Ursula Le Guin died unexpectedly on Monday, January 22, in the home in Portland, Oregon, where she lived with her husband Charles. After she asked me to be her biographer, several years ago, she and I had many long talks on the phone, met once or twice a year, and corresponded. We talked about my life as well as hers, because she never wanted it to be all about her. For a long time I was shy with her. I regret that, and wish we’d been closer sooner, because it became a wonderful friendship.

I miss her deeply. I’ve seen a lot of terrific tributes to her work, but seeing her be so widely praised as a great writer has felt like a loss, too. When I wrote about her for The New Yorker I did my best to hang on to the wise and funny person I knew.

The first words I read by the writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who died this week, at the age of eighty-eight, were “Come home!” The plea—a mother’s to a departing child—opens Le Guin’s novel “The Tombs of Atuan.” I was twelve years old and hooked. Home and homecoming were among the most powerful themes of Le Guin’s work, but she was a deep and complex writer, and “home” stood for many things, including being true to one’s art. In her essay “The Operating Instructions,” she wrote, “Home isn’t where…