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Purpose: everyone’s got one. It’s like having a dog. You feed it, you tell it (and yourself) that it’s the best one that’s ever existed, you strut it out in public so everyone can see you and your purpose, and getting one is an obvious step in any serious American adult’s life. But what happens when you suddenly don’t know whether your dog ... I mean, your purpose, is really what you want?
Most of my life has been spent trying things on for size. For a while I wanted to be a veterinarian. It was a great fit: I was smart, loved animals, and had butt loads of compassion. Perfect. Then it was a “rocket scientist”. I wanted to work for NASA, and to get offended when people said “it isn’t rocket science!” (do people still say that?). It was also a good fit: I was smart, fascinated with space and physics, and I had a tenacious creativity. Then it was architecture, engineering, medicine, biology, writer . . . then artist and instructor.
Mostly I believe my purpose was to seem intelligent. Something changed when I set my sights on art, though. All of the other things I wanted to be, I knew exactly what those people did: a vet saves animals, a NASA employee obviously made rockets, an architect designs structures, and so on. What does an artist do? The answer a younger me would have yelled out with confidence is “Makes art!! Duh.” Art about what? Using what materials? With. What. Purpose.
Ugh. The question of “What is your purpose?” has driven me nuts for years. To be an artist! Obviously. I’m fairly sure I disgusted my professors with my inability to answer this simple question. Everyone else had these clear, defined ideas of what they wanted to do in the world. Even through their extra-media explorations they were driven by reaching that goal still. I was all over the place. I wanted to learn everything and be everything and know everything I had missed out on previously. I have an obsession with differing perspectives that drove my instructors nuts. I remember specifically being asked one time what my intent was with a certain collage. I asked to hear what other people had to say first and the professor chuckled saying I was taking the easy way out.
I love hearing interpretations. I love analysing other people. I think I am simply interested in how personality is formed, and how it becomes a lens for us to look through. A detached observer who interacts through their character, their role. Which is also, perhaps, why I was so intrigued by the idea of living a life outside of the normal parameters. I've always been a bit of a rebel, so when I learned there was another way to evaluate the success of your life, to escape working for The Man, to be held accountable to only your own standards ... I was intrigued to say the least.
I believe I have perhaps found a purpose, however, that can combine all of my skills, including the one that drives me to attain new skills: Homesteading. In the past year I have learned so much about become sustainable and relying less on authorities to tell me when my art / way of life is good or not. But this has landed me in a pickle. I do not own land and even though I am fairly close to living in the country, there are strict landlord-enforced limitations on what can be done on the property.
In hopes that I can still contribute to the Sustainability community, and that one day we can make the leap to our own land, I would like to use this blog to fuel my purpose and to document what it takes to build up a sustainable lifestyle completely from scratch. I was never even aware of how crucial a simple act of recycling was until my adult years, so, trust me ... when I say “from scratch,” I mean it. So if you’re interested in getting started but don’t know how to, or can’t believe the wild claims that you can become more sustainable from right where you’re reading this, please, allow me to share my journey towards a purposeful, meaningful, sustainable lifestyle.
I would like to share this artist with you whose work I have been looking at for the past year. Tim Walker is mostly known as a fashion photographer for Vogue. The photographers Vogue employed in my years of “reading” their magazine have probably influenced my own work more than I ever dared to admit.
I always found it intimidating to bring up my love for fashion photography when even throwing out Leibovitz’s name would summon a sort of disapproving silence from the others engaged in the conversation.
But, nevertheless, I have continued my enthusiasm. Tim Walker, especially, has been a personal favorite. For me, his work represents a kind of lostness. His sets are filled with overwhelming amounts of one color, repeating forms that seem to multiply into eternity, and dainty reclamation of beautiful spaces by the delicate flowers and plants meant to adorn them.
Walker’s work touches a nerve in our society that is also covered in films about apocalypse, horror, and what seems to be magic. Fantasies get out of hand, and grow up to find their own lives, apathetic to their creator’s will.
Walker has a wide range that he works with. Here are samples of some of his other work.
Enjoy Tim Walker’s work? Let me know! Please share in the comments your favorite fashion photographer[s].
I am in a long-term relationship with superheroes. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my brother play all his SEGA games, not least of which was Spider-Man.
This early indoctrination did little to affect my Barbie showdowns across the hall (actually, what do I know - maybe they all beat up villains, flying from rooftop to rooftop) but it gave me a familiarity with the character of Spidey, and, most memorably for me, his fight against his darker self: Venom.
