesh, a culture of people inhabiting a Pacific Northwest valley in the far future. The editor of this volume has conducted an archaeology and anthropology of the future, recovering texts, interviewing inhabitants, reproducing poems and songs, and describing customs. Le Guin separates out the driest of this into “The Back of the Book,” an entirely academic section that explores the background of the society—its houses, naming conventions, marriage, etc. The remainder of the book is a medley of literary forms, genres, and conceits.The most recognizably narrative sections are “Stone Telling,” about an eponymous woman from the Valley whose father is from another people known as the Condor. Unlike the Kesh, the Condor people replicate the type of patriarchal society seen ad nauseum in human history. Stone Telling’s father drops into her life when he visits the Valley, and eventually she leaves the Valley to live among his people. While she doesn’t necessarily regret it, it’s clear that her time among the Condor people is not the highlight of her life. Predictably for me, I enjoyed these sections (they are spread across the book but form a single narrative)—Le Guin is, aside from anything else, a consummate storyteller.I also enjoyed some of the other sections. If you’re paying attention (and on an airplane, there is nothing to do with a book except pay close attention) you can see the general outlines of the future world as Le Guin conceives it. Humanity unleashes a combination of radiological and biological disasters—not as a single, grand apocalypse like the twentieth century envisioned, but the gradual and cumulative death that we embrace so far in the spectres of global warming and biodiversity collapse. Our machines go on without us in the City of Mind, replicating and bootstrapping themselves towards artificial godhead, spreading out to other planets and stars. Meanwhile, humanity survives as a species if not a civilization, rebuilding and restarting in various paradigms. The Kesh seem, at first brush, “primitive” by our highly ethnocentric, Western ideals. Yet they have access to certain “modern” conveniences, and in many ways their society is more equal and better structured than ours.Le Guin’s heritage as an anthropologist’s daughter informs all her work, but it is overt in Always Coming Home. The unconventional structure has the effect of reminding (most of) us that our tastes and perceptions of literature are, to begin with, highly Westernized and Eurocentric in their origins. We have shed many of the traits of a predominantly oral culture, and as a result we do not necessarily privilege poetry, song, and dance in the ways that we once did and other cultures still do. In particular, I thought a lot about Aboriginal cultures and storytelling traditions while I read this book. I live somewhere with a large Aboriginal population, and I’m interested in learning more about Aboriginal cultures and storytelling. At the same time, it’s somewhat ironic for me to resolve to “read more Aboriginal-authored literature,” because while that is a laudable goal, it also makes certain suppositions about worthy ways to transmit culture….So we come down to that eternal question for reviewers. Do we review based on our perception of a book’s merit? If so, Always Coming Home has a lot. Or do we review based on our enjoyment of the book? In which case, while I didn’t hate it, this was a much more lukewarm experience. Both of these modes are eminently subjective, of course—perceptions of merit can make no more claim to objectivity than personal enjoyment. But what do I want to say?Well, once more Le Guin astounds and impresses with her skill. She is a juggernaut, a force of literature not to be taken lightly, and the world will be a darker place when she leaves it. Always Coming Home only reaffirms these convictions in every sense. This is a powerful, intense, complicated construct.I didn’t like it that much. It wasn’t the kind of book I wanted to read on my flights last week.So if you go into this book unaware of its nature, you will likely be disappointed (or else, really pleasantly surprised). You have to be willing to explore and immerse yourself in this book, at which point it will be rewarding. Always Coming Home isn’t a novel, never purports to be, and I shouldn’t fault it for that. Alas, my fallible human nature means I can’t necessarily give it all the praise it deserves.

  • Pippi Bluestocking
    2019-03-17 14:42

    Guys, it's called an ETHNOGRAPHY. This book is written as an ETHNOGRAPHY which is a research method in ANTHROPOLOGY and social sciences. Don't know how you came up with ETHNOLOGY but I hope it is not a combination of ethnography and anthropology.

