Saturday, September 8, 2007

"I saw eternity the other night"

Madeleine L'Engle died yesterday. She was 88, and had spent the last three years in a nursing home. You can read the NYTimes obituary here.

I think I've read every book she ever wrote. There are so many that I love...A Wrinkle in Time, of course, although its sequel A Wind in the Door is a bit creepy, so I read the second sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, several times more often.

I also loved her books about the Austin family. I identified with Vicky Austin so strongly...she was the shy, smart, awkward older daughter in that family. I loved A Ring of Endless Light both for its deep themes and for the selection of Henry Vaughan poetry L'Engle scattered throughout. I loved The Young Unicorns for its spooky mystery and for the glimpse of life on the Upper West Side in a time before New York City morphed into the ultra-expensive playground for the rich that it is today.

I loved her books for their portrayals of families that were both highly eccentric and highly loving. I loved the O'Keefes and their worldwide travels. I loved that those children had unusual schooling experiences (like me!) but took it in their stride. These weren't books about "What am I going to wear to the party omg!" These were books about, How do I make the transition into adulthood when I'm not yet sure who I am. I loved that she wrote equally passionately and knowledgeably about arts and science (her characters included concert pianists, ballet dancers, marine biologists, Antarctic explorers, painters, physicists, and writers.)

I loved her adult books too, although less strongly. I don't consider The Small Rain or Camilla with their themes of infidelity and loss to be YA, though their main character are teenagers. Both The Other Side of the Sun and A Severed Wasp contained situations so sad they left me feeling unpleasantly chilled. (But I could still tell you, years later, the names of all the characters within.) Meanwhile, her autobiographical pieces, such as A Circle of Quiet and The Irrational Season, are personal to the point of oversharing, but leave you feeling you've just had a long talk with the wisest, kindest godmother you've ever known.

Madeleine L'Engle was the one author I always wanted to meet, and I'm very sorry that she's gone.

1 comment:

Traci said...

I hate that I can ramble on about Kate Moss and whether or not an art deco dress is ugly, but when a great writer passes away, I have nothing to say at all.