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’Cat in the Stacks: Epitaph for an Author

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.

Ursula Le Guin passed away this Monday, Jan. 22. She leaves behind one of the most celebrated female science-fiction careers ever – indeed, one of the most recognized careers for an American novelist as well. You can find interviews with Le Guin on the library catalog as well as bibliographies, criticism, and, of course, her fiction.

How I’ve felt since hearing of Le Guin’s death.

I’d like to take this week’s ’Cat in the Stacks, though, to think a bit about why the passing of authors like Le Guin seem to strike us personally. After all, many of us in mourning have never had the opportunity to meet the high-profile authors we’ve lost in the last decade or so – Le Guin, Harper Lee, Tom Clancy, and Michael Crichton come immediately to mind.

So why do we get so upset? It might be too simple, I think, to say that we miss their voices alone. After all, their voices are the immortal parts of the author. No matter how long we go without new works by, say, Crichton or Le Guin, we can still delight in the worlds of “Jurassic Park” or “The Earthsea Trilogy.”

What we really mourn when we hear of the death of a favorite author is the loss of a person who was so prominent in our memory of reading their stories. When, for example, you discovered that you enjoyed reading fiction over Crichton’s “Andromeda Strain,” Crichton was sitting there with you. Or, when you discovered Le Guin’s gifts when a close friend read her prose aloud, Le Guin read right along with him.

PATW author, Hunter Houtzer, also feeling down about the passing of Le Guin.

Though they’ve parted from us for the moment, we can’t help but relive these memories where they seemed so vivid, so obviously present. In our profound sadness, however, there remains hope. Part of the healing power of fiction lies in its ability to fill the voids left by the so-called real world. Where should we go with our grief? I think Le Guin would say: pick up a book and read.

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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant in the Communication and Marketing Dept. at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University. (Graphics courtesy of Bitmoji, and Hunter and I spending hours perfecting our representations!)

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Last Modified: January 25, 2018

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