Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Tao of Le Guin

Some choice vintage science fiction. Nixon era vintage at least. I just started reading Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. I'd seen the 1980 PBS TV movie version before. Not when it first aired, but the first time they dug it out of the archives, in 2000 or thereabouts. But that was quite some time ago as well, and my feeling is that the book is quite different. 

The book starts off in a world that is, if not dystopian, at least rather run down. The hero, George Orr, is afraid to dream, and drugs himself to keep from dreaming. This is because his dreams literally come true. The changes are retroactive, as well, meaning that for a big change no one will remember things being any different. His quasi-mandatory psychiatrist, Dr. Haber, wants to put these dreams to constructive use. 

I've read somewhere that this book was Le Guin's homage to Philip K. Dick as well. While they were very different writers they did admire each other's work, and you could probably find examples of her influence in his work as well. The opening chapter does have a kind of Dickian feel. Haber's an interesting character, well-meaning but somewhat lacking in medical ethics. An early scene where he calls George "John" feels indicative, as well as being a likely Beatles reference.


semiconscious said...

well, coincidentally enough, when i realized a few months back that i'd never read anything by ms. leguin, it was 'lathe of heaven' that i chose to read. &, yes, it most definitely came off as some kind of cross between a very clever, better-written philip k. dick novel & an over-extended episode of the twilight zone (can't help but think rod serling, if he read it, would've loved it). it's a book that, while always well-paced & entertaining, still manages to say a lot about a number of things, & is built on a beautifully simple, straightforward premise. i really enjoyed it, tho i must admit, after searching through multiple review & impressions, i never did find any other books by leguin that looked all that interesting to me. oh, well - 'lathe of heaven' was satisfactory enough...

one of the stranger books i've recently come across? 'pinocchio', by carlo collodi. not to spoil too much, but this pinocchio begins with him early on killing jiminy cricket with a thrown shoe?! so, yeah, it's definitely not your uncle walt's pinocchio (which i still also love, btw). collodi's understanding of children, & 'human nature', really shines through, & he's created a very memorable, occasionally demented, & never boring trip through the prepubescent forest :) ...

(trivia: 'when you wish upon a star' won the 1940 academy award for best original song..)

Ben said...

This and the short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" are much the best things I've read by her. I have read another book, which I think my take on is somewhere in the bowels of this blog. It was good, but it was definitely a fantasy novel, albeit a standalone one. Some of the worldbuilding aspects of fantasy and science fiction don't interest me much. The Lathe of Heaven is more exciting to me because its speculative nature is more about turning the familiar on its head. And yes, I can see Rod Serling taking an interest in it. From what I've seen of and read about "Night Gallery" it doesn't seem to have given him and the other writers the same amount of freedom that the TZ format did.

Even though I haven't yet read the original Pinocchio book, I had heard about the title character crushing Jiminy Cricket to death. Oddly enough this was in a blog about Paul Simon songs. The song "Sure Don't Feel Like Love" includes the lyric "Who's that conscience sticking on the sole of my shoe?" and the blogger theorized, not unreasonably, that it might be a Pinocchio reference. Probably I would find the book interesting. There are always bits that don't make it into the movies. Certainly none of the Alice in Wonderland adaptations have quite gotten what Lewis Carroll was going for.

In recent years I've learned that Jiminy Cricket's voice was provided by the popular singer/comedian Cliff Edwards, aka Ukulele Ike. Maybe the first time Disney threw one in there for the parents.