This week, Ursula K. Le Guin, the renowned science fiction writer who died in January, was awarded the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare, a collection of ruminations on aging and the universe.
I wrote an essay to explore this collection and more of her legacy over at The National Book Review.
The title No Time to Spare comes from her thoughts on a questionnaire from her alma mater, Harvard, on the occasion of the 60th reunion of the class of 1951. Question 18 in a list of many (some of which she skewered so well in the book’s opening essay) was about whether the person answering was living their secret desires. And, in the 27 occupation options provided, the seventh was “Creative activities (paint, write, photograph, etc.).” It made her pause to consider what “spare time” means for people in their eighties and how to deal with a mindset that saw her life’s work of writing as a creative activity or hobby done to fill up spare time. From these reflections, she moved into an existential though lively exploration of how we view and use time at different stages of our lives. And how, at her advanced age, given all that she occupied herself with, she had absolutely “no time to spare.”