Summer of the Great Grandmother tells the story of Madeleine L’Engle’s last summer with her mother. It’s the second of L’Engle’s four “Crosswicks Journals,” but since I read them out of order it was the last one that remained for me. L’Engle is usually classed as a Christian writer, but she is the type of Christian who is often questioning and struggling and acknowledging the mysteries. She’s not someone I read to be instructed, especially. She’s the kind of author who comes alongside and affirms…Continue Reading “The Summer of the Great Grandmother”

Madeleine L’Engle’s The Love Letters (1967) weaves together two stories: one from today, and one from yesterday. Charlotte Napier, fleeing to her mentor (and mother-in-law) in Portugal to rethink her troubled marriage, comes upon a book that relates the inner turmoil of a woman in similar straits centuries earlier. In reading The Letters of a Portuguese Nun, Charlotte Napier meets Mariana Alcoforado, a 17th-century nun seduced by a French soldier whose spiritual journey sheds light on Charlotte’s crisis. Those familiar with L’Engle will feel at…Continue Reading “The Love Letters”

Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art is an extended meditation on the nature of the creative process, the purpose of art, and the significance of an artist’s faith. The short answer is that the artistic process is essentially careful listening, the purpose of art is to tell the truth, and an artist’s faith is what enables him to transcend the boundaries of conscious control and get a glimpse of a larger reality. L’Engle uses Leonard Bernstein’s definition of art as “cosmos…Continue Reading “Walking on Water”

This morning, I read a story that’s always intrigued me: the woman with the hemorrhage who came through the pressing crowds and touched Jesus’ robes. I’m using a harmony of the gospels these days, but the account in Mark 5 serves for a reference. What I noticed today was the way that Jesus asked who had touched him. Surely he knew — ? This man who had known when he was dissed behind his back for being a Nazarene? This man who immediately after this…Continue Reading “Healing and Hiding”

This week, browsing through the children’s section at the library, I saw Madeleine L’Engle’s name on this book I’d never heard of. Having just finished A Circle of Quiet, I was ready to dive right into Trailing Clouds of Glory. As the subtitle indicates, this book’s central concern is with “spiritual values in children’s books.” I suppose its focus on children’s literature is what lands it in the children’s section, but other than that it seems like it would be more at home on the…Continue Reading “Trailing Clouds of Glory”

A Circle of Quiet is one of Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals. It’s the third one I’ve read; the others are Two-Part Invention and The Irrational Season. I found this one to be an enjoyable read, but harder to get my mind around. I came away with a sense of Madeleine L’Engle’s thought life during a particular season (always a worthwhile thing), but not as clear an understanding of the book’s main “statement” or topic. Of course I’m never sure whether that’s because of where I…Continue Reading “A Circle of Quiet”

I picked up The Irrational Season on a whim off the library shelf, and it’s been a wonderful read for me. In fact, I’m going to have to purchase a copy so that I can underline and asterisk to my heart’s content (even though my husband is making jokes about me reading books on how to be irrational…). This is the third book of Madeleine L’Engle’s 4-part autobiography, The Crosswicks Journals. I’ve only read the fourth one before, so it seems I’m moving backwards through…Continue Reading “The Irrational Season”

I’m really enjoying Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season, and trying not to read it too quickly. Today I read her commentary on some works of art. L’Engle writes, “Christian graphic art has often tended to make my affirmation of Jesus Christ as Lord almost impossible, for far too often he is depicted as a tubercular goy, effeminate and self-pitying.” (She doesn’t mince words, does she?) But she goes on to describe a visit to the Church of the Chora in Istanbul that excited her because…Continue Reading “Art Lesson”

This week I read the story of Abraham and Isaac and was confronted with its difficulty again. Sometimes poetry finds a dwelling place in the midst of a tangle, so I’ve looked around for an Abraham and Isaac poem. I liked this poem from Abraham’s perspective, by Fr. Kilian McDonnell, though it violates the limits of the story by giving Abraham knowledge of Christ’s future sacrifice. This one by Wilfred Owen converts the story into a poem about war. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Cry Like a…Continue Reading “Sarah”

Sometimes I like books without any idea why. Madeleine L’Engle’s Certain Women is about an actress who returns to attend to her dying father, a stage actor who reviews his life through the lens of a role he longed to play, but never did — that of the biblical King David. If you ask me to tell you what I think about this novel, I’ll say: It’s pretentious The characters are flat and unconvincing The play about King David constantly percolating in discussions among the main…Continue Reading “Certain Women”