Alternatives To How We Live Now: Le Guin Blasts Fear, Greed and the Profit Motive

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Amidst the best-of-2014 lists seeking to burnish a pretty dark year, we should find a place for the barn-burning speech by 85-year-old novelist Ursula Le Guin at the National Book Awards, where she accepted a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for her decades of Marxist, feminist, gender-bending, capitalism-smashing science fiction - most notably The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed - dubbed by some admirers the anti-Ayn-Rand of literature. Slamming the current reality of "a profiteer (trying) to punish a publisher for disobedience, writers threatened by corporate fatwa, (and writers) letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant," she suggested, "Hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now...We will need writers who can remember freedom."


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"Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words...We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom."

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