There is no other power. No other name.


My desk is covered with piles of books, some new, some old and tattered, some filled with sticky notes and underlining, some still pristine, but all by the same author, Ursula Le Guin.

When she passed a few days ago, I was among the thousands of people who wept for a person they’d never met in the flesh. I’d always hoped that our paths would cross. That somehow, impossibly, I’d get an opportunity to hang out near her and listen to her funny, irreverent, whip-smart conversation. Reading her books was as close as I ever got.

It wasn’t just that she had incredible talent; she understood how writing as a woman might be different than what the mostly male canon dictated. Everything she wrote was infused with an incredible generosity that might at any moment turn into a lesson in intelligence as spear to deflate wrong-headedness. But my heart, my heart lived in Earthsea.

The Wizard of Earthsea was a book that spoke to the deepest part of me. The part that longed to accept that my shadow, the bad self that was so often pointed out and scorned, might be integrated and necessary. The part that admired balance, equilibrium, friendship. The part of me that longed to know the true names of things, to work the magic of language.

I suggest that you read some of her work. Her latest essay collection No Time to Spare was announced as a Pen Literary Award finalist just this morning. Her oeuvre is wide; you can find a book to please any taste and age range. Her poetry is a profound as her fiction, as insightful as her essays.

Let me leave you with her words from The Wizard of Earthsea:

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

2 Replies to “There is no other power. No other name.”

  1. We got to meet her at the LA Times Festival of Books. Stewart had just had surgery, so he was in a wheelchair, and got to sit in the front row to hear his favorite writer. She is was incredible there as in her work, and we both felt so lucky to have the opportunity. WHen her “film”came out, Stewart sent her a sympathy card. She wrote back. That letter and a drawing by her are his prized possessions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *