Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I was so excited when I head that Leonard Marcus would be making an appearance at Book Court to talk about his new book Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices.  Earlier this year, I attended the 50th anniversary celebration of Madeleine's beloved children's chapter book A Wrinkle in Time. At the celebration,  Leonard got up and read from a chapter in Listening.  It was such a treat to hear from someone who had spend countless hours talking to people who had been part of Madeleine's life.

At his recent Book Court appearance, Leonard shared more details about what he had learned about Madeleine while putting together the book.

At one point, I asked Leonard what he thought made A Wrinkle in Time such a compelling read.  He responded by speaking to one of the relatable themes of the book - the quest for a distant parent.  He also mentioned that readers could identify with the highly idiosyncratic family of Meg, the main character.

Here are some other "take-aways" from his talk:
  • Madeleine (who would have been 94 tomorrow) passed away in 2007.
  • She had traveled through many countries and met many of her readers.  As Leonard said "She was an author who made house calls" who "changed the lives of millions of readers."
  • Listening is a compilation of Marcus's efforts to engage a number of people who knew Madeleine best and who were aware of the contradictions of her life.  His wish is to present a kaleidoscope view of her so that readers may draw their own conclusions.
  • Madeleine was born in New York City in the 1920s, and was born into a wealthy family.
  • Her parents weren't around a lot to raise her; she had a nanny and was sent to boarding schools. Madeleine filled the emotional void by journaling and reading. 
  • Her parents, hence Madeleine, were part of a world where "culture was of paramount importance." 
  • Madeleine, a tall woman, performed for a time on the Broadway stage.
  • She started publishing novels in her early 20s.
  • A Wrinkle in Time, rejected by many publishers,  was a hot potato because of its references to Christianity.
  • A Wrinkle was her 7th book (she wrote 60!), and won a Newbery Award. She was unwilling to acknowledge that it was a book for children.
  • The book was a combination of fantasy, realism, religion, and science fiction.
  • For 10 years, Madeleine lived in exhile with her husband.
  • For more than 30 years, she was the librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  People would come to her there to get advice on manuscripts.  When not giving advice, she would work on her next book.

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