Public Books, “John Plotz on Earthsea, Anarchism, and Ursula K. Le Guin”

By John Plotz & Elizabeth Ferry, February 21, 2024

John Plotz’s work has always had an eclectic and interdisciplinary slant: his scholarly career started with a book on the crowd in Victorian fiction and another on the aesthetics of virtual experience in Dickens, William Morris, and Buster Keaton, which he describes as semi-detached. More recently, he has delved into fantasy and science fiction with a new book about reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. This conversation with Elizabeth Ferry originally appeared as an episode on Recall This Book, a Brandeis-based scholarly podcast affiliated with both Public Books and the New Books Network (listen to the full conversation here); previous PB/RTB conversations include Laurence RalphSamuel Delany, and Kim Stanley Robinson. In it are interspersed clips from a marvelous interview John had with Le Guin in 2015.

Elizabeth Ferry: I am so pleased to be having this conversation with you, John! Can you tell us a little bit about the book, and also about how you came to talk to Le Guin?

John Plotz: Elizabeth, thank you so much. It’s so exciting and weird to be on this side of the microphone with you. I love it.

This book is a total labor of love. I was invited to join this series called My Reading, which has wonderful books, for example, by Rosemarie Bodenheimer about Beckett. They basically just said, “Pick a book that changed your life.”

You won’t be shocked to know that I originally thought about Hannah Arendt, and I thought about Willa Cather too. But really, Le Guin kept with me for reasons that I try to talk about in the book, because of the dual-aspect reality that she creates. That she’s telling stories for adults and for children as well.

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