My parents have all of Ms. Le Guin's books, including every previous collection, and I grew up reading her stories. When I bought these at Atomic in December I planned to read them all again in Ms. Le Guin's curated order. I haven't made it through yet. I have them by my bed, and I'm reading one story every night, except sometimes I go back and reread one from the night before or the night before that. 'Cause here's the thing: these are GREAT stories. I notice something new every time.
If you had asked me about "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" I would have said yeah, yeah, I've read it a million times. That's the story with the beautiful city hiding an ugly secret about how they can have their happiness as long as they keep a child caged and abused beneath the city. And sure, that is what it's about, exactly as I remembered from reading it in 8th grade. I wasn't expecting to be absolutely floored by the language, the way I was this time. The first sentence is exquisite: "With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city. Omelas, bright-towered by the sea." The early passages of the story are poetry in prose. Then, as the narration turns to the child, the words close down like a prison. They become ugly, harsh, oppressive. I didn't remember any of that from reading this as a kid. The other stories are like that too, revealing new prizes and new challenges on my return. (Posted on 2/23/13)