Good-bye, Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle, Children’s Writer, Is Dead

One of the iconic authors of my young reading days is gone. I remember reading all the “Wrinkle” books, and then all the Austin family books, which I didn’t like as much, but I had to read more. Now I want to go back and read them all again.

The NYT article above gives her a very nice tribute. She sounds like an even more amazing person now than I already thought. Some of her thoughts on writing:

“I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him,” she said in an interview with Horn Book magazine in 1983. “I know that is true of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice.

“It was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.”

On remaining true to the spirit of stories:

When her son, then 10, protested the death of Joshua in “The Arms of the Starfish” (1965), she insisted that she could not change the tale, which was still unpublished at the time.

“I didn’t want Joshua to die, either,” Ms. L’Engle said in 1987 in a speech accepting the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for lifetime achievement in writing young adult literature, one of scores of awards she received.

“But that’s what happened. If I tried to change it, I’d be deviating from the truth of the story.”

And, with a bit of reference to Jennie’s post about the concept of Death of the Author:

Her characters continued living their lives even if she hadn’t mentioned them for decades. She had gotten word that Polly O’Keefe, who appeared in three books of the “Time Fantasy” series, was in medical school, she said a few months before the library speech.

A woman wrote her to say that she herself was a first-year medical student at Yale and that she would love to have Polly in her class. Ms. L’Engle said fine, and the student went to the registrar’s office to sign up Polly as an “official” Yale medical student.

No feelings that she had to relinquish her characters after the end of their books for her, clearly.

Madeleine L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, and Ursula Le Guin are the three authors who led me to my early love for science fiction and fantasy, and seeing them start to go is a bit like saying good-bye to relatives I never met, if that makes sense. They all showed children how to dream about fantastic places, people, and things, without talking down to them. To us. I am very grateful, and I will miss Ms. L’Engle.

-posted by Dana


One Response to Good-bye, Madeleine L’Engle

  1. Mike says:

    Unlike most of the authors I read at that age, L’Engle always made me a little uncomfortable. It was the religion, I think. Rightly or wrongly — it’s been a long time — I remember the Wrinkle series as soaked with religion, not at all skeptical about it, but not facile about it, either. Good means evil, and both of those things can be deeply disturbing.

    In any case, the result was pretty hypnotic. Not unlike Le Guin, actually.

    Does that jibe with others’ memories of the books?

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