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Monday, December 17, 2012

64

‘Oh, Madeleine L’Engle!’

"Much about the Austins seems too good to be true—the way they spontaneously break out into a four-part hymn during a picnic on the mountain, or the smug confession by Vicky, the eldest daughter and narrator, that “we seem to watch a lot less television than most of our friends.”"
—Oh, snap, finally. No, it's a mostly kindly review of a Leonard Marcus' book-length collection of interviews about Madeleine L’Engle. Now, here is the dishy 2004 profile in The New Yorker that various interviewees objected to.

64 Comments / Post A Comment

Charlsie Kate

A Ring of Endless Light is one of my favorite novels of all time. L'Engle always made me want to take more afternoon swims in the ocean, spend more time listening to an organist practice in an empty cathedral, and tramp through the woods at night and look at the stars.

What's the book where the grandmother is a professor, and her granddaughter is a student at the college, and the parents are famous? All the stories run together for me.

every tomorrow@twitter

@Charlsie Kate I can handle the Wrinkle in Time books and I can handle the Austins, but I CANNOT cope with the books about the Wrinkle in Time kids' kids, because for some reason those are the ones that reach some kind of critical mass of everyone being perfect.

Aeroplane

@Charlsie Kate I'd bet money the book you're talking about is An Acceptable Time, which is about the daughter of Meg and Calvin from A Wrinkle in Time as she is visiting her grandparents (Meg's parents) in the same house that Meg grew up in.

vicky austin

@Charlsie Kate I'm fairly sure it's A Live Coal in the Sea - the grandmother is Camilla Dickinson, she's an astronomer, and her son Taxi is a soap opera actor. And Raffi, the granddaughter, is a redhead.

(PS: new here, registered this name forever ago but this is my first comment, and I'm super excited to reply to someone who will get the reference!)

daisicles

@every tomorrow@twitter I can't handle those books most of the time either, probably because Polly drives me up the wall in most of them. It's odd because I adore Vicky Austin to an irrational extent and she and Polly are pretty similar, but nevertheless...

Maybe it's because there's never enough Meg in those books.

thebestjasmine

@vicky austin It's definitely A Live Coal in the Sea, that book hurts.

PatatasBravas

Oh, that New Yorker article is interesting! L'Engle isn't perfect but I still somehow adored her in the 'dishy' take? Somewhere her kids/grandkids are sighing in exasperation that even the fair criticisms of Madeleine makes her charming.

Also this makes a lot of sense to me: Time, for L’Engle, is accordion-pleated. She elaborated, “When you bring a sheet off the line, you can’t handle it until it’s folded, and in a sense, I think, the universe can’t exist until it’s folded — or it’s a story without a book.”

PatatasBravas

@PatatasBravas Okay, actually, the one thing that sticks in my craw is how she handled the adoption narrative in her books and how the terrible disrupting adoptee gets adopted away to a whole new family at the end. Not a kind thing to do to your actually adopted daughter!

queenofbithynia

oh oh oh Hairpin do you want to read a book that is like a L'Engle outsider-joining-the-Perfect Family novel but one that does not make you want to punch Vicky Austin in the neck all the time, her and her jerk Austin dad who deals with bratty orphans by spanking the disobedience out and the god in?

then you want to read Joan Aiken's Morningquest. It is the best.

lookuplookup

@queenofbithynia You have described exactly the book I want to read!

siniichulok

@queenofbithynia I was JUST thinking of Morningquest when I read your post!!! Amazing!!

queenofbithynia

@siniichulok ARE YOU REAL

(and are there interesting critical essays about the genre of books that is about the disruptive outsider(s) coming into the beautiful family to whose point of view the book belongs (the Austins, Margaret Mahy's The Tricksters, a genius book) versus the one that is about being the outsider trying to acquire or remain in a place that does not actually belong to you (Morningquest, Brideshead Revisited, a billion others I guess)? there ought to be a ton. I would read them all.)

and have you read other adult Aikens? Like The Ash Tree maybe? Unlike Morningquest I can't just go around recommending it to people but I just read it and it is WILD. It is like a lost Tanith Lee or something.

siniichulok

@queenofbithynia Yes I am, I swear! I have been hunting for more adult Aikens ever since reading Morningquest. I remember reading one when I was, like, 10 (and probably way too young), about this girl who has a celebrity crush on Charles I, but I don't remember anything else about it. I've been meaning to read Brideshead Revisited, and now I have to find out who those Tricksters are....I don't know of any critical essays on that topic, but now I'm inspired to look!

maybe partying will help

"Indeed, L’Engle’s family habitually refer to all her memoirs as “pure fiction,” and, conversely, consider her novels to be the most autobiographical—though to them equally invasive—of her books."

I've only read her novels, but based on the life-bits presented in the New Yorker piece, this seems right on.

also Polly 5ever.

maybe partying will help

@maybe partying will help

More importantly I need thebestjasmine and anyone else interested to come talk about The Other Side of the Sun.

thebestjasmine

@maybe partying will help I'M HERE I'M HERE. Also, a lottttt of people in these comments are going on my List for saying bad things about Polly. And Vicky, for that matter.

