On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sad News

Yesterday my daughter said to me, "Did you hear that Madeleine L'Engle died?" I hadn't yet heard the news, although I'd been aware that she was in a nursing home for the past few years. Abby had been hoping (and so had I) that there was one more Vicky book yet to come. Now, unless there's one stored in a vault at her publishers that is not to be.

I first encountered Madeleine L'Engle's writing after reading an article about her in Christianity today back in the 1970's. I bought the boxed set of a Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and a Swiftly Tilting Planet and I was soon caught up in all things L'Engle. I found her Crosswicks books at the regional library (and eventually bought my own copies), I found stores that carried her poetry and her Austin family books. When my kids were little The Twenty-Four Days before Christmas was one of our pre-Christmas reading books. My copy of Walking on Water is battered from countless readings (by my daughter as well as me). We had to buy a new copy of A Ring of Endless Light because the old one was literally falling apart.

I didn't always agree with Madeleine. I often thought I'd love to take one of her writing seminars just to be able to talk with her and argue some points. I was frustrated with A House Like a Lotus. While I enjoyed the story, there were scenes that seemed inappropriate and unnecessarily graphic. I loved Friends for the Journey which she co-authored with Luci Shaw, it seemed like it captured the multi-faceted person she was. I particularly liked the description of the meals they shared (the story of the roasted garlic and its aftermath was priceless).

Unlike most readers, who seem to like the Murray books the best, I loved the Austins. I especially liked Vicky (frankly I found Susie obnoxious, I didn't even particularly like the grown-up Susie in A Severed Wasp). Vicky was a kindred spirit, for me and my daughter. We would have loved to have seen a novel with a grown up Vicky. We got a grown up Meg, a grown up Susie, a grown up Calvin, Dennys and Sandy,but no grown-up Vicky. Madeleine's characters may have continued growing (as she said in one interview), but she never did share the later days of Vicky's story. Perhaps Vicky as a character was too close to Madeleine herself. Those of us who loved the character can dream that Vicky ultimately married Adam, became a famous poet, and lived in a big house in the country where she behaved far more like Mrs. Austin than Susie. Of course there'd have to be adventure along the way and Adam seemed to be easily planted in the midst of some scientific misadventure. Uncle Douglas would have almost certainly gotten planted in the story as well since he seemed to have dropped out of things after The Moon by Night, but clearly had a stronger connection to Vicky than to any of her siblings.

Alas, it's not to be (unless as I said before there's a book in the safe at Farrar, Strauss, Giroux). However, we can still read the work of this wonderful writer who, joins the ranks of Lewis, Tolkien, and Macdonald as authors of fantasy with a Christian underpinning. And of course we can commend her soul to God's mercy.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home