LISTENING FOR MADELINE by Leonard S. Marcus: A Review

In January, 2021, I started a personal project to read “all things by and related to Madeline L’Engle. So far I have reread and reviewed on PWR what I thought of as “the Wrinkle in Time trilogy,” only to discover there were two more books about the Wallace family. Also I read a biography by L’Engle’s granddaughters and reviewed it as well (Becoming Madeline).

Recently, I finished Listening for Madeline, which was written in a format I’d not encountered before, a collection of interviews.

People’s thoughts about children’s writer Madeline Engle

Marcus has gathered a “series of incisive interviews with people who know her most intimately…family, colleagues, and friends.” Subtitled “A Portrait of Madeline L’Engle in Many Voices,” this unusual book helps the reader understand the many facets of this outstanding woman/writer. After reading all the comments about her from those who knew her and dealt with her every day, I determined she was a strong woman, somewhat larger-than-life, and one who had her own eccentricities. The people quoted in Listening to Madeline knew her as ” an inspiring mentor, a strong-willed matriarch, a spiritual guide, and a rare friend.” How one woman could be so many things to such diverse individuals is a conundrum I wish to solve as I continue my “project.”

WORDS OF WISDOM WEDNESDAY: WORDS ON WRITING

These quotes about writing have come my way over time, and I wish to share them with my blogging friends.

“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under their skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living within him.”   (Mel Brooks)

“Most people carry their demons around with them, buried down, deep inside. Writers wrestle their demons to the surface, fling them out on the page, then call them characters.”   (C.K. Webb)

“Writing, real writing should leave a small, sweet bruise somewhere on the writer … and also on the reader.” (Clarissa Pinkola Este, b.1945, American poet who often writes poems about women)

“Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skill.” (Rod Serling, Twilight Zone)

And, finally, good advice for any writer, “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”  (Henry Green, pseudonym, English author and novelist.)

THE STORY OF CHARLOTTE’S WEB by Michael Sims : A Review

This was a post made previously on PWR. Because it is Christmas and the time for giving–BOOKS–to children and grandchildren, this book emphasizes the importance and significance Of E.B. White’s life and contribution to children’s literature and word-smithing, in general.  ‘There are more recent biographies of E.B White, even a children’s version, but this one is the most complete. It includes the detailed story of how the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web came to be written and published.  All the information came from huge research into the primary sources of White’s letters, trips and  to his childhood home, and interviews with many other researchers into the life and works of this wonderful man.

The details of White’s boyhood are fascinating and foreshadow many of the things that appear in Charlotte’s Web, but for me, when I hit the middle of the book, things got very interesting.  As a long time subscriber to the New Yorker magazine an  aficionado of all things journalistic, I could hardly put down the book’s description of White’s earliest publishing jobs, his romance and marriage to a famous New Yorker editor and the publication of his earliest columns.

The author knows his subject and it became apparent to me that only E.B. White and his experiences in life could have written Charlotte’s Web. The book was a wonderful read, a complete and encompassing exploration of all things E.B. White.”

Some Miscellaneous Quotes About Writing

These quotes really resonated with me.  I hope you will enjoy them too.  They are not arranged in any particular order.

“Writing is a kind of revenge against circumstances too: bad luck, loss, pain.  If you make something out of it, then you’ve no longer been bested by these events.”    Louise Gluck (author and poet, born 1943)

From my text in my Advanced Writing Class On Writing Well 31st anniversary edition by William Zinsser: “[This] thing is true of writers.  Sell yourself and your subject will exert its own appeal.  Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.  Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.  Use its energy to keep yourself going.” p.23

“I express myself with my friends and family.  Novels are not about expressing oneself, they’re about something beautiful, funny, clever and organic.  Self expression? Go and ring a bell in the yard if you want to express yourself.” Novelist Zadie Smith

“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” John Edgar Wideman, writer

“Writers are driven by compulsion to put some part of themselves on paper…” Zinsser

Contrasting views? Yes.  Conflicting ones? Maybe not.  Thoughts?

THE STORY OF CHARLOTTE’S WEB by Michael Sims : A Review

There are more recent biographies of E.B White, even a children’s version, but this one is the most complete. It includes the detailed story of how the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web came to be written and published.  All the information came from huge research into the primary sources of White’s letters, trips and  to his childhood home, and interviews with many other researchers into the life and works of this wonderful man.

The details of White’s boyhood are fascinating and foreshadow many of the things that appear in Charlotte’s Web, but for me, when I hit the middle of the book, things got very interesting.  As a long time subscriber to the New Yorker magazine an  aficionado of all things journalistic, I could hardly put down the book’s description of White’s earliest publishing jobs, his romance and marriage to a famous New Yorker editor and the publication of his earliest columns.

The author knows his subject and it became apparent to me that only E.B. White and his experiences in life could have written Charlotte’s Web. The book was a wonderful read, a complete and encompassing exploration of all things E.B. White.