Friday, November 13, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle Nonfiction

If you missed yesterday's post on Madeleine LEngle's fiction, you might want to go check that out first.

As much as I love L'Engle's fiction, I also adore her non-fiction. Most people would turn to her Crosswicks Journals first as opposed to her work on religion or her poetry. "A Circle Of Quiet," "The Summer of the Great-Grandmother," and "The Irrational Season" are great books about writing, faith, life, and family, but there's something special about "Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage." Part of it for me is the connection to Bach and the not-so-subtle ties between Bach's music and the marriage of Madeleine L'Engle and Hugh Franklin. Like "The Story of the von Trapp Family Singers," "Two Part Invention" takes you from before Madeleine and Hugh meet until "death do them part." The story isn't all bright and shiny, but it isn't doom and gloom either. And L'Engle weaves in humor when appropriate.

Some examples: "When Hugh and I get angry at each other we tend to be explosive, both of us being volatile. But we never nibble and chip. And our anger never lasts beyond bedtime. When it happens, and I suspect there's no marriage where it doesn't, it's a good, clean anger, clearing the air. The explosions are not physical, but they are volatility vocal. And I am reminded of one woman who, when asked if she had ever contemplated divorcing her husbad, replied, Divorce, never! Murder, yes!"

"One summer early our living at Crosswicks, a stage-designer friend came with his wife for the weekend. one morning he broke an ashtray andtried to flush it down the toilet. The result was total blockage. Hugh and I watched in awe as neighboring friends showed us how to drain the toilet, unscrew it from the floor, lift it, retrieve the china pieces of the broken ashtray, and put the toilet back together again. For a while we had a sign warning, PLEASE DO NOT PUT ASHTRAYS DOWN THE TOILET, but it was not a frequently made mistake."

"Two-Part" also gives insight into the autobiographical portion of a number of L'Engles books, including parts of "A Severed Wasp." I assume that the book isn't telling the whole story, but even for a partial story, it is incredibly illuminating and something to aspire to.

A few weeks ago, at my church library, I found a book of poetry by L'Engle, "The Weather of the Heart." It is both hilarious and heartfelt. A mix of love poems, religious poems, and science poems, as well as poems that mix some or all those elements. There's not much else to say other than to share some poems with you.

Love Letter
I hate you, God.
Love, Madeleine.

I write my message on water
and at bedtime I tiptoe upstairs
and let it flow under your door.

When I am angry with you
I know that you are there
even if you do not answer my knock
even when your butler opens the door an inch
and flaps his thousand wings in annoyance
at such untoward interruption
and says that the master is not at home.

I love you, Madeleine.
Hate, God.

(This is how I treat my friends, he said to one great saint.
No wonder you have so few of them, Lord, she replied.)

I cannot turn the other cheek
It takes all the strength I have
To keep my fist from hitting back
the soldiers shot the baby
the little boys trample the old woman
the gutters are filled with groans
while pleasure seekers knock each other down
in order to get their tickets stamped first.

I'm turning in my ticket
and my letter of introduction.
You're supposed to do the knocking. Why do you burst my heart?

How can I write you
to tell you that I'm angry
when I've been given the wrong address
and I don't even know your real name?

I take hammer and nails
and tack my message on two crossed pieces of wood:

Dear God
is it too much to ask you
to bother to be?
Just show your hindquarters
and let me hear you roar.


To a Long Loved Love: 1

We, who have seen the new moon grow old together,
Who have seen winter rime the fields and stones
As thought it would claim earth and water forever,
We who have known the touch of flesh and the shape of bones
Know the old moon stretching its shadows across a whitened field
More beautiful than spring with all its spate of blooms;
What passion knowledge of tried flesh still yields,
What joy and comfort these familiar rooms.

So that's some poetry. I don't like it nearly as much as the non-fiction. But in interest of exposing you to everything I thought I should show it. Plus I don't like most poetry, so I was surprised to even comprehend any of this.

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