Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


*****Madeleine L'Engle Herself

Reflections on a Writing Life

compiled by Carole F. Chase

Reviewed March 8, 2004.
Shaw Books, (Random House), Colorado Springs, 2001.  377 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (B LEN).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Nonfiction for Writers

Here’s another compilation by Carole F. Chase from the writings of Madeleine L’Engle.  All the words belong to Madeleine L’Engle, but Carole Chase has put them together in a beautiful form.  Since I’m reading the library’s copy and couldn’t mark it up, I have a forest of Post-It flags coming out of the pages.  I’ve given in and ordered my own copy, so now I’m going to write down all the page numbers I flagged, and when my copy comes in, I’ll fill it with underlining!

This collection isn’t set out as daily readings, as in Glimpses of Grace, but reading a few selections at a time has been a lovely start to my writing time each day.  As I got further in the book, I ended up reading more and more each day.  I used many of the selections when I made a compilation of quotations about the value of reading.  I read it at a Ladies’ Book Bash at our church, and have posted it on my website under the caption Why Read?

With its subtitle, Reflections on a Writing Life, this book talks about Madeleine L’Engle’s life as a writer, giving some tips for those seeking to be writers, as well as talking about her own experiences and her philosophy of writing.  Many of the quotations were taken from my favorite of her books, Walking on Water, but many were also taken from writing conferences at which she has spoken, and so were not previously available in book form.

I can’t resist including some of my favorite quotations:

“Great art transcends its culture and touches on that which is eternal.”

“When we look at a painting, or hear a symphony, or read a book, and feel more Named, then, for us, that work is a work of Christian art.  But to look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is art, and whether or not it is Christian, is presumptuous.  It is something we cannot know in any conclusive way.  We can know only if it speaks within our own hearts, and leads us to living more deeply with Christ in God.”

“It was more difficult for me to justify time to write when my children were little than it was to find time to write….  I think that was totally false guilt, because I was a writer because I was writing.  But we tend to accept the images the world would put on us.  And if you’re not a published writer, you’re not supposed to be a writer.  Well, I know now that’s not true.”

“I believe that every human child at birth is born with a vocation, with a special gift.  I think the myths of the fairy tales with the fairy godmother giving the child the gift are an expression of this.  But it isn’t given to all of us to know as early as it was to me what my gift was.  And I’m terribly grateful that the negative aspects of my childhood were what made me aware of what my gift was.”

“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

“If an artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up a body of work.  Inspiration comes far more often during work as things get rolling than before you sit at the typewriter.  This is because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen.  To listen to the work and go where it tells you to go.  And that involves faith.  Letting go of your own control and having faith in something you do not control.”

“I never want to lose the story-loving child within me, or the adolescent, or the young woman, or the middle-aged one, because all together they help me to be fully alive on this journey, and show me that I must be willing to go where it takes me, even through the valley of the shadow.”

“If a book is not good enough for a grownup, it is not good enough for a child.”

“I am totally against censorship.  The kids are going to read the books.  You might as well accept that.  It is much better to read the books with the kids and discuss them and bring them out in the open and let the kids see how lousy they are.”

“If you are manipulative with your character—one you’re playing, one you’re writing about, or one you’re praying about—then it doesn’t work.”

“Ultimately, you have to sit down and start to write.”

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us.”

“We can tell more about God through the words of a story than through any amount of theology.”

“The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.  What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder.”

“Story makes us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”

“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”

I highly recommend this book especially for writers and for fans of Madeleine L’Engle.

Reviews of other books by Madeleine L'Engle:
Glimpses of Grace (compiled by Carole F. Chase)
Walking on Water
A Circle of Quiet:  The Crosswicks Journals, Book 1

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother:  The Crosswicks Journals, Book 2
The Irrational Season:  The Crosswicks Journals, Book 3
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time audiobook
The Joys of Love

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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