Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rereading L'Engle

"When we read stories like L’Engle’s as adults, we are in many ways handicapped. They’re a tougher sell than they were when we read them in our youth, because a lot of us have lost that faith. We do not believe life is always worth the struggle. We fear that relationships aren’t worth the pain. Or, like Zachary Grey, we’re bored with life — “So bored it hurts like a toothache.” We lack the childlike trust, the sense of wonder it takes to enter into the kingdom of a book. I believe that’s related somehow to the reluctance we sometimes have to enter fully into our own, present lives." - Sarah Zarr in the LA Review of Books
This whole essay is a beautiful piece of writing.  It's insightful and lovely, warm and distinct.  It makes me want to reread books and bump up the item on my to do list that says, "Read everything L'Engle ever wrote."  It's specific and general at the same time.  (Genius, I tell you.  It should be in textbooks!)  As long as you read books as a child or teen and have ever gone back and reread them later, even if you haven't read any of the books about the Austins, this essay will still make sense.  (Of course, if you are familiar with L'Engle's work, it will be even more spectacular.)

One of the things I love about rereading books is that sometimes they are completely different books because I am a completely different person.  The Vorkosigan Saga is like that for me.  (For example, the first few times I read the novella "Borders of Infinity, " I thought it was good.  Then there was this one time in grad school when I read it, and it was just brilliant and transcendent.  And it stayed so for several years after that.)  And Ender's Game.  And the Bible (particular books).

I suspect this kind of wrestling with the text when you are a different person in a different place is easier if the books are "adult" books even if you first read them as a 12-year-old.  I agree that L'Engle always put a tremendous amount of faith in her readers.  I didn't really feel talked down to, whether I was reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet or Meet the Austins. But there is still a slight difference in the experience of going back to read them again as an older person.  Zarr really captures some of that in her essay.

And Wikipedia wants us all to know that "In 2013, a crater on Mercury was named after L'Engle."

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