Gracious!

@maybe partying will help @thebestjasmine

Dragons in the Waters is still one of my favorite L'Engles. A 14-year-old Poly is on a ship to Venezuela with Charles. They make friends with 13-year-old Simon Renier, who has an amazing 90-year-old aunt — Aunt Leonis.

Aunt Leonis Phair 5ever and Aunt Olivia Renier 5ever.

thebestjasmine

@Gracious! I LOVE THE REINERS IN ALL FORMS. SIMON AND RENNY AND OLIVIA AND EVVVVVVVERYONE.

Gracious!

@thebestjasmine Remember how Aunt Olivia has the last word with Aunt Irene during the carriage ride? That is what I said to Mike Huckabee a few days ago. (Through my computer screen.)

Gracious!

@Gracious! (Oh, whoops — I just checked the book, and I remembered the sequence of events wrong. I was thinking of the line just before the parasol.)

maybe partying will help

@Gracious!

If I can grow up to be a tenth as saucy and awesome as Aunt Olivia OR Aunt Leonis, that will be fine.

Renny, you guys. Like...I understand the appeal of Zachary and Adam (especially Adam) and whatnot but RENNY. I think in A House Like a Lotus Max calls him "dear, square Renny" and what can I say, I guess I like squares.

Gracious!

@maybe partying will help Those are my New Year's resolutions for 2013 right there: look for ways to become a tenth as saucy as Aunt Olivia sometimes, and a tenth as awesome as Aunt Leonis. And keep looking for a boyfriend as square and lovable as Edward Ferrars, or as cheerful and smart as Mr. Knightley, or with Henry Tilney's sense of humor. (To mix up my immortal authors a little.)

queenofbithynia

Can someone (Nicole perhaps?) tell me if I should just read the book where Sandy and Dennys go back in time to hang out with Biblical patriarchs and sleep with their daughters and (I am assuming) not save the world from the flood? It is the only one of the whole bunch I never read -- I read all the wrinkles in times and all the memoirs and all the various perfect artist family books but I never read the one where the earth got what was coming to it. But I will if someone (anyone) tells me to.

Aeroplane

@queenofbithynia Many Waters is a good book! It's a real departure from her standard though, since it combines some wacky-ass monsters/creatures/society and time-travel; usually it's just one or the other.

But it's great because Sandy and Dennys are actually characters in this one, and there are tiny mastodons, etc.

maybe partying will help

@queenofbithynia

I remember being alternately baffled and enchanted by it as a kid. I should reread it--it's one of the only ones I haven't reread as an adult.

SuperGogo

@queenofbithynia Many Waters is actually the first L'Engle book I read. I didn't realize it was an outlier until much later. The biblical angle makes it weird, but no weirder than the Bible's own rendition of the flood story, which it's totally bizarre.

queenofbithynia

All right then, I am convinced, I will read that one for Christmas. I always read a bunch of children's books on my winter vacation and I need to stop rotating the same five or six sets [1] and get some new ones in there. this will help.

[1] the Narnias, the Susan Coopers, the Westmarks, the Assistant Pig-Keepers, the wrinkles in timeses, the Dido Twites, and lately the Box of Delightses. [2] but that is all and I need more. I feel like great children's books are going unwritten because everyone's time is taken up with all this silly YA business this decade.

[2] E. Nesbits just don't cut it. would that they did.

christonacracker

@queenofbithynia it's so bizarre, but I loved it when I was a kid. I should re-read.

rasko

@queenofbithynia Yes! You should read it! As a kid I remember trying to read it several times and getting bored, then finally something click and I actually did read it. Several times. Lately I have been having a craving to re-read everything that Madeleine L'engle ever wrote.

City_Dater

@queenofbithynia

I re-read it recently. It is the first book in which the Murray family began to wear on me ("we're too damn smart and attractive to ever have conflicts!"), and even the writing is much less surefooted. Sandy and Dennys LOVE to tell each other things they both already know so any reader who may have forgotten WRINKLE or PLANET can get up to speed. Ugh. It made me miss being a child who too caught up in the story to notice these things.

melis

@queenofbithynia Ohhh my God yes. It is campier than camp. It's like a summer camp for a bunch of tiny little summer camps. Super-scheming mega-sluts, bitchy gay angels with wings, everyone's naked all the time, tiny lil mammoths running around, and also Sandy and Dennys basically happily settle into a kind-of-poly relationship with Yalith, which is amazing. It's so great. SO GREAT.

Dances With Nerds

@queenofbithynia Susan Cooper was my Christmas reading for years. So great!

maybe partying will help

@Emily Chapman@twitter

The title book of TDIR is def still my Christmas reading. I start it on December 21, as you do, and try to finish up on Christmas Day.

queenofbithynia

@melis all right already SOLD

man

BattyRabbit

@Aeroplane I forgot about the tiny mastodons!!! Maybe when I see my fam at Christmas I will see if my mum still has a copy and pinch it. I need some weird angel sex, and mastodons.

siniichulok

@queenofbithynia If you like fictionalized medieval Wales with magic (thinking of assistant pig-keepers here), have you read Wise Child and Juniper, both by Monica Furlong? They're about healers and magic in medieval Scotland and Cornwall.

theotherginger

@siniichulok I am going home for Christmas today. Now I will go directly from the train to the public library and learn about this mythical Susan Cooper you people keep talking about.

