I think the first piece of fiction I read by Ursula Le Guin was The Dispossessed followed closely by The Left Hand of Darkness. Sometime after that I read the original trilogy of novels that would eventually be seven novels and nine short stories, one of which appears here for the first time, in the Earthsea series.
OK, I’m going to assume that you know who Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is. In case you need reminding, though, she’s just passed on eighty eight years of age, the daughter of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber and writer Theodora Kracaw. Her best known work is set in Earthsea, an archipelago where magic infuses everything in the scattered island communities. Other well-known works are The Lathe of Heaven, Always Coming Home and the Hainish Cycle novels and short story cycles, which were science fiction.
And that brings us to just over fifteen hundred pages of material in two volumes. The Found and the Lost is a complete collection of all thirteen of her novellas, while The Unreal and the Real, being published for the first time in a single, hardcover volume, brings together thirty-nine of her best-regarded short stories.
If you like novellas (which I find are a perfect length for most fiction), you get ‘Vaster than Empires and More Slow’, ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight’ and ‘Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea’ which are three of my favorite novellas by her, along with another ten, all wonderfully written. It’s truly great to have all of them available in one affordable volume, The Found and the Lost.
The Unreal and the Real surprised me for there being only thirty-nine stories, as she’s been publishing since 1964’s ‘Dowry of the Angyar’, which later was used as the prologue of the novel Rocannon’s World. I should note that all but one of the stories here, ‘Jar of Water’, were published recently in a two volume set released by Small Beer Press.
If you’d like to see her develop an idea, read ‘Buffalo Gal’ in The Found and the Lost and then read the novella ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight’ in the other volume. Everything here, no matter when it was written is up to her standards of excellence. I will note that only one of her Orsini tales, ‘Imaginary Countries’, is here as The Library of America published a collection of these tales.
I always suggest that a reader treat short stories like really great chocolate, but if my experience was any indication, these tales are too good to parcel out. I had not encountered nearly all of these as I hadn’t read the collections they’d been collected in. Note that the various Earthsea short stories aren’t here but will be in the Earthsea book noted below.
At sixty dollars for two volumes, they’re a bargain for what you get. And I look forward to the Charles Vess illustrated Earthsea which Saga Press notes will be the complete novels and short stories will be compiled in one volume titled The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition.’ Ymmm!
(Saga Press, 2016)