Portland's Ursula Le Guin Just Got an Honor Only a Few Living Novelists Have Ever Received

She joins Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty and Philip Roth as some of the only living authors ever enshrined in the Library of America series.

When the Library of America comes calling—the NEA-funded publisher whose sole purpose is to preserve the greatest books in American literature—it's usually to embalm some long-dead legend like Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herman Melville.

Not so for the woman who's arguably Portland's greatest author.

Ursula Le Guin—author most famously of the Earthsea trilogy and sci-fi-feminist novel The Left Hand of Darkness—will join Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth and very few others as one of the only living authors ever placed in the Library of America.

Related: Iconic Portland Author Ursula K. Le Guin Talks Anarchy With The Paris Review

The New York Times' David Streitfeld just wrote her a glowing love letter about it, visiting her at her Portland home because she refuses to get on a plane.

"Ms. Le Guin is 86," he writes. "She says 'what the hell' a lot. She is too old, she says, to get on airplanes or even do events in Portland beyond an occasional bookstore appearance. So the world comes to her — up a hill, past a sign marked "no outlet," across a bridge spanning a ravine too deep for trolls."

Le Guin is known for her defiance not only of what people want of her, but of what they expect. She recently called out The Oregonian for its coverage of the Ammon Bundy affair. When she won a medal in 2014 from the National Book Award foundation, she used the chance to decry the current state of the publishing world's "silly panic of ignorance and greed."

And of course she defies convention by existing as at all, as one of the first truly great woman writers of science fiction. Still, she shirks the genre label—insisting, according to Streitfeld's article, that the LOA publish her more obscure 19th-century Orsinia novels first instead of Earthsea or The Left Hand of Darkness.

Another nugget from the piece: Apparently Le Guin's chances of winning the Nobel Prize—because there are bookmakers for everything, even books—are a slim-but-significant 25 to 1.

"All I have to do in the next 25 years is outlive the other 24 writers," she told Streitfeld.

In any case, she will be immortalized in film: A local filmmaker this year received a surplus of funding to make a documentary about Le Guin.

Related: Ursula Le Guin is Getting a Documentary

Read the full New York Times piece here.

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