Lavina is beautifully written, as we expect from Le Guin, but it had me puzzled while reading it. The Afterword solved a lot of my confusion because it became clear that the book was Vergil fanfic. What I mean by that is that Le Guin is a big fan of the poet and wanted to write more fiction set in his “universe” and using his characters. That’s essentially what fanfic is, but of course Vergil is way out of copyright and Le Guin is a much better writer than most fanfic practitioners. It does mean, however, that the book will probably mean much more to you if you too are a Vergil fan.

The other thing that puzzled me was that the book is very strong on traditional gender roles, and in places rather negative about gay men. Obviously there’s the setting to consider, but Le Guin is smart enough to know that you don’t have to match history if you don’t want to. Anyone else find the book strange from the gender point of view?

4 thoughts on “Lavinia

  1. That may be the first time anyone has used the words Vergil and ‘fanfic’ in the same sentence!!!!

  2. I was thinking the same thing! I thought the book was more of a play off of some of Vergil’s themes than anything else, but your comments here, Cheryl, remind me that there’s that half-finished review that’s gathering dust. Guess I better finish it this weekend!

    That being said, I thought Le Guin was being subtle there, perhaps a bit too much, in regards to her subversion of the Men’s Club mentality behind such epic tales. Her Lavinia was more than just a passive observer, I thought, although I would agree that towards the end, it seemed as though Le Guin didn’t focus as much on keeping Lavinia established as an active participant/interpreter of what was transpiring.

  3. Larry:

    Le Guin certainly demands space in the story for Lavinia, and indeed for the other women. She also acknowledges the realities of gender politics in those times. But at the same time I thought there was a definite air of essentialism in Lavinia’s observations. Men were men, and women were women, and anything in between was somewhat suspect.

  4. Can’t say that I noticed that, but it’s been a few months since I last read the novel and that, coupled with my world-view being that of a het male, might have led me to miss quite a few things. Will have to keep that in mind when I glance back over the book tomorrow or Monday.

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