Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, RIP

Madeleine L'Engle has died at the age of 88. I remain fond of the Time Quintet and The Crosswicks Journals; when I first read them, I felt like I'd been given permission to breathe. Our first daughter was named after her.

Post Script, Sept 17: I'm gratified to see the New Yorker has finally made this profile of Madeleine L'Engle available on-line. It isn't quite the hagiography that other profiles have been, and it's certainly not the hagiography that L'Engle herself was prone to write. But neither is it the character assassination that some of L'Engle's readers make it out to be. In fact, I think it brings forward the sort of background detail that makes her fiction more compelling than it appears at first (uninformed) glance. I'm thinking particularly of A Live Coal In The Sea.

Also: a salute from Laurel Snyder. "To compare L'Engle's universe to the stuff cluttering the post-Harry Potter marketplace is to compare a unicorn to a goat with one horn sawed off" -- nice! Via KtB.

5 comments:

ジョエル said...

I remember my 3rd grade teacher kept pushing these books. I tried reading the first volume of the wrinkle in time series, couldn't really get into it, and never looked back. Maybe I should give it another try.

Whisky Prajer said...

ML is certainly not to everyone's taste, and even when she is, there are books best avoided (that woman wrote a lot of books!). I've had trouble figuring out just where she currently resides in my totem of writerly, and religious, influences. When I reflect on her, I tend to think of her more as a personality than as a novelist or essayist. As such, I don't doubt for a second that she could grate on people: she could grate on me. The Crosswicks Journals are particularly difficult to return to. In the very first installment (written in the early 60s, if I remember rightly) she makes a grand case for holding to the common use of "man." By the final installment (early 90s) she admits this stance was a bit off the mark.

Still, if her writing is any indication, she desired to live -- and talk, and write -- a bold life that cast a critical eye toward faddish self-indulgence. And that's very much a trait I'd love to nurture in my daughters.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Never read her. Will visit the links...

And Madeleine is a perfect little girl's name. But, I suspect it's every bit as hard for a first grader to spell as my own 9-letter handle...

paul bowman said...

Thanks for the links, WP. Just got the New Yorker article in — an interesting read.

I found L'Engle as a child, on my own, in the public library — Wind in the Door. Couldn't make much of it, I recall. Never bothered to look much into her, since, until earlier this year, by odd coincidence. A new acquaintance, a college friend of my little sister's, encouraged me to start into her; and in June or so I did, just a bit, with an audio version of Wrinkle in Time (read by L'Engle — pretty good).

Whisky Prajer said...

"Read by L'Engle" - I'd be curious, and tentative at the same time. I've constructed a voice for her, and wouldn't want to chafe against the real thing!