A Child Who Survived

Ursula K. Le Guin, photo by Marian Wood KolischA Child Who Survived

by Ursula K. Le Guin

The vapid statement “the creative adult is the child who survived” is currently being attributed to me by something called Aiga

https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/design-quote-creative-adult-is-child-who-survived-ursula-le-guin/

which is “supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.” I wasn’t able to communicate with Aiga to ask them to take my name off their design.

It probably wouldn’t do much good anyhow. A false attribution on the Internet is like box elder beetles, the miserable little things just keep breeding and tweeting and crawling out of the woodwork.

I posted on my blog and at Book View Café on this persistent misattribution last year. Early and very welcome responses to it by Meelis and Jonathan on BVC gave me both the sentence I wrote, and a possible source of the misquotation.

Meelis pointed out this sentence in the 1974 essay “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (reprinted in the collection The Language of the Night):

I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived.

Nothing about “creativity” whatever. I just said a grown-up is somebody who lived through childhood — a child who survived. A truism, of course, but in 1974 I had reasons for stating it. The disavowal of childishness that is part of assuming adulthood, particularly male adulthood, can become a denial of the value of any connection to oneself as a child or to children in general. It was acceptable, forty years ago, for people to boast of disliking children. It was all but automatic for critics to deny adult value to fantasy literature simply by saying it was ‘for children.’ And some feminists of the Seventies, wanting to free women from sole responsibility for children, denied any natural connection to them at all. This was the mindset I was addressing. I was just trying to keep the child-adult connection open, and free of contempt.

Jonathan discovered that the earliest appearance on the Internet of the misquote was in 1999, from a huge collection of quotations compiled by Professor Julian F. Fleron:

http://www.westfield.ma.edu/math/faculty/fleron/quotes/

The professor gave no source for the sentence; I have no idea why he attributed it to me.

It is high time that this sentence, “The creative adult is the child who has survived,” be attributed to its originator, Prof. Julian F. Fleron.

If he did not originate it, and wishes to be freed from the onus of supposedly having done so, that’s up to him or to those who wish to preserve his good name. I just wish, oh how I wish! that he hadn’t stuck me with the damn thing.

— UKL

28 December 2015

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A Child Who Survived — 6 Comments

  1. Alas, I can’t even find a way to comment on that post and link to your explanation.

    Something about the way the false quote is worded has always made me think the originator assumed the child who survived had a miserable childhood and that made them creative. Which doesn’t sound at all like something you’d say, but does sound like a common theme.

    I like your actual observation and thought much better.

  2. I strongly recommend you take down the link to Aiga in your post – the more people that click on that – the more the link between your name and the false quote will be reinforced on search engines. You could have someone create a website that just has the quote attributed to Dr. Fleron then have facebook and other social media links so all of your readers can spread the news and maybe someday it will become his quote and not yours. But, maybe you should talk to him first. I searched for Dr. Fleron and quickly found all his contact info here:

    https://www.artofmathematics.org/users/julian-fleron

    Perhaps he can point you towards an earlier misquoter or explain himself before suffering his due punishment.

  3. Happy New Year!

    Just thought to let you know that, hoping to thicken the plot and maybe bring the beginning of some kind of resolution, I sent a friendly e-mail off to Professor Fleron pointing out the misattribution and copying and pasting your blog entry to give my message some context. I’ll let you know if he responds to me.

    Thanks for all your good work.
    God bless.

  4. Thank you, Perrin Drum and Aiga! I appreciate it!
    Professor Fleron answered my letter promptly and very kindly; but he’s been quite ill, so getting the quotation straightened out on his list of quotations can wait a while.
    Ursula

  5. The Internet (like most things, I suppose) is both blessing and curse. It’s an incredible (or sometimes, credible) source of information, and an equally incredible source of astonishingly persistent misinformation. Sometimes separating the two seems like an insurmountable task.