  • Kelly Lynn Thomas
    2019-03-03 22:36

    Read for my Ecofem lit class. I don't have a Bible, but if I did, it would be this book. In it, Le Guin explores an "archaeology of the future" through her character/alter ego Pandora, who studies the Kesh people of California. The book, therefore, contains life stories, information on Kesh culture, practices, medicine, etc., recipes, poems, Kesh literature, plays, a glossary, pictures, music (the first edition came with a cassette tape and you can buy the CD from the website), etc.I read this in an ecofeminist way, since themes of pollution and genetic mutation run throughout the text, and the longest story in the book clearly deals with issues of feminism and theology (our current culture/ideology vs. that of the Kesh), but you could also do a Marxist or a postcolonialist reading, or just a straight feminist reading. There's so much STUFF in here that I imagine you could write several volumes of analysis. The book is structured around a hinge spiral, which is also the way the Kesh structure their society and provides their primary sacred motif. This image permeates everything--at one point in the text, the words themselves form the hinge. Not only is it brilliant and new, it's absolutely beautiful.On a more practical note, I think the Kesh give us an alternate way to live. This book came out in the 1980s, but many of the ideas of the current "green" movement are clear within it. I love the way the Kesh call all creatures people, and differentiate by species: dog people, deer people, human people, etc. I love the way they view the sacred, and I love the way they've built their society around the hinge spiral. I was uncomfortable with the way the Kesh don't keep literature around. Certain books and works of great importance they do, and literature and literacy is of utmost to them, but no Kesh would have a room full of books like many of us do (they do have public libraries). The reason, of course, is that they are not materialistic and are okay with words "dying". The Kesh support their artists and writers, so no writer would slave away alone, starving or struggling, for years, working on a novel only to have it removed from a library after a few years. And everyone wrote poems or improvisational oral poetry. I can, of course, see the value of this attitude, and imagine that if I didn't have to work hard to find time and money to write, I might be fine with adopting it. But it does bring up an interesting idea of word hoarding or book hoarding and being crushed by all the words and knowledge and things we've written...

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-07 19:45

    "The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California. . . The difficulty of translation from a language that doesn't yet exist is considerable, but there's no need to exaggerate it."So begins one of my favorite books by Ursula LeGuin, and probably one of her lesser-known works, "Always Coming Home." She calls it "an archaeology of the future," and it's a beautiful example of world-creation. The main narrative of the book is the autobiography of Stone Telling, a young woman of the Valley, but her story is broken up with digressions into songs, recipes, rituals, novels and other anthropological observations of her people. I desperately want to put "digressions" in scare-quotes, to make the implicit argument that they're actually quite key, but since part of what LeGuin is positing is that digressions are part of the dance, I'll let it stand.This is a slow-moving book and I was about halfway through it the first time before I realized that things were not entirely as they seemed at first. It's nothing shocking like Sheri Tepper's also-wonderful speculative feminist novels like "Grass" and "The Gate to Women's Country," but it's a beautiful unfolding that invites you to see what you've been taking for granted, what you haven't noticed, and what the Valley narrators have been taking for granted themselves.LeGuin is a Taoist, and this time through I noticed what I hadn't before--that the ritualistic Valley symbol of the gyre or hinge creates a stylized yin-yang symbol that weaves its way through society. This is a Taoist utopia, but achieved at prices LeGuin doesn't gloss over--staggeringly high infant mortality being only one of them. And it's got a self-aware irony that cuts some of the inevitable utopian smugness: LeGuin imagines herself in a conversation with an archivist of the Valley in which she sighs "I never did like smartass utopians. Always so much healthier and saner and sounder and fitter and kinder and tougher and wiser and righter than me and my family and friends."The book is a beautiful example of world-building, based on a deep and lovingly intimate knowledge of the Northern California landscape. The world unfurls around the edges of Stone Telling's story, alluringly realized and temptingly unfinished.