I couldn’t even tell you which games we had. The specifics are never important in regards to early memories. It matters though that I knew who Spider-Man was and that my brother and I could take on his abilities when we picked up the controllers.
When my family moved back from the UK in 2001, we came home to a changing United States. After 9/11, there was hardly a television to be found that wasn’t broadcasting the news at all hours. Our overly-emotional teacher had gathered us around her and explained what happened. My very first fear was that my brother would be drafted soon and be shipped away.
The fear and sadness our nation felt quickly turned to rage. Rage against the “Other”, against our government, against our neighbors who wouldn’t agree with us, rage against the universe. Sometimes I wonder who really won the War on Terror; it seems that those attacks have led to a great rift in our country, a rift that causes distrust toward all - the self-destruction of the United States.
Who do you blame? Who do you hate? What do you do? When all of the enemies exist on the TV screen how do you take them down?
Heroes play a powerful role in the human psyche. We have told stories of heroes since our earliest days. I can imagine my ancestors sat around the fires at night trading their stories of shape-shifting men and women, light bringers and destroyers, respect and blind hatred. Is it so different to stare into the shifting, mesmerizing lights of the silver screen than the flames?
In 2002 Marvel and Columbia Pictures released Spider-Man. Though a lot of fans like to criticize Maguire’s Peter Parker, for me he was the perfect answer to the storm: a quite, sensitive young person on the edge of adulthood - he loved to learn, he loved his family, he made mistakes, and he emotionally, physically, and mentally paid for them.
Peter Parker pushed people away to save them, only to realize he had not only hurt them, but himself as well. He couldn’t maintain his powers without the love of his kid neighbor who believed in him, his aunt who forgave and accepted him, and his love who understood him.
Spider-Man existed in a world of confusion. Dafoe’s Green Goblin was magnificent - a caring and loving parent who struggled to show that affection to his son, tormented by his need for control, and power, blinded by ambition: the split personality of the CEO. A true American villain.
The real winner for me, though, was Iron Man (2008). Tony Stark (as played by Robert Downey Jr.) was a real piece of work. He represented all of the American ideals: arrogance misconstrued as confidence, selfishness portrayed as intelligence, and corporate moral-less wealth masquerading as benevolence.
But Stark is captured by terrorists, and his arrogance is destroyed when he realizes that his own company has provided the weaponry that the enemies are using. His selfishness is destroyed as the doctor who saved Stark’s life gives his own to ensure Stark prevails. Tony Stark sees chivalry, he sees dignity, kindness, and he understands shame.
He uses his anger to return from the Middle East and put matters right with his company in the middle of Los Angeles itself - the center of the American juxtaposition of luxury and poverty. But he comes home to realize the true enemy, the actual villain was not those who had captured and detained him, but Obedia (Jeff Bridges) whose greed and jealousy have turned him into a malicious monster, bent on his war profiteering.
These early superhero movies touched on deep anxieties and underlying currents. What do the mass-produced films touch on now? Have these franchises, seeing the popularity of these films, become their own villains - selling out their ideals and heroism for profiteering?
In 1883 Friedrich Nietzsche published his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, birthing his idea of the Übermensch (click to read more, but I will refrain from going into detail about this character at this time). It was explained [read: dictated] to a philosophy class I took that despite Übermensch’s literal translation into Superman, that the two were completely unrelated. Yet, somehow, it was only through that discussion that I was able to come to my conclusions about why I have felt let down by superhero films of late.
Spider-Man and Iron Man were naive. They thought they were in control, invincible, and superior for all their self-righteousness. It would be nice to see our heroes tackle these more difficult, more real issues again. Sure, Stark’s Frankenstein-like creation of an internet monster, Ultron, seems relevant, but he merely had to create a newer version to terminate the tainted Ultron instead of facing the darkness within himself which led to the creation of the monster to begin with.
Much like how if the industry simply continues to output new movies, they won’t have to face their idiotic mistakes in previous ones.
Please, Stan Lee, bring back the greatness.
On the last day of sixth grade my best friend Beth brought in black fingernail polish. We had spent the better part of the school year in Mrs. Harmon’s homeroom huddled in the room’s corners talking about music and dreaming about rebellion. She turned me on to Good Charlotte and for the first time, I had my own music to listen to outside of my parents. That day, though, we did what both of our mom’s dreaded: we painted our nails black.
