Publisher’s Weekly reports today that Madeleine L’Engle died last night at the age of 89. From what I can tell, it was probably related to old age, and I hope that she passed peacefully.
I cannot say enough how much Madeleine L’Engle’s work affected my life. It was in the fourth grade when Mrs. Hawes gave me a copy of A Wrinkle in Time that the world of fantasy and science fiction was opened up to me. It was my gifted project for a time to read the book and underline any word I didn’t know so that I could look it up–and she had some doozies right on the first page. It’s because of Madeleine L’Engle that I know the word tangible, which I always thought sounded so interesting.
It also appalled me to be underlining words in a book–you didn’t do that to books! It makes me sad that sometime in the intervening years I lost that copy, because that old cover brings back a lot of good memories.
I then went on that year and the next to devour any Madeleine L’Engle books I could find, especially the ones about Meg and her family. But my favorite today is A Ring of Endless Light, which I checked out again and again. I was fascinated with the idea of being able to talk to dolphins. I believe that was the book in which she had character crossover from the Austins to the O’Keefes, too, though it’s been years and I can’t remember rightly. I just bought a new copy of that book, though, and I intend to relive that experience soon. Let’s hope it’s one of those childhood reading experiences that hold up to an adult reading! I reread A Wrinkle in Time in grad school and was surprised at how heavy handed it felt at times, and yet how omnipresent some of the ideas of IT (which I kept reading as I.T., as in the I.T. department!) and the same little children throwing same little balls feel regarding today. I had no concept during my first read in 1984–yes, that seems a fun little fact for me, given the book’s few similarities to the book 1984–of how the book had been written 20-odd years before. (I wa
s also into Trixie Belden at the time; sometimes I feel like I grew up in the 50s and 60s with all the older books and comics I read!)
Anyway, I owe Madeleine L’Engle a big thank you for sparking my imagination in those years. Her books were amazing and I would be lucky for the books I help create to touch readers in the same way hers touched me.