  • Kerry
    2019-03-14 19:33

    What a beautiful book. Very slow (because it's not a novel) but really lovely, and I missed it once I was done.It's the story (or the description, I guess) of a hunter/gatherer society that lives in what was Northern California, in a post-nuclear war future. Written as a collection of anthropological notes by an observer in the present. It's a history of a community that hasn't happened yet. (That doesn't really make sense, but it also doesn't have to.) There are descriptions of their lives; and one long narrative of a particular person, split into three parts; excerpts of plays; poetry (I really like their poetry!); etc. There's an appendix and I really liked that a lot, too. It's a somewhat utopian society, and it's pretty lovely to read about. There is a computer left over from the old days, but the people rarely consult it. They grow food in gardens and orchards, and hunt game, and get their energy from the sun. I would really like to live there.On a personal note, I started reading this book in mid-July. About a month later, I was suddenly presented with the opportunity to go to Northern California myself, and I did so, whilst still reading this book. I ended up spending about a month on a mountain above the Mad River. At the time, I compared the maps in this book with current maps, and determined that I was just one (1) river valley over from the Na River, where most of the book takes place. This is amazing and serendipitous and wonderful. Just now I was comparing maps to confirm which river was which, and now I think I'm mistaken, and the Na River is the former Napa River. But still! It was cool to be in the area that I was reading about. To be living in the past of this book.

  • Leonard Pierce
    2019-03-05 16:53

    Le Guin has long been one of the most interesting of the big wave of social science fiction authors that emerged in the '60s, and I've been wanting to read this one for a long time. It's actually not that compelling just in terms of narrative -- its main story, concerning the native woman Stone Telling and her encounters with the very divergent societies of her mother and father's people, has some very interesting insights into the ways a patriarchal society shapes individual behavior for both men and women, but it can also be a bit wandering at times. However, the book as a whole, which combines the narrative with the fictional archaeology, anthropology, geography, weather, and art of a future tribe of Native Americans who live in what is now Northern California, is enormously inventive. It's tons of what would eventually be called 'world-building', and while that on its own doesn't always make for a good book, here it all hangs together so well, it creates a vision of a society you want to live in, not to mention keep reading about. Overall, an amazing accomplishment, a thing completely of itself (though highly influenced by her father's work) and a strikingly original work of fiction.

  • Asteinb1
    2019-03-06 20:02

    This book is a work of genius. I think Le Guin may have here beaten Tolkien for large-scale, complex, and detailed world-building - and considering that Tolkien recorded some 3,000 years of fictional history and created a handful of fictional languages, that's saying a lot.It should be noted that this, like Tolkien's denser stuff, is not an easy read. There isn't really much of a plot, and I was often about to put the book down because I was so bored. Even if you like Tolkien's History of Middle Earth, you quite possibly won't like this: Tolkien focuses on history (and military and political history in particular) while Le Guin here focuses on sociology and anthropology.If you're completely all right with a brilliant social and anthropological description of culture that does not yet exist, this is likely the book for you. If that sounds even the slightest bit boring, however, stay away, because the actual 'novel' portion of the book is only about a quarter of its contents.

  • Elissa
    2019-02-23 22:33

    Ah, what AM I thinking of this book? It's drawing me in, just shy of 50 years old, in a way it didn't when I first read it (or at least Stone Telling's story!) in my 20s.I'm enjoying the poetry more, and the ethnography, and I've had the good fortune to be part of modern wakwaha thanks to Spiritfire Festival and the Earthspirit Community. I think, more and more, that this is how the post-Apocalyptic future will be - somewhere between Octavia Butler's work and this. Also interesting to read of nonviolent ethics with no reference to Christianity, in the wake of the Charleston massacre. AND interesting to speculate on how much Kesh culture is influenced by UKLG's parents' relationship with Ishi, the last Stone Age Californian.

