“If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then the next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that’s what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time….
[T]he proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”
In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, visionary author Ursula K. Le Guin tells the story of human origin by redefining technology as a cultural carrier bag rather than a weapon of domination.
Hacking the linear, progressive mode of the Techno-Heroic, the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution proposes: “before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home.” Prior to the preeminence of sticks, swords and the Hero’s killing tools, our ancestors’ greatest invention was the container: the basket of wild oats, the medicine bundle, the net made of your own hair, the home, the shrine, the place that contains whatever is sacred. The recipient, the holder, the story. The bag of stars.
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (1929-2018) was a celebrated author whose body of work includes 23 novels, 12 volumes of short stories, 11 volumes of poetry, 13 children’s books, five essay collections, and four works of translation. Le Guin’s first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered groundbreaking for its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity. Her novels The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home redefine the scope and style of utopian fiction. Le Guin’s poetry drew increasing critical and reader interest in the later part of her life; her final collection of poems, So Far So Good, was published shortly after her death.
Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch