“I do not know everything; still many things I understand.” Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time”
Most of my favorite authors didn’t come into my life through a best-seller list or, horrors, a summer reading list. It’s pretty much been serendipity.
One recent favorite, Madeline L’Engle, was discovered in the local library. I know, there’s nothing new about her. She was hugely famous in her time and remains so, most notably because of her Newberry Award-winning, A Wrinkle In Time, which was made into a movie last year.
I met her, oddly enough, through, Two-Part Invention, a dramatically lesser-read autobiography of her love story with husband Hugh Franklin. I was wandering the non-fiction stacks and was surprised to see her name on the front of a non-fiction work. I picked it up, took it home and was immediately hooked. I am now reading through L’Engle’s body of work.
Interestingly, even though I will never meet the now-late author, I realize I will likely know her by heart by the time I am through. It’s the interplay of her auto-biography and her fiction. She’s there — still living and breathing — on every page of her work.
Fatherless daughter themes? L’Engle’s own father’s lungs were damaged in World War I. He was sick when she was born and died when she was 17. Drama and mystery? She was a stage actress, as was her husband, who later starred in the All My Children soap opera. Time-bending themes? She loved science, delving into the writings of Einstein — a year of such study was the inspiration for A Wrinkle in Time.
She also loved both a rambling old house in Connecticut and an apartment in New York. Both places show up in her work at various times. As does adoption. One of her children was the suddenly orphaned child of close friends. Yet another peek at her heart: She was a Christian and was deeply hurt when her fantasy work was criticized by some church groups.
I come by this type of author-immersion honestly. My mom and grandma did similar things with the works of Jack London, John Steinbeck and Gene Stratton-Porter, even wrapping up body-of-work reading sprees with visits to their homes, now museums.
It’s an odd hobby, perhaps, but one that would probably serve any writer well. How about you, fellow writers? Does anyone have any author “friends” they want to share?