Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

I’ve just read that Madeleine L’Engle has died. When I first discovered her books, more than twenty years ago, I thought she was great, though rather odd. Her theology was definitely odd (and remained so).
Some of her books were absorbing, some I just couldn’t get into. I don’t know what the name of it was now, but one that concerned the Biblical period in history when there were giants in the land and they had possibly been brought into being by intercourse between angelic beings and human women I found way off the wall. There was another one I read recently that used L’Engle’s experiences in Antarctica - again I’ve forgotten the name. It struck me as just badly written.
But form and shape haven’t always been her strong points, I think. She’s almost at her best when she’s meandering, musing, thinking things through on the page, as she does in the book about writing and the creative arts, or the one about the death of her husband. You just have to go where she takes you, whether you agree or disagree with her.
Some of her novels have that feeling about them - even A Wrinkle in Time. It’s as if the story goes its own way, and L’Engle lets it, for better or worse. I’m sure she was a much better writer than that, and that the novels do have a shape and form that we don’t always perceive. But things about them can annoy as well as please.
There’s a very good article on her work still available on the Books and Culture website (ignore the book titles scattered throughout it - they must have been advertising that’s got caught up in the middle of the article).
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