I thought I was entering a world of goth then. What I really began to appreciate, however, was my mother’s passion for Edgar Allen Poe. Good Charlotte had a song I fell in love with, probably the only song I would still listen to passionately, called My Bloody Valentine, which used themes from Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart. This may truly be the catalyst for all of my interest in Romanticism, and The Gothic.
However, this first “goth” world I thought I was entering, was completely separate from The Gothic in art, literature, architecture, etc. This contemporary use of the word refers to a subculture which is generally defined by wearing black and listening to a certain kind of music. Goth, now, is a pop culture founded on a movement in music, generally thought to spring from Bauhau’s Bela Lugosi’s Dead (source: A Study of Gothic Subculture).
In film, this influence is most profoundly seen in the uprising of vampiric movies in the 1990s and early 2000s, for me, especially in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Interview With A Vampire (1994), and Underworld (2003).
While all of this is absolutely pertinent to our current Romantic culture, it is not the Gothic I’d like to dive into today. No, it is not a washed-out, dried-up, nor sell-out version of Gothicism, it is a new creature unto itself with roots in the original.
The next biggest way our contemporary society defines the word Gothic is in architecture. Which, hilariously, was a derogatory misnomer that stuck.
“By the eighteenth century in England, Gothic had become synonymous with the Middle Ages, a period which was in disfavor because it was perceived as chaotic, unenlightened, and superstitious. Renaissance critics erroneously believed that Gothic architecture was created by the Germanic tribes and regarded it as ugly and barbaric,” (source: CUNY: The Gothic Experience).
During the 18th and 19th centuries the English returned to this style and Gothic castles and abbeys sprung up all over the island. Horace Walpole is largely credited for this revival: he created a neo-Gothic castle for himself, Strawberry Hill, within which he had his own printing press . . . upon which he printed The Castle of Otranto.
This novel started a craze of writings. The themes he laid out would form the blueprints for much more Gothic literature to come.
I’m going to skip over all of the wishy-washy how-do-Romanticism-and-Gothicism-relate and just jump to how it was presented to me by a professor (thank you Dr. Inboden!!!) who knows far more than I do on the subject. Gothic is a subgenre of Romantic. They are concerned with similar things, they occur in similar timeframes. And, as you will see on some of the sites linked through this post, a lot of the sources cited are books on Romanticism.
So what is the root of roots of The Gothic? Other than a preoccupation with medieval architecture and settings, here are two good summaries of what you will find in a Gothic work:
“Gothic literature is marked by a preoccupation with gloom, mystery, and terror. Often, but not always, it may involve the supernatural,” (source: American Literary History: Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism).
“What makes a work Gothic is a combination of at least some of these elements:
Two years ago I was having a conversation with my advisor for my MFA. I was explaining my love for Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. We were discussing her views on capitalism and he was trying to understand whether I was truly that “right wing”.
“It’s all about the individual - the power of the individual and how you can truly only help others by first knowing and taking care of yourself . . .” I’m sure I rambled on for some time, trying to phrase my speech convincingly.
“Her view on capitalism was about this as well - that true capitalism rests on the individual consumer . . . that they wouldn’t buy something unless it were worthy of their money, thereby helping out the seller through helping themselves.”
At a certain point he started smiling and nodding, and bursted out: “You’re an anarchist!”
I was too stunned to reply. “Aren’t you?” he encouraged. I looked away, searching for how I felt about the label. For some reason I felt myself swelling with pride.
“I don’t know . . . I guess I just believe only in the power of individuals.”
“YES! You’re an anarchist!” he stated it this time with more conviction.
I’ve thought about that conversation ever since then. It changed me to have someone so openly and enthusiastically yell “you’re an anarchist” at me. I felt like a deep, unspoken truth had finally bubbled to the top.
This year, I decided to find out for sure though. In January, I resolved to create a themed booklist. I spent a few weeks thinking about what the theme should be, and this conversation inevitably recurred to me. I needed to know, for certain, that I fit in with this group of people. So, I created my 2016 booklist with the theme of anarchism.
Through some searching, I found some of the “highest praised” books with the themes of anarchism on such sites as GoodReads. I also threw in some books from the Buzzfeed list 27 Most Exciting Books Coming In 2016. I’ve always been in-tune with the classics, but I want to make an effort to read what contemporary authors are putting out there as well.
If you missed my review of The Dispossessed, you can find it here. This was the first book on the list I read, and I was not disappointed. I am also currently reading the Girl With A Dragon Tattoo series, which fits into this theme perfectly as well, and I also highly recommended reading those.