  • John
    2019-03-22 17:57

    Napa Valley would be one of the most beautiful places on Earth were it not for its people. Those leave a bitter taste, akin, I'm sure, to the sense of a sideways glance at a designer bag you no longer desire. Ursula K. Le Guin fixes this problem with golden descriptive powers and by removing the ugliest part of the place - its current residents. It's hard to express how much a revelation this is to me, as a current resident and outsider in this place of status and palate and terroir and superfluous French words and Italian Kabbalah. The only word I ever come to is "iniquity" and this imaginative correction feels gorgeous to me.

  • Ben Stimpson
    2019-02-23 17:51

    Always Coming Home is LeQuin's ethnographic self coming out. It is not a story, in so much as there is a central plot with a cast of characters, but is instead a description of an Earth where nature takes precedence, culture is devised around the natural landscape, and rich culture is showcased through legends and songs. Always Coming Home is a rich work of world building which vividly describes and illustrates diverse cultures within a region of North America. I adored this work, more so because you can pick it up and read small sections without feeling the need to read from cover to cover.

  • Edward Davies
    2019-03-16 19:32

    It’s hard to judge this as a novel as it is more of a fictional anthropological guide to a made-up society. Le Guin does an awesome job of creating a world from the basic elements right up to the most important parts, but it is quite the challenge to wrap your mind around. There are stories interspersed between studies of the Kesh, but these are few and far between and just as hard to read as the rest of the book. It’s worth the effort to some extent, but its inaccessibility makes it more of an oddity than a must read.

  • Bramble
    2019-03-23 20:53

    Just re-read this. With a soft heart and an open mind, this is a sweetly sentimental tale of an anthropologically detailed future. With hard-headed skepticism, a bunch of dang fool hippie wishful thinking.Loved it.

  • Jodi
    2019-03-06 22:57

    An amazing and deeply affecting book about a once and future America.

  • Liz
    2019-03-13 20:53

    it's pretty self-indulgent but I love it anyway.

  • Erhardt Graeff
    2019-02-25 16:32

    I couldn't finish this book. It's a fascinating attempt to create an ethnography of a future post-apocalyptic society with its own language, mythology, history, and customs. The style of the stories and picture of society the author paints has a strong Native American influence. The cadence of the storytelling follows the same style, meant to be transliterated from the language of these future people. What comes out is a very literal and staccato delivery of information. However, the book lacks the motivating quality of deciphering a real people I simply lacked the motivation to push ahead through the book. I didn't really care about the characters or the society, and 400+ pages of description of this world wasn't going to get me there. I wonder if it's like reading the Silmarillion without ever cracking open The Hobbit or the Trilogy. If I had a stake in this world, maybe I could make it through.

  • Matt Parker
    2019-02-25 18:36

    This took me a long long time to read, in large part because I started out reading it as a compilation, instead of as a unified work. It *is* a compilation - but it's better read as a novel. You really have to develop and remember a sense of the Kesh to get the most of each component, and the ordering of stories is intentional.It's a strange, unsettling, wonderful anthropological study of a people that doesn't exist, but drawing heavily on people who have existed. It's unbelievably rich and thoroughly thought-out (there's a CD of songs and poems, for God's sake). It's also maybe kinda self-indulgent.If you really like LeGuin, you'll enjoy it.A strange and painful book to read in October 2017, while the Valley burns.

  • Umurhan
    2019-03-15 20:42

    I read the Turkish translation of Always Coming Home but that doesn't have much to do with the subject, so I don't believe it affects my thoughts by much. Always Coming Home is an ethnology, a large portion of it is about the culture of the Kesh folk. The short stories and the larger story of The Stone Telling (which somewhat reminded me of The Disposessed) have worldbuilding as their main priority. While I did really like the stories within Always Coming Home, one might find the poems and the plays too boring. However, I found the book to be uniquely peaceful, and it is a solid read if you want a thorough exploration of a fictional society.