Books: History of an Imagined World Always Coming Home

by Ursula K. Le Guin Harper & Row; 525 pages; $50 hardcover, $25 paperback

Her father A.L. Kroeber was a renowned anthropologist, and her mother Theodora wrote nonfiction, principally on the American Indian. Those who do not know these facts about Ursula K. Le Guin could probably deduce them from her 23rd book. Always Coming Home can be read as a novel, but it is really something else: a scientific-looking compendium of information about a people who might exist in the distant future. They are called the Kesh, a gentle tribe living in the nine towns of the valley of the river Na, somewhere in Northern California. Le Guin's fieldwork into their rites and customs...

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