2016 Reading List - Anarchy
Are there any books you would include in this list? Please share!
It had just rained, and, despite knowing the exact location of where I was headed, I was not exactly sure where I needed to park. He had told me to pull around to the alley. What alley? Is this the alley? I pulled onto a side street one house down from my destination - the house with the giant sign out front: “CLEAN PALLET BOARDS FOR SALE”.
There was no sidewalk on that side of the road, so I trudged through the soaking grass, admiring the grey of the sky. Walking past the sign out front I was presented with a mental dilemma - those of you with social anxiety will understand - : the front door was open and only the clear screen door was covering the portal. Oh the pain of being seen without the appropriate time to prepare.
I knocked. A dog barked, turning away from me as often as its wariness would allow to check that a human was coming. A few more dogs showed up. Then a woman’s voice, very nearby: “someone’s at the door, hon . . .” A few more moments passed before the man limped up to the door. I smiled and explained that I had been the woman on the phone yesterday, and that I was here to pick up that wood. “Oh, you need to come on around back.” At this point his daughter had joined us all as well - a girl of about 14 with a simple, pretty face and an observant gaze. I quickly asked for clarification about where, exactly, that alley was. “Up this road over here,” she pointed, “and your first right.” She was so calm. It helped calm me.
I pulled by SUV around to the back gravel lot behind their house where there were three stacks of wood piled 5’ high. The man came out, daughter at his side, and I could see the reason for his limp: a prosthetic leg. He began asking me about what type of wood I wanted, it took everything within me to not shrug childishly. I told him that I could just use whatever’s on top and whatever is easiest for now. I wouldn’t be making anything exciting for a while and it would all just be practice. The father-daughter team began unpacking 10 pieces of wood, and the girl would then carry them over to the back of my car.
I left already feel accomplished. The smell of lumber filled my SUV and I inhaled deeply, smiling sillily.
Look, starting new things is awkward. It just is. But nothing beats that sense of daring excitement that comes after a new endeavor, and I’d only just gotten the wood to get started.
I had previous experience with a bit of carpentry: I had framed several paintings over the years, but my experience was limited to using a mitre saw, a table saw, and a band saw. This whole process began with my purchasing a Ryobi circular saw with leftover loan money. A whole $40! I brought it home excitedly, immediately taking it out of the box and assembling it, skimming over the manual - only spending time reading how to use it and the safety.
That night I cut up the wood I had purchased along with my saw - to create a set of rustic, barnwood inspired frames for my small cowboy paintings I was about to display in the annual MFA show at the Reece Museum. I loved them, and loved the added element of wear and home-made it brought to my paintings. Most artists want the frame to disappear, to merely set apart their painting from the wall. Mine added to the rustic feel.
I was proud. But, of course, I almost immediately was offered carpentry lessons by the man of our group. He meant well, and you can definitely see above that my frames aren’t exactly pretty, but it was crushing and I replied defensively.
I was deterred, for a while. But after graduation, I set up a workbench.
I did research on several simple plans and evaluated what our house could really use that would be an easy project for me. It’s always best to start with something simple. Trust me, I have dove in headlong to so many new materials that it’s mind-blowing - take it from the expert: doing this will only result in disappointment at not being able to live up to your own expectations. Start small. Start easy.
I settled on an entryway bench. Our entryway is . . . pretty much non-existent and I really wanted to give us both a space dedicated to that transition from inside to out. Transitional spaces are key.
I created a drawing of what I wanted, but kept it vague so that I could change it around when things didn’t go according to plan. They never do, so just allow your mind to accept it by preparing for it. Then, I got to work.
I had also created a quick shelf previously. The process was super simple. I only have one word of advice here: don’t decorate your shelf before your have everything hung that you want hung. Hammering + delicate items = heartbreak. It sounds obvious, but I get overly excited sometimes and just have to see how much succulents will look in a new spot. They looked amazing, by the way. Just before they fell to the ground.
Woodworking is like sewing: it takes research, planning, preparation, and the patience of execution. I’m not great with sewing either. I lack in the preparation department - I end up running around looking for all of the items I need as I go. I’ve turned this into an artform in my cooking, but that’s taken years. I must say though, no matter how lacking you are, you have to get out there and try those new things you’ve been thinking about. It’s completely worth it. Even a crappy piece of work is extremely satisfying to make.
