Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007
I know that you all have probably heard by now.
I loved Meg Murry. Still do. But as an extremely awkward nine-year-old, I didn't just love her, I identified with her. And a few years later, when I re-read it, I envied her ability to express her anger.
(She didn't quite see it that way, as I remember, but I still envied her. And, of course, I loved the rest of the Murry family. And Calvin. But my real connection was with Meg.)
She once told National Public Radio that she was in a phase of searching for a better understanding of theology when "I just came across a phrase of Einstein's, which completely excited me. He said, 'Anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burned-out candle.'
"And I thought, 'Oh! There's my theologian.' "
It was a dark and stormy night, and we fell in love with Meg Murry.
She was a sour social misfit, an underachieving mathlete -- the improbable antihero of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" in an era when most kid-lit heroines were wholesome Nan Bobbseys. Though L'Engle, who died on Thursday, wrote more than 50 novels, to those who loved the Murry family her other works seemed interesting side projects, the equivalent of discovering that Beethoven had also enjoyed cooking. "Wrinkle" and its four fantastical sequels were her masterpieces and our revelations.
Madeleine regaled us with tales of her father, a newspaper foreign correspondent, who was once chased by pirates down the Yangtze River. We listened as she described the elegant Swiss boarding school she attended and how much she hated it. And she spoke of her early years in New York, when she acted occasionally and was an assistant to the once famous New York actress, Eva LaGallienne.
She had early success as a writer and published several books before meeting and marrying Hugh Franklin, a handsome young actor who became an accomplished stage actor and found fame as Dr. Charles Tyler on All My Children. After his death in 1986, she wrote about their seemingly idyllic marriage in The Two-Part Invention. Later, Josephine told me: "I read that book, and I don't know whose marriage she was writing about."
But it was in her vivid children’s characters that readers most clearly glimpsed her passionate search for answers to the questions that mattered most. She sometimes spoke of her writing as if she were taking dictation from her subconscious.
“Of course I’m Meg,” Ms. L’Engle said about the beloved protagonist of “A Wrinkle in Time.”
A much more complete round-up of links here.