PRAISE FOR URSULA K. LE GUIN AND BUFFALO GALS AND OTHER ANIMAL PRESENCES "Ursula Le Guin, one of the most significant science fiction writers of the past two decades, charms the reader with some glimpses of greatness . . . this disarmingly informal volume of short fiction ... is like a visit with one of America's most brilliant writers."
-- Santa Barbara News-Press
"Refreshing . . . these stories are a strong tonic for many modern
-- Santa Cruz Sentinel
"A delightful collection . . . designed to shatter your world view."
-- Riverside Press Enterprise
"How wonderful to be in the hands of an accomplished storyteller like Ursula K. Le Guin, whose work shares in that imaginative transformation of the world sometimes called magical realism, science fiction, or fantasy."
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Ursula Le Guin . . . transcends genre and delivers a delightful collection of works. . . . The effect is a disturbing and delicious disorientation that makes us resee ourselves and our relationship to the world. What she does with craft and good humor will both
entertain and educate."
-- Santa Barbara
URSULA K. LE GUIN is an outstanding American writer whose works include science fiction, fantasy, young adult fiction, children's books, essays and poems. She has received numerous awards including the Nebula, Hugo, Kafka, and National Book Awards. Among her best known novels are The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, Earthsea (a Trilogy), and Always Coming Home.
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"Come Into Animal Presences" Denise Leyertoy, Poems 1960-1967, © 1961 by Denise Levertov Goodman; reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. Excerpt from "Original Sin" © 1948 by Robinson Jeffers; reprinted from Selected Poems by permission of Random House, Inc. "Elegy" by Rainer Maria Rilke is the translation of Ursula K. Le Guin. "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight" © 1987 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Nov. 1987. "The Basalt" © 1982 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Open Places 33 Spring 1982. "Mount St. Helens/Omphalos" © 1975 by
Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Wild Angels by Ursula K. Le Guin, Capra Press, 1975. "The Wife's Story” © 1982 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Compass Rose by Ursula K. Le Guin, Harper & Row,
1982. "Mazes" © 1975 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Epoch, edited by Robert Silverberg and Roger Elwood. "Torrey Pines Reserve" © 1981 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Hard Words by Ursula K. Le Guin, Harper & Row, 1981. "Lewis and Clark and After" © 1987 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in The Seattle Review, Summer 1987. "Xmas Over" © 1984 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Clinton Street Quarterly, 1984. "The Direction of the Road" © 1974 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Orbit 14, edited by Damon Knight. "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow" © 1971 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in New Directions 1, edited by Robert Silverberg. "For Ted" © 1975 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Wild Angels by Ursula K. Le Guin, Capra Press, 1975. "Totem" © 1981 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Hard Words by Ursula K. Le Guin, Harper & Row, 1981. "Winter Downs"
© 1981 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Hard Words by Ursula K. Le Guin, Harper & Row, 1981. "The White Donkey" © 1980 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in TriQuarterh, Fall 1980. "Horse Camp" © 1986 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in The New Yorker, August 25, 1986. "Shrodinger's Cat" © 1974 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Universe 5, edited by Terry Carr. "The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts From the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics" © 1974 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Fellowship of the Stars, edited by Terry Carr. "May's Lion" © 1983 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in The Little Magazine, Volume 14, combined Numbers I & 2.
"She Unnames Them" © 1985 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in The New Yorker, January 21, 1985. Copyright © 1987 by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Buffalo gals and other animal presences / by Ursula K. Le Guin. p. cm.
ISBN 0-452-26139-2 (pbk.)
1. Animals -- Literary collections. I. Title.
[PS3562.E42B8 1988] 88-15583 813'.54 -- dc!9
CIP Design and typography by Jim Cook (Santa Barbara, California).
First Plume Printing, September, 1988 123456789
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ALTHOUGH I WHINED and tried to hide under the rug my inexorable publisher demanded an introduction for this book of my stories and poems about animals. Having done introductions before, I have found that many readers loathe them, reviewers sneer at them, and critics dismiss them; and then they all tell me so. As for myself I rather like introductions, but generally read them after reading what they were
supposed to introduce me to. Read as extra-ductions, they are often interesting and useful. But that won't do. Ductions must be intro, and come first, like salad in restaurants, a lot of cardboard lettuce with bits of red wooden cabbage soaked in dressing so that you're disabled for the entree.
The kind of introduction that conies naturally is oral. Reading aloud to an audience, one often talks a little about what one is going to read; and so for each section of this book I have tried to write down the kind of thing I might say about the pieces if I were performing them.
As for the book as a whole: first of all I am grateful to my inexorable publisher for having the idea of doing such a collection, and for asking me to write a long new story for it It was his request that gave me the story "Buffalo Gals." Three other stories have not been printed in book form before, and twelve of the poems have not been printed anywhere till now. They are not all exactly about animals. In fact this is a sort of Twenty Questions anthology -9
10 JT BUFFALO GALS
animal, vegetable, or mineral? But the animals, naturally, are more active. And more talkative.
What about talking animals, anyhow?