I won’t be able to complete all of these plans with the wood I have, so I’ll have to go grab more from that brilliantly genuine man and his daughter. It makes me nervous even thinking about it, but I know it’ll get easier each time. Check out my stash of plans and ideas for all sorts of projects on my Pinterest Crafts board here.
Start something new. Begin planning and gather your supplies now. That’s the first step. Get started!!
Today I’m going to share a few of the many forms our living room has taken in the past 6 months. As stated before, space is very important to me and the living room is top priority to me. For one, I do most of my work in this space - I write, I brainstorm, I research, I watch, I play . . . so on. For another, it is very openly connected to our kitchen and I must admit to being a bit of a neat freak when it comes to the kitchen, which is spilling over into the living area (because I can see the mess . . and it sees me). I am definitely the person who has to clean for 20 min before I can sit down to any work. Some of you are wishing you could do that, but let me just tell you . . . don’t.
Evan and I moved in here in December, and so far this space has changed the most and the most often. It is our first place together - though we spent a few months in my last solo apartment before finding this one - so we are constantly learning about working together on arrangements and furnishing.
When walking into apartments that you think you may like to move into, don’t be like me. I have this knack for seeing only potential - it’s great when it comes to helping my students (I’m an art instructor), but it sucks when you are now 6 months into your lease wishing you had asked the questions that needed asking at the beginning, like: can I paint the walls? Yes, I could still ask, but now it’s just more of a thing. At least, it is in my mind.
At the beginning we were just trying to get everything into our new space, and transitioning from VERY high ceilings to very normal ceilings. It made all of our stuff feel cramped despite the fact that we had just moved into a large space. Our solution was to do the boring old everything-against-the-walls approach. This lasted for a while, but then discontent grew among the ranks, and Evan and I both needed a change. I wish I had more images of that initial layout to share with you, but, thank goodness, I must have deleted them.
We switched to a more conversation-friendly, more inspired, more Romantic layout of the seating facing one another. Instead of a fireplace to showcase, however, we have our TV! Woo!
Mirror plate SOLD! Stop by the shop to see what you still can buy out of my living room (LINK AT TOP RIGHT OF PAGE). I do love picking fresh flowers for the living room. Sometimes I put them in the bedroom as well, but mostly in here. I love that spring offers such an abundance of color on this property.
There’s a lot I still want to see changed, but goals are different than discontent. I greatly enjoy our current layout, and we even sometimes shove the coffee table out of the way and scooch the couches together in the center of the room to form a sort of couch/pillow fort.
Some of my goals for the space are as follows:
A few tips for the both of us to continue the war on living room boringness:
What helps you love your living spaces? Please share below!
For most of my life I have been fascinated with the history of and films about World War II. This probably began with my great grandpa’s tales of his time serving in the army during the war, which turned into my own imaginings of how he spent his time delivering mail through the dangerous backcountry and crossing enemy lines. No matter what Grandpa Goller actually did in the war, his stories became a springboard for my own fantasies and he soon became the first real hero I knew in my life.
After my brother served several tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, my interest in this genre of film intensified. Perhaps I needed to understand better how and why wars happen, perhaps I sought out a fleeting moment through my heroes' eyes, but perhaps I also just needed to feel that their journeys were somehow connected to my own, even though I would never set foot where they had.
During one of my semesters of graduate school I created a list of World War II inspired movies that I wanted to watch, or rewatch. I created several collages based on the vague sense of loss I experienced when I thought of my brother’s time abroad and of the stories I imagined about my grandpa. There was a separation of time, of distance, and of knowledge between us. I attempted to express the meaning of these collages to my committee and failed miserably - only able to make broad, generalizing statements about why I felt so strongly about WWII and the distance it put between my loved ones and myself.
Some people applaud looking to the past for answers, some call it an escape. I certainly received both remarks during my time as an art student. Now, though, I feel that I can at the very least share part of the excellent list of films I have from my semester of viewing. Some of these are intense, some are comedies, some are from the German perspective, some from the American (this is truly my interest here - German v. American) . . . but all are, at the very least, thought provoking. Pick a few, and enjoy!
*Note: for me, films and stories about the massacre of the Jewish people deserve their own list - so you will not see those listed here . . . these explore the relationships of those fighting in the military.
A World War II German U-Boat crew have a terrifying patrol mission in the early days of the war.
Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.
Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
Saving Private Ryan
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
So far, I have simply set up the decorative ideas I have for my Etsy store of the same name: Countryside Romantic. This store and those items, however, are in no way the point of my writings. I simply have sought to create an escape in my own home that is based on the decor found in imagery from the Romantic Period.
