Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Literary Wander

Or pacing. Or zigzag. Or slam dance. You decide.

I had kind of a stressful day today. I got messages on my cell phone from two friends. One, who was hospitalized yesterday morning with pneumonia, called to say they were moving her to isolation. Kind of scary! I should have called her back, but was distracted by the next message, from my other friend, whose son...well, I can't tell you about it, but it's a serious non-health crisis that may be insoluble. John advised me to "stay out of it," but I strongly disagree, at least at the level of offering my friend a little emotional support and friendly advice. It's not as if I were planning to intervene. But John's isolationist stance, intended to protect me, only added to my upset. I was also annoyed with myself for forgetting my promise to leave a message for Father Smith that J. was in the hospital. I'll have to do that tomorrow.

So how did I cheer myself up? Not by going to bed, which was my original plan. Seeking distraction, I checked my watchlist on Wikipedia, and spent the next several hours improving half a dozen articles related to Madeleine L'Engle.

Given the right frame of mind, it's easy to get drawn into this kind of thing. It started when I noticed an edit to the article for The Moon By Night, the second Vicky Austin novel. Someone was fixing a vandal edit that months ago changed the words "the existence of a loving God" to "the existence of a loving cow." Other uncharming nonsense had been fixed back in September, when I apparently wasn't paying attention; but that bit got missed. Paging back through the article's history, I saw a phrase was missing. So I fixed that, and tightened two sentences, and I was off and, er, wandering!

Another L'Engle article had a new paragraph comparing Vicky Austin with the author herself. The name L'Engle was given as "L'engle," one word was spelled as who words, and there was no citation for the material. So I rewrote the paragraph, and dug through Suncatcher (a combination biography and literary and theological study about L'Engle) for an appropriate page. I found one, and another page to cover Vicky's relationship with her family, and one for Vicky's relationship with her grandfather, and one for Vicky's struggle with the problem of evil. While I was at it I found an appropriate page reference in L'Engle's book A Circle of Quiet to replace a more generic listing. Then I researched citations for the Zachary Gray and kything articles, removed a link to a deleted article (when did that happen?) in the L'Engle navigation template, and added a fair used rationale to one of my own L'Engle covers I'd somehow missed. Somewhere in there I added a fair use rationale to someone else's book cover image from 2005, discovered that the Zachary Gray article lacked a novels project template, and upgraded the assessment on the Vicky article. Most dangerous of all, I pulled down a different literary study of L'Engle that's been sitting on my shelf unperused for about a decade, and started pulling citations from that, too. And suddenly it was 1 AM!

No, I don't expect you to follow all that, or to care. But the weird thing is this. When I was in college the first time, the reason I didn't graduate was that I could not handle writing one more literary essay. I left school with four or five incompletes, all in English, one of my two majors, all due to unwritten papers. Over twenty years later I sort of overcame it, writing papers on much duller subjects than literature (well, sometimes) for the University of Phoenix. But even today, I find books about L'Engle's writing and religious views a bit of a slog, including those by L'Engle herself.

And yet, I had a heck of a lot of fun tonight, digging through four different books for a paragraph or two in support of something I or someone else wrote about L'Engle and her work online, reworking paragraphs and adding info and insights. It cheered me right up! If it weren't clearly insane, I'd go read about what Donald R. Hettinga has to say about A Wrinkle in Time and incorporate bits into several more articles, the moment I finished this blog entry.

Fortunately, I'm not quite that self-destructive. Not tonight, anyway.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think you should write a fictional book.
you are an awesome writer.