The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My first thought after finishing The Dispossessed was, “damnit, why aren’t science fiction novels considered book club reads?” Because all I want to do after reading this is talk to someone else who has read it!
The story follows a man who lives in a purely socially communistic planet who is striving to achieve his purpose in life: create the grand unifying theory of synchronicity in physics. To follow the ideals of his people, he finds himself traveling to the nearby capitalistic planet, showcasing the ways in which neither society—and perhaps no society anywhere—is the paradise it may seem from the outside.
The writing is complex and that makes the book a little challenging at first, but it quickly absorbs you into its ideas. And it is mostly a story of ideas more than actors, though there are many.
So I wish I had someone to talk through the ideas with, such as:
- -how many other fiction novels include a reference to breast feeding? Is this inclusion because LeGuin is observant or because she is a woman?
- is pure social communism desirable or possible?
- how are we like the capitalistic society? Is that good or bad or both?
- is time a straight line, a circle, or something else?
- where can I get a decorative mobile like the one hanging in Shevek’s and Takvar’s rooms?
- the concept of having the only one name is fascinating, but has its challenges. Would it be worth it? Total individualism?
- the description of Shevek and Takvar’s relationship is beautiful without seeming much like a romance. How is that different from other writers? Genres?
- how does the structure of the story (the back and forth of the narrative) impact the unfurling of the story as a whole?
- how should we view Shevek’s assault on the woman in Nio Essa be viewed? Cultural misunderstanding? Mistake? Rape attempt?
- is the possessiveness and control over women’s bodies an innate part of a capitalistic society or is it just an outgrowth of the way ours (and therefore Le Guin’s) was shaped?
Get to reading, kids. There’s a lot to discuss!