Monday, April 12, 2004

Updates; L'Engle Controversy

Monday, April 12, 2004
2:38:00 PM MST
Updates and Things to Come

I just revised my recommended authors page to include links to some author-related websites, particularly for Harlan Ellison and Douglas Adams. The most recent addition to the Mâvarin material is a page for Li Ramet (see below).

Still to come: one more religious entry to finish off my series of Lenten/Easter reflections and self-examination. Please understand, everyone, that these are not intended as a criticism of anyone else's religious, agnostic or atheist views. They are merely a sharing of my experience and information concerning Episcopal practices as I've observed them in recent years.

Also, I will be writing about an article in the current issue of The New Yorker about Madeleine L'Engle [link to be updated]. To fans of this wonderful writer, the article is somewhat upsetting. I will offer some perspective on this as soon as I have a moment to do so. Meanwhile, I'm terribly behind on my schoolwork!

And finally, I have a rant in my head about all the pictures of Rani I've gotten poor Sherlock to do over the past several weeks. I will probably post about this on AOL and to the UrsaMajor email list rather than here. Stay tuned.


Written by mavarin

This entry has 2 comments:

This is going to sound lame, but I don't know how to access Usenet any more. I haven't been on rec.arts anything in over a decade. - KFB
Comment from mavarin - 4/16/04 10:35 PM

If you have access to Usenet, you might check out rec.arts.books.childrens when you have a chance. A discussion of the L'Engle article is already under way and is, so far, troll-free.


Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/14/04 2:57 PM

Friday, April 16, 2004
11:03:00 PM MST
L'Engle news and perpectives

As many people know, Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite writers, probably my very favorite writer. I maintain an online bibliography to her work, although I've been very delinquent in updating it in recent years. Here's the link to the main page, which I just updated:

Two recent bits of L'Engle-related news have caused quite a stir among her fans. The first is good news: after years of delay, the 3-hour adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time will air on Monday, May 10th. I was beginning to worry that it wouldn't air during the writer's lifetime.
The other news is that there was a profile of Madeleine L'Engle in an early April issue of The New Yorker. Normally, I'd say this was a good thing, but the article was upsetting. L'Engle's children and grandchildren, who were interviewed extensively for the article, allege that L'Engle's nonfiction is too fictional, that her fiction is too real (and therefore an invasion of their privacy), that Hugh Franklin cheated on L'Engle, and that her son--well, never mind. Basically they resent appearing in her work, both under their own names and in the form of fictional characters with similar traits or experiences.

After reading the article, I have to say that my opinion of L'Engle is not much diminished, but I'm quite annoyed with her progeny--not for telling their version of the truth, but for their obvious resentment of these wonderful books.

Every writer is told to "write what you know!" Not all do so, but many, like L'Engle, take bits of their lives and the lives of loved ones, and twist and fictionalize them into something more interesting and dramatic. L'Engle has been doing this, and doing it extremely well, since the 1940s. There is nothing wrong with this, in my opinion.

What is wrong, it seems to me, is that now when L'Engle in her mid-80s and in less than perfect health, her relatives have decided to blurt to the national press their condemnation of the books that damaged their lives by invading their privacy. I can see that it would be difficult for them, but nobody's life is perfect. This article seems like a long-delayed betrayal on their part.


Written by mavarin (Link to this entry)

This entry has 2 comments:

Didn't Christopher R. Milne have problems in adulthood dealing with his father's having frozen him in childhood in the Pooh books?

I can understand that sort of resentment -- I'd have big problems with my mother or father publishing the names of my childhood stuffed toys and imaginary playmates; fortunately, neither is an author -- but the long delay by the L'Engle children and grandchildren is hard to figure. Could it be that no writer of a L'Engle profile had thought to talk to them before this one? You've written plenty on her -- had you ever sought out the children and grandchildren?

That said, it does seem as though some sort of resentment of some aspect of their relationships with L'Engle, not just resentment of being used as fictional characters, may be at work here. It's petty and quite unseemly at this stage of the game, agreed, but when feelings are hurt nasty words are often spoken. We don't know what L'Engle has said, privately, to these people over the years; perhaps they have been hurt as well.


Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/19/04 7:59 PM

A lot of humor columnists write about their families, as do many writers. Gerrold (sp) Durrell wrote a book, My Family and Other Animals, and really got up close and personal. To take offense at a fictional work seems odd. I suspect they didn't have a good relationship with their mother or they wouldn't be attacking her in public this way...
Comment from pagadan - 4/19/04 6:29 PM

Monday, April 19, 2004
10:01:00 PM MST

More on L'Engle controversy

I'm getting a variety of responses on this, not all on this page. Some people have more sympathy for the kids than others. One correspondent pointed out that children of celebrities pretty much inevitably suffer, but it seems to me there would be a spectrum there, too. A really abusive, troubled or unloving parent is going to do more damage than a stable, nurturing one, regardless of fame. Still, I suppose the fishbowl component is a genuine problem.

I've had very little contact with the children and grands, just the occasional email (usually a listserve or form letter) from one of the grandchildren, who issues biannual health updates. My impression from that is that until now the family has been protective of L'Engle, disseminating slightly rose-colored news and gradually taking over the writers' correspondence (the fan mail part of it, anyway). That makes the New Yorker gripefest all the more shocking.

For the record, I don't have much sympathy for Christopher Milne, either.

My mom wrote a couple of award-winning one act plays while she lived in Florida in the 1980s. She told me outright that the characters were based on me and my best friend growing up, Joel R. One of the plays has the pair running away together and hitchhiking across the country. I think the other one may have the characters married to each other. Joel and I never did anything of the sort. I've never read the plays, and never really thought much about them. As far as I'm concerned, the characters in them are just that--characters. They are my Mom's perspective of two real people at a certain time in their lives, filtered through my mom's own attitudes and personality, experiencing events that are mostly imaginary. Why should it upset me that Brevard County theatergoers once saw an actress portray someone a little like me, doing things I may or may not ever have done? Granted, that character isn't a world-famous magical child from a major literary work read by generations of children and adults, but I'm not sure that would change my response substantially. But who knows; maybe it would. If I ever come across those scripts in my mom's stuff and actually read them, I may have a clearer idea how L'Engle's progeny feel. Or not. I suppose if the character is depicted as cruelly betraying her mother, I'm not going to be happy about that--not because someone in Satellite Beach thinks Ruth Anne's daughter was mean to her, but because it would be a reflection of my mom's distorted perspective of my stormy relationship with her right after her divorce, which was very upsetting at the time.

I have to wonder whether the family trusted the New Yorker writer with candid remarks that were never intended for print. I also wonder, if L'Engle has read the article, what she thinks about it all. If she isn't bothered, maybe it's not such a terrible thing for the family to unburden themselves after all these years.


Written by mavarin

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The next entry from Musings, Otherworld Journal Entry #5: King Jor, can be found on Messages from Mâvarin.

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