In his literary biography of Rudyard Kipling so sympathetic and perceptive a reader/writer as Angus Wilson dismisses the Jungle Books as schoolboy stories with animal costumes, and has no truck at all with the fust So Stories. As I think the Jungle Books, along with the other "children's story," Kim, are Kipling's finest work, and consider the fust So Stories a unique and miraculous interaction of prose with poetry with graphics, of adult mind with child mind, and of written with oral literature -- a shining intersection among endless dreary one-way streets -- so Wilson's dismissal of them was something I needed to understand. Not that it was anything unusual. Critical terror of Kiddilit is common. People to whom sophistication is a positive intellectual value shun anything "written for children"; if you want to clear the room of derrideans, mention Beatrix Potter without sneering. With the agreed exception of Alice in Wonderland, books for children are to be mentioned only dismissively or jocosely by the adult male critic. Just as Angus Wilson used to dismiss Virginia Woolf uncomfortably, jocosely, as a lady novelist, though he finally and creditably admitted that he might have missed something there... In literature as in "real life," women, children, and animals are the obscure matter upon which Civilization erects itself, phallologically. That they are Other is (vide Lacan etal.} the foundation of language, the Father Tongue. If Man vs. Nature is the name of the game, no wonder the team players kick out all these non-men who won't learn the rules and run around the cricket pitch squeaking and barking and chattering! But then, who are the Bandar-Log? Why do animals in kids' books talk? Why do animals in myths talk? How come the prince eats a burned fish-scale
and all of a sudden understands what the mice in the wall are saying about the kingdom? How come on Christmas night the beasts in the stables speak to one another in human voices? Why does the tortoise say, "111 race you," to the hare, and how does Coyote tell Death, "111 do exactly what you tell me!" Animals don't talk -- everybody knows that Everybody, including quite small children, and the men and women who told and tell talking-animal stories, knows that animals are dumb: have no words of their own. So why do we keep putting words into their mouths?
We who? We the dumb: the others.
In the dreadful self-isolation of the Church, that soul-fortress towering over the dark abysms of the bestial/ mortal/World/Hell, for St Francis to cry out "Sister sparrow, brother wolf!" was a great thing. But for the Buddha to be a jackal or a monkey was no big deal. And for the people Civilization calls "primitive," "savage," or "undeveloped," including young children, the continuity, interdependence, and community of all life, all forms of being on earth, is a lived fact, made conscious in narrative (myth, ritual, fiction). This continuity of existence, neither benevolent nor cruel itself, is fundamental to whatever morality may be built upon it Only Civilization builds its morality by denying its foundation.
By climbing up into his head and shutting out every voice but his own, "Civilized Man" has gone deaf. He can't hear the wolf calling him brother -- not Master, but brother. He can't hear the earth calling him child -- not Father, but son. He hears only his own words making up the world. He can't hear the animals, they have nothing to say. Children babble, and have to be taught how to climb up into their heads and shut the doors of perception. No use teaching women at all, they talk all the time, of course, but never say anything. This is the myth of Civilization, embodied in the monotheisms which assign soul to Man alone.
12.ABUFFALO GALS Introduction ~A~ 13
And so it is this myth which all talking-animal stories mock, or simply subvert So long as "man" "rules," animals will make rude remarks about him. Women and unruly men will tell their daughters and sons what the fox said to the ox, what Raven told South Wind. And the cat will say,
"I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me!" And the Man, infuriated by this failure to acknowledge Hierarchy, will throw his boots and his little stone ax (that makes three) at the Cat Only when the Man listens, and attends, O Best Beloved, and hears, and understands, will the Cat return to the Cat's true silence.
When the word is not sword, but shuttle.
But still there will be stories, there will always be stories, in which the lion's mother scolds the lion, and the fish cries out to the fisherman, and the cat talks; because it is true that all creatures talk to one another, if only one listens.
This conversation, this community, is not a simple harmony. The Peaceable Kingdom, where lion and lamb lie down, is an endearing vision not of this world. It denies wilderness. And voices cry in the wilderness.
Users of words to get outside the head with, rash poets get caught in the traps set for animals. Some, unable to endure the cruelty, maim themselves to escape. Robinson Jeffers's "Original Sin" describes the "happy hunters" of the Stone Age, puzzled how to kill the mammoth trapped in their pitfall, discovering that they can do so by building fires around it and roasting it alive all day. The poem ends:
I would rather
Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man. But we are what we are, and we might remember Not to hate any person, for all are vicious; And not to be astonished at any evil, all are deserved; And not to fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.
This maybe wrongheaded, but I prefer it to the generous but sloppy identifications of Walt Whitman. Where Whitman takes the animal into his vast, intensely civilized ego, possesses it, engulfs and annihilates it, Jeffers at least reaches out and touches the animal, the Other, through pain, and releases it But the touching hand is crippled. Perhaps it is only when the otherness, the difference, the space between us (in which both cruelty and love occur) is perceived as holy ground, as the sacred place, that we can "come into animal presence" -- the title of Denise Lever-toVs poem, which honors my book, and stands here as its true introduction.
14 JT BUFFALO GALS
Come into Animal Presence
Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
the serpent The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star f
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn't quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm bush.
What is this joy? That no animal falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings in white star-silence? The llama rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm forest Those who were sacred have remained so, holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence of bronze, only the sight that saw it faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.
— DENISE LEVERTOV Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight "YOU FELL OUT OF THE SKY," the coyote said.
Still curled up tight, lying on her side, her back pressed against the overhanging rock, the child watched the coyote with one eye. Over the other eye she kept her hand cupped, its back on the dirt
"There was a burned place in the sky, up there alongside the rimrock, and then you fell out of it," the coyote repeated, patiently, as if the news was getting a bit stale. "Are you hurt?"
She was all right She was in the plane with Mr. Michaels, and the motor was so loud she couldn't understand what he said even when he shouted, and the way the wind rocked the wings was making her feel sick, but it was all right They were flying to Canyonville. In the plane.
She looked. The coyote was still sitting there. It yawned. It was a big one, in good condition, its coat silvery and thick The dark tear-line from its long yellow eye was as clearly marked as a tabby cat's.
She sat up, slowly, still holding her right hand pressed to her right eye.