As I mention in my welcome post, what I really seek here is to explore romanticism through literature, visual arts, film, academia, and philosophy. There will certainly be times when I am simply thinking of the living space and will post as much, because I believe that establishing a space which allows your mind to indulge is incredibly important. It has been, at least, for me. This being said, today I would like to share about a novel I have just finished: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. The theme for my book-list this year is anarchy, and The Dispossessed was first on my list. (List to come.)
First, I would like to point out that there is a lifelong bond between romanticism and anarchism. Simon Court points this out in his post William Godwin: Political Justice, anarchism, and the Romantics. He writes:
"William Godwin was a major contributor to the radicalism of the Romantic movement. A leading political theorist in his own right as the founder of anarchism, Godwin provided the Romantics with the central idea that man, once freed from all artificial political and social constraints, stood in perfect rational harmony with the world. In this natural state man could fully express himself."
Anytime you explore the idea of freedom, individuality and the natural state of man the way the Romantics did/do, you will come up against the wall that is society and government. I have found myself asking what my relationship to others should be, how much control others have over me, what effect does the US government have on me. There is almost an anthropological aspect to answering these: how did we get where we are, where did we come from, would it be better there, how has industry changed us? And so on.
Recently, in watching the Parthenon Films documentary Stories from the Stone Age, I was mesmerized by their interpretation of the archeological evidence of the first societal rituals of humans. There exist pillars in one of the very first cities, upon which there are vultures carved who are carrying headless bodies. The pillars were not made to hold up any roof. The theory stands as this: the pillars were used to offer bodies of the dead to the vultures. Previously, people had chosen to keep the dead under their very firepits in their homes. Now that humans were living in completely man-made cities, there seemed to be a need to “return” to the cycle of the earth.
The Dispossessed begins with a return: a man is leaving his planet, Anarres, and we don’t understand why. We are presented with the viewpoint of those charged with the safety of the launch station, and we are presented with the wall that surrounds it. This wall has separated two worlds for almost 200 years - societies that share the same history, and used to share the same planet, Uras. Uras is a planet ruled by consumerism, that regards those who cannot consume (the poor) as being unworthy of life or basic necessities of life.
The story takes several viewpoints throughout its telling - subtly. Each becomes important in the understanding of the thoughts, feelings, and ideals of the two separated societies. This was something I was unable to appreciate in the first half of the book, and was especially confused with in the first chapter. The perspective you begin from doesn’t know why the man is leaving, they know some people disapprove, but they’re mostly interested in just doing their job and going home. But, looking back on the beginning from the end, now I can see that the book began exactly as it should: as a disinterested, uninformed perspective - which will become the major criticism Le Guin’s characters make of the society on Anarres - a society founded on anarchism - decentralization.
The man leaving is a famous physicist, Shevek, who we come to find out is unable to work in his now-pseudo-anarchist society because they have become afraid of new ideas and of change. He is leaving to find out for himself what their planet of origin is like and to do his work unimpeded. The story switches back and forth between the man who is becoming, and the man who has become. We discover that his present, future, and past are inextricably linked, that everything he does and thinks comes from a somewhere or something - a teaching of his people, an experience in his life, or a piece of his theory on time.
This story is wonderfully told and beautifully developed. This being the first of Le Guin’s work that I have read, I cannot compare it to know whether this is her typical writing style, but I did see criticism for how seriously she wrote the main character, Shevek. For me, however, he was perfect. Shevek is a focused, confused, rejected man - he is aware of his vulnerability and he protects himself in a way that he cannot even control, shutting out all but those he can trust when he feels that vulnerability most.
One of the aspects I loved most about The Dispossessed was Le Guin’s ability to show the strengths and weaknesses of all that was in question: she shows how much Uras is able to achieve with their wealth pooled in the hands of the few and how devastating this economy is to the lower class’ quality of life; Le Guin shows how the communities of Anarres pull through a terrible famine by sharing what they do have and by working hard together, but also how they have become hardened against those who think for themselves; Shevek is shown as a brilliant mind who can set aside himself to help his fellows, but who cannot overcome his anxieties of being abandoned as a child.
There is so much complexity and thought put into The Dispossessed, that by the time I reached the end, I was ready to begin it again. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in the ideals of individualism, anarchy, and romanticism. It will leave you stunned at how conceivable each binary system presented is, and relating to multiple perspectives and ideals.