Politics has been obsessing a lot of people lately, and Ursula K. Le Guin is far from immune to bouts of political anger. In an e-mail to me last winter, she wrote that she felt "eaten up" with frustration at the ongoing occupation of an eastern Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed band of antigovernment agitators led by the brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. She was distressed by the damage they had done to scientific programs and to historical artifacts belonging to the local Paiute tribe, and critical of the F.B.I. for being so slow to remove these "hairy gunslinging fake cowboys" from public property. She had been mildly cheered up, she added, by following a Twitter feed with the hashtag #BundyEroticFanFic. The high desert of eastern Oregon is one of Le Guin's places. She often goes there in the summer with her husband, Charles, a professor emeritus of history at Portland State University, to a ranch on the stony ridge of Steens Mountain, overlooking the refuge. She has led writing workshops at the Malheur Field Station, a group of weather-beaten buildings used mainly by biologists and birders, and published a book of poems and sketches of the area, with photographs by Roger Dorband, called "Out Here." She likes the awareness the desert gives her of distance, emptiness, and geological time. In a poem, "A Meditation in the Desert," she imagines a stone being "full / of slower, longer thoughts than mind can have." She has roots in eastern Oregon that go back to the early days of white settlement. Not long ago, she told me excitedly that she'd rediscovered records in the attic of her grandmother's childhood: "My great-grandfather, with my grandmother age eleven, moved from California to Oregon in 1873. . . . They drove three hundred and fifty head of cattle up through Nevada and built a stone house on the back side of Steens Mountain. I don't think he made a claim; there was nowhere to make it. He was one of the very first ranchers in what is still very desolate country."
One balmy May evening, thirty of Silicon Valley's top entrepreneurs gathered in a private room at the Berlinetta Lounge, in San Francisco. Paul Graham considered the founders of Instacart, DoorDash, Docker, and Stripe, in their hoodies and black jeans, and said, "This is Silicon Valley, right here." All the founders were graduates of Y Combinator, the startup "accelerator" that Graham co-founded: a three-month boot camp, run twice a year, in how to become a "unicorn"--Valleyspeak for a billion-dollar company. Thirteen thousand fledgling software companies applied to Y Combinator this year, and two hundred and forty were accepted, making it more than twice as hard to get into as Stanford University. After graduating thirteen hundred startups, YC now boasts the power--and the peculiarities--of an island nation. At the noisy end of the room, Graham was cheerfully encouraging improbable schemes. At the quiet end, Sam Altman was absorbed in private calculations. When founders came over to ...
Microsoft's announcement, on Monday, that it would purchase LinkedIn--its biggest acquisition ever, at more than twenty-six billion dollars--brought to mind an earlier takeover attempt, almost a decade ago. Back in the mid-aughts, Microsoft's C.E.O. at the time, Steve Ballmer, flew to Palo Alto to try to convince Mark Zuckerberg, the young C.E.O. of Facebook, to let Microsoft buy his company. During Facebook's first couple of years, bigger companies had dismissed it, and social networking in general, as a fad for college kids; Zuckerberg had even admitted that he didn't care how Facebook would eventually make money. But Ballmer, who wanted to catch up to Google in the online-advertising business, was beginning to see Facebook's power. People were signing up for accounts in extraordinary numbers.
Suzanne, a young woman in San Francisco, met a man--call him John--on the dating site OKCupid. John was attractive and charming. More notably, he indulged in the kind of profligate displays of affection which signal a definite eagerness to commit. He sneaked Suzanne's favorite snacks into her purse as a workday surprise and insisted early on that she keep a key to his apartment. He asked her to help him choose a couch and then spooned with her on all the floor models. He even accompanied her, unprompted, to the D.M.V.--an act roughly equivalent, in today's gallantry currency, to Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster. As we learn from the podcast "Reply All," which reported the tale, Suzanne was not the only woman on whom John had chosen to bestow his favor. Six months into their relationship, she discovered that he was seeing half a dozen other women, one of whom he'd been stringing along for two years. All of them had received the couch-spooning treatment.
Your piece in this week's issue, "Waiting for the Miracle," tells the story of a young Russian man who arrives in the U.S. for the first time and spends a night looking for the miracle of a true New York City adventure. His expectations are actually met. Do you think that's a common experience for a Russian émigré in New York? But only to those Russian émigrés who live according to Leonard Cohen's lyrics as if they were the Bible. Leonard Cohen songs form a kind of soundtrack to the piece (and give it its title).