Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reflections on writers, truth and stories

playing with rug.
So I read this troubling essay written a few years ago
about Madeleine L'Engle.
Troubling in part because while cleverly written
for a news article
it was not loving towards her.
And it said that Crosswicks was in New Jersey.
Now L'Engle may
by her own admission
merged fiction and non-fiction
but everyone knows it was in Connecticut.
A most blatant error that really bothers me.
I don't know much about New Jersey yet
but I do know that it is not at all like Connecticut
and I lived in Connecticut for many summers
in my twenties.
I heard Madeleine L'Engle speak once at Calvin
years ago with Luci Shaw.
And the love that radiated from Madeleine was palpable.
Very much a deep Grandmotherly love.
She is a contradictory writer
at once talking about the Holy Trinity
but yet alludes to other non-Christian writers/things.
I get that and can understand why
many would not want to read her.
Though it may be surprising for many to read
I would advise to read her with care
as sometimes she fudges
as one of my close friends has said
and not everything she writes should be believed
on the line of Theology
and some of her books if taken the line of thought
in one's life
will not lead to good places.
If one reads her more widely
one has to read carefully
and know more than one of her books
to see how she has changed and the various things
she has thought.
She is a jewel for many
especially the types like myself that are more
willing to be alone and to write.
Mr. Husband recently found three books in one by her
based on Genesis
and I read some of it over American Thanksgiving.
She is dealing with very different audiences
a conservative evangelical audience
that often scorned her
and a more secular audience
that today seems to be not only misunderstanding her
commitment to the Anglican church
but thinking her rootedness in any Christian tradition
to be merely weird or worse.
(Of course I left the Anglican church for many good reasons
and being Orthodox has opened many doors to me
that I wish L'Engle had opened for her,
she in many ways would of been quite at home here).
the book I started reading shows her struggling
with the way Anglicanism was going
more and more liberal
changing words
challenging gender roles;
I find her writing during this time
as compared to her earlier more firm stance
found in her book
walking on water:
reflections on faith and writing
on language and gender.
In this book she is trying to hold on to what she wrote
in walking on water but on the same time
trying to agree/grapple with the culture around her.
In my view she stumbles a bit and is quite
conflicted if you read carefully.
She is not someone to read blindly
but with full awareness and with love;
love as in charity.
As in seeing her writing as a process and
that she is trying to make sense of a
ever-changing world
and at times makes some wrong steps.
But one has to read her with charity
and then the goodness of her writing
can also surface
and there is still a lot of goodness and light.
Elizabeth Goudge is another one of my most favourite writers
and in many ways her writing is deeper than
Madeleine L'Engles and closer to the truth.
But Elizabeth Goudge is not always fully
as seen in her autobiography
fully correct.
But she can be loved.
L'Engle is needed for a lot of readers today.
I find it sad that current media/culture is totally
misunderstanding a lot of her love of church, language
and Christianity.
L'Engle can teach you a lot about forgiveness within
I once told a friend that once the teen years are done
the journey of forgiveness must begin;
 trying to make sense of our bringing up years
no matter how good our parents are
and let me tell you I have good ones
one needs to go through a process of forgiveness,
of making sense of one's early years
for the world does not deal lightly with any of us.
It is not simple to be an
Orthodox Christian in North America.
How to live,
what to read
what to listen to
everyone makes different decisions
and what we read
what we take in
can be a lot of who and how we become.
So we must walk
in charity
in carefulness
and in my mind
with continuing to read Psalms and the Scripture readings
as much as one can
and read the Saint stories.
They will help us understand things in our culture
and see things more clearly.
I am in the middle of reading a longer version of the story of
St. John the Compassionate
and am just loving the stories.
There is so much life in these stories.


Martha said...

My 11 year old daughter has read several book by Madeline L'Engel, and I hope that is well. I haven't read her recently and only remember reading "A Wrinkle in Time," in my youth and how that kind of fiction was so new to me. How awesome that you heard her speak! I think that reading Ayn Rand's novels are similar, you have to be careful, there are many good things that they write but much that needs to be forgotten!

elizabeth said...

There are a few books of her YA books that I would be esp. careful for - some are not for the young readers - feel free to email or FB me for more info on this - I've read her fairly extensively and can give you a quick run-down.

Have not read Ayn Rand, but know that her ideas, well, are not let's say... Orthodox...

Books, that said, sure are a blessing to us! Just need to have our wits about us...

Anna said...

Maybe the article's author confused Crosswicks, the place in New Jersey, with Crosswicks, Madeleine L'Engle's house in Connecticut. Lazy mistake if so! What was the article?

I agree with you about needing to read Madeleine L'Engle carefully - and I don't feel I have to agree with everything she writes or take it as academic or 'received' theology. She would certainly not have made a claim to be any kind of formal theologian! I think she is pretty clear about her ideas being exactly that, not more or less, and I think she would hope that her ideas were not simply swallowed whole by anybody, but prompted (or provoked) readers into developing their own ideas and finding out more. All the above is also true of e.g. CS Lewis.

elizabeth said...

Anna - I agree! I will email you the article.. I found it via your link the other day...

elizabeth said...

Anna - I emailed you, FYI.

E Helena E said...

Thank you for this, Elizabeth. I have read her journals and quite a bit of biographical material in the last few years. I'll keep your comments in mind when I go back to her fiction.

Donna Witek said...

"I once told a friend that once the teen years are done
the journey of forgiveness must begin;
trying to make sense of our bringing up years
no matter how good our parents are
and let me tell you I have good ones
one needs to go through a process of forgiveness,
of making sense of one's early years
for the world does not deal lightly with any of us."

This is very wise, because it is very true. :)

Matushka Anna said...

What you wrote about Madeleine L'Engle is very true. I grew up reading her younger fiction and moved on to older fiction and non-fiction (including the autobiographical works). I just feel like you have to read carefully and not blindly. However mistaken she was about a lot of things, I think she was doing well with what she had. I too have wished many times that she had come to know Orthodoxy. (I met her once at Sewanee where I went to college and she autographed one of my dog-eared children's books.)

elizabeth said...

Mat Anna - yes, agreed - this in a lot of ways summarizes what I was saying or trying to say here! :)