Nicole Cliffe

GET ON IT SHE IS ACE

Lucienne

@queenofbithynia Westmark! I love Westmark, and I rarely find mention of it, so I just wanted to express how glad I am that you did.

siniichulok

@Lucienne Westmark!! I haven't thought about Westmark in YEARS! Why couldn't I have known all of you when I was younger and first reading this stuff?

Lucienne

@siniichulok The world is a cruel place. :(

Priscilla Peel

@queenofbithynia Are the Diana Wynne Jones books on your list already? Because they are so good, and if you already like her, you should check out her compilation of other people's fantasy stories, Spellbound. It led me to Box of Delights and Eva Ibbotson and lots of other good stuff.

somewhatafraid

@queenofbithynia I am just here to add my voice in saying that as a ten year old girl, I was convinced that Many Waters was the peak of the world's literary output. Many Waters and Little Women...can you tell I'm an only child?

siniichulok

@siniichulok Also, this just occurred to me and is a little different--but if you like the historical-setting-infused-with-magic genre, there's this book by Jo Graham called Black Ships, which is sort of a retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of a Trojan slave girl born among the Achaeans who reunites with the Trojans and becomes their oracle as they go on their travels. (The magic being her oracular powers)It has somewhat more mature themes than a lot of YA fantasy (though maybe not, nowadays), but it delivers that same kind of feeling.

PatatasBravas

When I wasn't re-reading A Wrinkle in Time obsessively, I remember reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet and loving it while also being like WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK every thirty pages. Now I want to re-read it, because my memory is that a lot of it dealt with oppressed groups and with ideas of agency.

Did it work out well? Was it problematic in a way I don't remember?

maybe partying will help

@PatatasBravas

A recent blog post (not mine but another Pinner's, I think?) on that book: http://kissmywonderwoman.blogspot.com/2012/11/this-is-not-political-blog-lets-read.html

PatatasBravas

@maybe partying will help Yeahhhhh I'm curious about the white-washing of Native American groups, and the odd political possibilities in the South American bits. Will re-read this holiday season and report back!

theotherginger

@PatatasBravas that one was so weird. I might reread it tonight!

noReally

Loved her. Loved. But, she was kind of a 'phobe. Especially in her adult fic.

BattyRabbit

I'm so mad now that I loaned all my L'Engle books to a friend for the break and so can't flip through them to refresh m'self and join the conversation! Urrrrgh! That asshole better wanna chat about them when he brings them back.

BattyRabbit

@BattyRabbit Also, is it A Wind in the Door that has all the talk of mitochondria? Yes, it is, thanks Wikipedia. I remember reading the scene about (named!) mitochondria containing happy little bunny-like entities that dance around, then looking up mitochondria in a textbook and seeing a dumb old wrinkly beanshaped thing and being all "What a rip-off, science!"

FloraPosteHaste

@BattyRabbit But the bunny shrimp mice things were farandolae; the mitochondria was where they lived, sort of like their planet.

BattyRabbit

@FloraPosteHaste Yeah, the mitochondria were like their happy little forest homes! Then I looked them up and they were just boring orange blobs (ALWAYS orange!)...no tiny bunnyshrimps could live happily there. :( Heartbreak.

theotherginger

I just read the article. Such a good story! Destroys the image of a perfect person, which I never had, because she wasn't so beloved an author I took to reading her memoirs. (I did this with LM Montgomery, and have heavily procrastinated on reading her journals and new biography)

Diana

Sorry, ya'll, but this is my sacred calf. I genuinely loved the Austin family and it never occurred to me to roll my eyes about their perfection, I just wanted to be them with all my heart. A Ring of Endless Light is the best book. It is the Martin Short of books. Haters can step to the left, because they are blocking my path to dolphins, hot marine biologist assistants, and transcendental grace.

thebestjasmine

@Diana RIGHT? I HATE ALL Y'ALL WHO SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT ANY OF THE AUSTINS OR THE MURRAYS, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE WHO HATE LOVE AND MUSIC AND GOOD FOOD AND JOY???

AmandathePanda

@Diana Thank goodness someone else is with me here! So what if they're a little too perfect! That book was balm to my soul when I read it, continuously, as a teenager. I love L'Engle and always will.

maybe partying will help

@Diana

Yeah, like, there's a passage in (I think) Troubling a Star where Vicky is muttering lines from Shakespeare and Suzy calls her on it and says she's a snob and a hermit, basically, and that was so me when I was a teenager. Maybe not something to be proud of, but relatable and real.

thebestjasmine

@maybe partying will help I also don't get people who think the Austins or O'Keefes are too perfect. Vicky and Susie fought all the time! Mr. and Mrs. Austin had their own issues! Polly and Xan bickered all the time. And yet they all still loved each other. LIKE FAMILIES DO.

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