A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday David M. Schwartz (How Much Is a Million) and Maggie Stern (The Missing Sunflowers).
- Itâ€™s Square Dance Day. Youâ€™re never too old for Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton!
- In 1910 the first U.S. patent for traffic lights was issued. Read Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman.
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Louisa May Alcott (1832â€“1888), Little Women.
On November 29 we celebrate the birth date of one of Americaâ€™s most beloved authors. Madeleine Lâ€™Engle was born in 1918 and throughout her life faced many obstacles, including roughly twenty-seven rejections of the book that made her famous, A Wrinkle in Time. Her father was a troubled manâ€”she frequently spoke of him in public as someone who had been gassed in the trenches during World War I. In fact his problems stemmed from alcoholism. She would also loose a son to that disease. And yet Lâ€™Engle endured these hardships and even triumphed by writing through her problems. An abiding religious faith led Lâ€™Engle to a position of Writer-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. Johnâ€™s the Divine in New York. Today at the cathedral, the Empire State Center for the Book will be dedicating a literary landmark in honor of this extraordinary woman.
For those who want to understand this complex woman, Leonard S. Marcus has published a fascinating volume: Listening for Madeleine. Marcus interviews more than fifty people and gives each one a chapter in the book as he explores the many facets of Lâ€™Engleâ€™s personality. Some people give testimony about Madeleine as a young woman; others talk about her professional life; and family members provide a more intimate portrait. Although no single interview can be used to depict Lâ€™Engle, when the pieces are read together they reveal a Â fascinating, often contradictory, personality. Genealogical researchers are often told to find enough material so that they could go up to an ancestor and shake hands with them. At the end of this book, readers will feel they could recognize Lâ€™Engle because she emerges as a real flesh-and-blood figure.
The art of interviewing is often unappreciated. Hours of interview taping can lead to only one or two pages in a final book. Material needs to be arranged and rearranged. Leonard Marcus has always been brilliant in this format, and he is at his best in this book. Leonard uses his own questions sparingly, only to provide transitions with the material he needs.
Everyone will, no doubt, have a favorite section of the book. I first read the part on Lâ€™Engle as writer. Other writers, such as Judy Blume, testify to Lâ€™Engleâ€™s crusade for First Amendment rights. Publishing insidersâ€”James Cross Giblin, George Nicholson, Patricia Lee Gauch, Bridgit Marmion, Sandra Jordan, Beverly Horowitz, Neal Porter, and Stephen Roxburgâ€”give a sense of Lâ€™Engle as a professional writer.
Anyone who has been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in TimeÂ Â this year will want to pick up this volume. It is the next best thing to having dinner with Madeleine Lâ€™Engle herself.
Hereâ€™s a section from Leonard Marcusâ€™s introduction to Listening for Madeleine:
For Lâ€™Engle herself, winning the Newbery Medal proved to be a liberating experience on several accounts. It gave her the professional validation she had been hungering for throughout the years of self-imposed exile in Goshen. It cemented her relationship with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, a distinguished literary house where she would have the freedom to experiment across genres and readerships. It substantially boosted both her current income and her long-term financial prospects, and as invitations to speak at library conventions and schools all around the country began to pour in, it gave her a new platform from which to perform in public and a whole new world of librarian and educator friends.
Originally posted November 29, 2012. Updated for .