Thursday, August 9, 2007


"We were on sabbatical, except the kids, who went to the local school and got a splendid education and a Cockney accent. We lived in a drab old North London borough called Islington, long rows of high houses like dirty toffees all stuck together staring at the row of dirty toffees opposite. By the time we left, we found these street very beautiful, and inhaled the exhaust gas of a double-decker red London bus deeply, like sea air. This was essentially a result of the kindliness of the English (including Pakistani Indian Greek Italian, etc.) among whom we lived in Islington. It was the Spirit we were breathing in. London air causes causes asthma in many, but it is worth it. The English are slightly more civilized than anyone else has yet been. Also England is a good country for introverts; they have a place in society for the introvert, which the United States does not. In fact there is a place in London for everything; you can find what you want there, from organized diobolical perversity a la Baron Charlus, to the kinds of lollipops that change color as you proceed inwards...

You know, London buses have 2 storeys with a sort of half-circular staircase, smoking allowed on the top deck-- in winter, between Woodbines & Bronchitis, it's like an advanced T.B. Ward crossed with a Sauna Bath on fire, all lurching through dark Dickensian alleys jammed with Minicars and Miniskirts. Well, you never get up these stairs before the bus plunges off again, so the conductor/tress shouts, 'Eol pridi daeneow!' or 'Eoldon toit luv!'-- or, if West Indian, sings out in a picaresque native dialect (English), 'Hold on pretty tight now!' And if you don't, you've had it. There's no door."

--Ursula Le Guin, from a 1968 letter to Harlan Ellison, as quoted in Ellison's introduction to her story "The Word For World Is Forest", from his anthology of science fiction stories, AGAIN DANGEROUS VISIONS. Doubleday & Co., 1972. He calls her, "the most elegant writer in the science fiction world."