Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Birthday: "Conversion for me was not a Damascus Road experience. I slowly moved into an intellectual acceptance of what my intuition had always known."


Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)
Author, poet

Despite the curse laid upon it by Snoopy in the Peanuts cartoon strip, “It was a dark and stormy night” got good results for both the authors who used it to begin their books. Edward Bulwer-Lytton led with it in Paul Clifford (1830), and Madeleine L’Engle dusted it off for her young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, a hundred thirty-two years later.

Born in a well-off family, L’Engle was privately educated, in a succession of school and by a gaggle of governesses, who were fairly unanimous in their verdict that the child was slow. She managed to get into Smith College, graduating in 1941, and the next year, while playing in a production of The Cherry Orchard, she met an actor called Hugh Franklin.

He acted; she wrote; they dated. Her first novel was published in 1945. They married the next year. Although she published more books- two in 1949, one in 1951 and 1957, she didn’t make much from them and the decade was one full of rejection letters.

The couple moved to Connecticut in 1952, started a family, and ran a general store to offset Franklin’s loss of acting income. By 1959 it was apparent he needed to return to the stage to support the family. They went on a ten-week camping trip before moving back to the city, and on that trip L’Engle got an idea for a story.

Back in New York, she published another novel, the first in a series featuring a family called Austin, in 1960. The camping trip idea, which turned into the young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected by 26 publishers in a row.
As The Writer's Almanac notes,

Many thought it was too hard for children, and others thought that a science fiction novel shouldn’t have a female as a main character. So L’Engle gave up on the book.
That year, her mother visited for Christmas, and L’Engle hosted a tea party for her mother’s old friends. One of those friends was in a writing group with John Farrar of the publishing house Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. They didn’t publish young adult fiction, but the woman insisted that L’Engle meet Farrar and at least show him the manuscript.
Farrar published the book in 1963. It won the Newberry Medal and, by the year L’Engle died, had sold eight million copies and was in its 69th printing.
L’Engle, who took no sciences classes in college, read a book about Einstein and quantum physics that camping summer of 1959. She borrowed some of his ideas, and a few of the physicist Max Planck's, and came up with the idea of a kidnapped scientist's daughter leading her siblings through space and time to rescue him.
In addition to being one of the most popular YA books ever- annual librarians’ lists consistently rank it #2, behind Charlotte’s Web- the book has gained legions of detractors. The New York Times obituary for L’Engle noted,
“Wrinkle” has been one of the most banned books in the United States, accused by religious conservatives of offering an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurturing in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy.

Ms. L’Engle, who often wrote about her Christian faith, was taken aback by the attacks. “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it,” Ms. L’Engle said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. “Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.”

A Wrinkle in Time made L’Engle’s name as a writer. She did a number of sequels, and also published extensively in poetry, plays, autobiography and religious/inspirational fields: some 47 books in all. She collected over two dozen honorary degrees and maintained an active career as a speaker into her mid-eighties. She spent thirty years as Writer in Residence at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Hugh Franklin, who made a successful Broadway and television comeback, had a long run as Dr Charles Tyler on All My Children. He also did turns on Love of Life, As The World Turns and Dark Shadows, always playing characters the critic Clive Barnes called “irrepressibly urbane.” Increasing hearing loss forced his retirement in 1983, and he died three years later.

A crater on the planet Mercury was named for L’Engle in 2013.

#HenryBemisBooks #LiteraryBirthdays #MadeleineLEngle

No comments:

Post a Comment

We enjoy hearing from visitors! Please leave your questions, thoughts, wish lists, or whatever else is on your mind.