Ursula Le Guin was an inventive writer best known for her novels (fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction), and who also wrote poetry, critical non-fiction, books for children, and numerous essays. She began a blog, from which these selected essays are collected. In so many of these pieces she is dazzling in her clearly stated analyses, because in no way could Le Guin be led astray or beguiled by flattery or easy charm. Having lived fully engaged in the present world provides insight as to how she imagined other worlds that became reflective of this one. She is candid, unabashed, direct, and just when you think she is taking you down one pathway, suddenly swerves off in another direction: playfulness serves serious intention.
The title of the book comes from an essay, “In your spare time,” which was inspired by a questionnaire sent out by Harvard to its 1950 graduating class, and at the time Le Guin was almost eighty-one. She reminds readers that way back in her day, Harvard was only men, and the affiliated Radcliffe College was only women. Harvard wanted to know what had become of their educated offspring, and supplied numerous questions, which Le Guin squashes with dispatch. Question 14: “Are you living your secret desires? Yes, somewhat or no." She responds: “I have none, my desires are flagrant.” Question 18: “In your spare time, what do you do? Check all that apply." There is a long list of choices, and from that Le Guin takes off, by iterating all that it takes to be a senior citizen, in terms of daily maintenance, and concludes, “None of this is spare time. I can’t spare it. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare.”
The essays cover a range of subjects: cats, rattlesnakes, faith and belief, slogans, aging, childhood, a breakfast without an egg, and plenty more. There is one essay, with a drop-dead title about a particularly appropriate topic for our day and age: profanity and its overuse, therefore its lack of effectiveness.
Readers are encouraged not to waste any of their spare time, and to read these acerbic, fresh essays by the recently departed, not forgotten, and forever inspiring Ursula K. Le Guin.
On the official Ursula K. Le Guin website, there is information about an upcoming tribute planned for June 13, 2018. There are tributes and all kinds of information about this woman who loved to write, and wrote so well.