Book Review

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

i read escapist fiction and attempt escapist walking

I’m typing this in the evening of March 23, 2020, as my native but distant UK has gone into lockdown. Things have nearly gone into lockdown here, but they haven’t quite properly, fully, not yet. But they will, I imagine, I imagine they will.

Distracting myself today, again and again as I do every day, with literature, this time of the more escapist kind than usual.

Then again, dystopian fiction about pandemics and police states and curfews and stuff used to be kinda considered escapist kinda fiction and drama, so maybe at some future point the dreams-controlling-reality plot of Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 smash hit The Lathe of Heaven might be as equally realistic.

I haven’t been outside today, which is probably a mistake. It’s still light out, it’s not yet dinnertime, Cubby has only been out for about twenty minutes with my lover earlier in the day, so I should probably go out with him again before it’s nighttime. It was raining earlier and he hates rain (I’ve definitely typed that before) but it’s stopped raining now.

I was intending to bake bread today. I have not yet baked bread. I did quite a bit of work work today, too, and set myself up with the tasks I have to do, for money, over the next few days until the – I’m sure it’s coming – inevitable redundancy hits. Oh, what a time to be half-alive.

///

The Lathe of Heaven is a short novel, but longer than a novella (according to who? me, right now) – is about George Orr, a youngish man who has a drug addiction and is receiving compulsory treatment for it from a “sinister” (to Americans) Big State. It turns out he has slipped into addiction because he started self-medicating to prevent himself from having dreams, because when he has dreams the things he dreams come true.

The repercussions of this are as varied as alien invasion, nuclear holocaust, getting to have a sexy wife and different murals being on the walls of an office, but when his psychiatrist – who’s also a hypnotist – realises that Orr isn’t insane but actually phenomenally powerful, he begins inducing sleep and controlling his dreams in order to pursue his own totalitarian-centrist agenda.

I need to go outside. Fuck this, I’ll come back to it.

///

I went outside, there wasn’t much to see. And I wasn’t looking at what there was.

I’ve started going for walks with my glasses off.

My eyesight is terrible, so I’m not doing this alone, but when my lover and my dog want to go outside, I accompany them without sight.

I realised that what was freaking me out wasn’t other people or the disease, it was the carelessness people were exhibiting. I haven’t been outside without my face covered in about a week and I cannot really imagine doing so ever again.

Seeing people masks was making me terrified. So, if everyone else outside becomes a weird smudge of darkness, if I can see no detail at all in the faces of others, then I can safely, in my ignorance, presume everyone I pass is being good COVID people and covering their noses and mouth, too.

This is unsustainable and dangerous, I know. Especially if violence kicks off soon.

///

Two or three days ago I was taking a big box of empty wine bottles down to the recycling bins at the rear of the apartment building I live in, and one of the ground floor windows had been smashed – outwards – with loads of fucking blood everywhere. When I nervously tried to find out from the building manager what had happened, I was assured that it was just a drunken accident, but I remain worried.

People will be looting, soon.

Soon, people will be hungry.


Download my weird live album via Bandcamp.

Order my raucous poetry collection via Open Pen.

Order my sad prose chapbook via Selcouth Station Press.


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1 comment on “The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. Pingback: this is how you lose the time war by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – Triumph Of The Now

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