Always Coming Home
by Ursula K. Le Guin
What’s it about: “the archeology of the future.” It’s the cultural examination of the Kesh, a tribe of vaguely Native American people who "might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California” from the viewpoint of a woman called Stone Telling, replete with stories, songs, myths, recipes and even a language (take that Elvish & Klingon).
Why you should read it: because Le Guin weaves her obsessions with myth and anthropology, Taoism and modern civilization into the compelling story of an invented people living in a wholly believable utopia.
Selection: from “Dira”
“Heya hey heya, hey heya heya, in that time that place, in the dark cold time, the dark cold place, she was going along, this woman, a human woman, walking in the hills, looking for something to eat. She was looking for brodiaea and calochortus bulbs before they bloomed, and putting out snares for brush rabbit, and gathering anything that could be food, because her people were hungry and so was she. Those were times when people had to work all day for enough to eat, times when even so they didn't have enough to eat, and people died of hunger, human and animal, they died of hunger and cold, so they say.
She was hunting and gathering in the hills, then, and started down into a canyon where she thought she saw some cattail down by the creek. She got into buckbrush and scrub oak and thorn, and had to push her way along; there weren't any deer trails, not even rabbit trails. She pushed along through the brush, trying to get down into the canyon. It was very dark, like it was going to rain. She thought, "Oh, before I get out of this brush, this time of year, I'll be covered with ticks!" She kept brushing at her neck and arms and feeling in her hair for ticks, trying to keep them from sticking to her. She didn't find any cattails. There was nothing to eat down in the canyon. She started to go along downstream, pushing through that thick underbrush, tearing her shirt and scratching her skin on the buckbrush and the thorn. She came into a place where the yellow broom grew very tall and close together. Nothing else grew there. The broom was half dead and grey-looking, without flowers yet. She pushed her way into the broom thicket, and ahead of her there, in the middle of the thicket, she saw a person standing. It was a wide, thin, dark person, with a little head, and one hand without fingers, just two prongs, like pliers or pincers. It stood there waiting. It had no eyes, they say. “