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David Naimon

David Naimon is the coauthor of Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing (Tin House Books, 2018), from which this interview is adapted, and the host of the radio show and podcast Between The Covers. His work has been published in Tin House, AGNI, Fourth Genre, Boulevard, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere, reprinted in the Best Small Fictions 2016, and cited in the 2016 Pushcart Prize volume, the Best American Essays 2015, and the Best American Travel Writing 2015.


Illustration by Sara Tyson

The Imaginative Reality of Ursula K. Le Guin

Summer 2018 | Interviews

Ursula K. Le Guin left behind a legacy unparalleled in American letters when she passed away this January at the age of eighty-eight. Named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress for her contributions to America’s cultural heritage—the author of more than sixty books of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, children’s literature, drama, criticism, and translation—she was one of only a select few writers (the others being Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth) to have their life’s work enshrined in the Library of America while still actively writing. She joined the likes of Toni Morrison, John Ashbery, and Joan Didion in receiving the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation, and her work garnered countless awards: the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud, six Nebulas, six Hugos, and twenty-one Locus awards among them. Her name regularly appeared on the Nobel Prize for Literature short list, and writers as varied as Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, David Mitchell, and Zadie Smith herald her as an influence. I believe you could start anywhere in her vast canon of work—with her poems, her translations of Gabriela Mistral or Lao Tzu, her remarkable book reviews, or her activism on behalf of writers, women, and the environment—to begin to understand the importance of Ursula K. Le Guin to both the world of letters and the world at large. But she was best known for her fiction, most notably her novels, and most specifically her books of science fiction and fantasy. And fiction, the genre she admittedly felt most comfortable talking about, was the occasion for the conversation that follows.