Saturday, September 15, 2007

Vivid portraits in literature

Coming tomorrow, we have three novels whose prose is sharp and vivid and highly deserving of a look. One novel, The Great Man by Kate Christensen, is about the loves of a recently deceased painter. Another, To My Dearest Friends, is about two women who rediscover a recently deceased friend through letters she leaves for them. The last, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, is another richly painted novel by one of the most talented writers around. Bookshelf tries to recommend some of the better books out there, and this week's set of novels come particularly highly recommended by our reviewers.
On a different but related note, Madeleine L'Engle has died. She passed away at the age of 88 last week. This news item strikes at my heart. I grew up reading her books -- all that I could get my hands on, which was quite a few -- and own many of them. In fact, my daughter and I discovered a couple I didn't have and hadn't read a few months ago at Barnes and Noble and picked them right up. Ms. L'Engle wrote with heart, with true hope for the world and for families.
I consider myself blessed to have been able to meet her about 12 years ago in Birmingham. She spoke at a small set of lectures given at a Christian church in downtown Birmingham. I saw an advertisement for the lecture somewhere and immediately knew I couldn't miss it. I felt like a rock star groupie as I excitedly and eagerly sat in the chapel where she spoke, clutching a notebook and some hope to speak to her in person. When she opened up the address for questions, I knew I must speak, if just to say something to this wonderful woman. I think I asked if she had advice for aspiring writers, or some similar query. She was very kind and personal. She responded to just write. Write in a journal. Write, read. I have since heard that advice repeated over and over by other writers. But she seemed to say it from her very heart, as personal advice to me, to a reader who was touched by what she put on paper. I'll never forget it.
Madeleine L'Engle was not only an award-winning author who wrote novels that have sold millions and have inspired millions of children, but she was a truly good -- great -- woman who is and was one who can stand as a real role model. The literary world has lost a remarkable woman.