September 11, 2007

Goodbye, Madeleine L'Engle.

You meant more to me than you could ever have known. I read A Wrinkle in Time so many times in my attic bedroom (on nights both stormy and not), I've got passages of it memorized.

(Readers, here's the book's Wikipedia entry. But do not be self-destructive: read it before you go there. And get this book in hard cover, for crying out loud! You can thank me later. No one reads this thing only one time.)

You, Madeleine, were a better diarist than Anais Nin, a better allegorist than C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. You were the best writer of books for children and adolescents ever, bar none. (And I say this as a fan of J.K. Rowling, whose lapidary achievements still can't achieve the breadth and scope your career encompassed.)

And you made it possible for all kinds of imperfect and skeptical people to contemplate the notion that they could, after all, be Christians. "With," as you put it in one of your published journals, "all kinds of doubts." And you made it okay—cool, even—to have a scientist mom. That saved my psychic bacon during the tough years of being a teenager—which, in my particular case, persisted into my 20s (some will say 40s—but they are being unkind).

Even your creative failures were fascinating, and well worth reading.

You made magic. And moral ambiguity. Again, and again, and again.

Ms. L'Engle's official site is here. I've never looked for her before on the web. I'm so glad she's there, but the image on the front page made me choke up, so I haven't explored there yet. How many people have the love of science she had, and yet the same level of faith? Very few.

MORE Wheaton College rawks. They have extensive collections on Sayers, and on a few of the Inklings, and on L'Engle, too? The mind boggles. What a freakin' brain trust they must have over there.

AND YET MORE Nurse Theology had plenty to say to me when we were comparing notes about the various L'Engle books, great and not-so.

The good nurse is always taken aback when I quote her, verbatim, from conversations we had in the 1980s. And yet, she said all those things, and has such a way with words . . . I can't help it. (Even when it got back to me that she'd said "I like Joy. But I can't see how anyone can stand to be around her for more than ten minutes." That perspective was very necessary for me at the time. And simply adorable.)

Ms. Fine Theology on Madeleine L'Engle: "Why won't she give Zachary Gray a break?"

I looked at her when she said that, and I think my jaw sort of floated for a second. Because, of course, I had taken Zachary to be a character of his own. I felt that he was flouting L'Engle's wishes—rather than vice versa.

Of course, that brings up the whole Calvanism/predestination debate, and I'm not sure I have time for that.

Posted by Attila Girl at September 11, 2007 12:41 AM | TrackBack

Ditto, ditto, and more ditto.

I didn't hear until about two days ago. I just can't believe she's gone...nobody else could've created just the right Meg ,Calvin and Charles Wallace - why, they helped me deal with life in sixth grade when I was too weird and geeky for anybody to love. They were my best friends and I owe L'Engle a great debt. She taught me it was okay to be different and that fitting in wasn't all it was cracked up to be- I clung to that knowledge for dear life.
Well. I 'm in shock, here. God rest her soul and keep her far far away from Camazotz.

Posted by: ktstew at September 13, 2007 06:37 AM

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