Saturday, September 8, 2007

Farewell, Madeleine L'Engle

I was told that Madeleine L'Engle passed away this Thursday and it really sunk in after reading her obituary in the New York Times today. Madeleine L'Engle is of course well known for her John Newberry award winning masterpiece, A Wrinkle in Time, as well as her other Time Quartet books.

I bought A Wrinkle in Time many years ago, but never read it until last year after my friend Erica kept urging me to do so. The first sentence of the book, "It was a dark and stormy night", drew me into the adventures of Meg Murry, Christopher Wallace Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe. I was moved by the Christian elements within the book, especially L'Engle's quotation of Isaiah 42.10-12; Romans 8.28,30; and 1 Corinthians 1.25-28. Consequently Wrinkle has drawn the ire of many Christians because of the character Mrs. Which (sounds like "witch") and the appearance of a crystal ball. This and other concerns over L'Engle's liberal Christianity earned Wrinkle a spot on the ALA's list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. L'Engle spoke on the controversy by saying:

It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.

I am reminded of the past controversies surrounding the Harry Potter series and the author, J.K. Rowling. In a May 2003 interview with Newsweek, L'Engle was asked if she read the Harry Potter books:

I read one of them. It’s a nice story but there’s nothing underneath it. I don’t want to be bothered with stuff where there’s nothing underneath. Some people say, “Why do you read the Bible?’’ I say, "Because there’s a lot of stuff underneath."

I'm assuming that she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone since that is the first novel. I wonder if she would have changed her thoughts on Harry Potter if she continued to read the entire series until its conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling also quotes from scripture in the final book (Matthew 6.21 & 1 Corinthians 15.26) and expounds on the Christian principles of sacrifice and love's power over evil. Contrary to L'Engle's first impressions of a "nice story", there is a lot underneath. I'm not sure if she decided to read the entire series before her death, but I'm hoping she did.

In the same interview Melinda Henneberger asks L'Engle, "I ask about the Potter books because, like “Wrinkle,” they have Christian themes yet have been criticized by some Christians, for similar reasons" (emphasis mine) to which L'Engle responded:

Well, the Fundalets [fundamentalist Christians] want a closed system, and I want an open system.

L'Engle was known for her unique perspective on scripture and myth, but there was no question that she was a Christian, devoted to her faith and her craft. She poured her heart into her various works and her readers are better for it. She wrote in Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life:

All art, good, bad, indifferent, reflects its culture. Great art transcends its culture and touches on that which is eternal. . .True art has a mythic quality in that it speaks of that which was true, is true, and will be true.

L'Engle spoke profoundly on what true art is because she was a literary artist. Reflecting on her work makes me want to find out more about this extraordinary woman, who stands up there with other Christian mythmakers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. And though she will be missed by all her readers, including myself, she is with her Saviour now.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Relevant Magazine and Latest S.O.G. Post

A friend of mine that I mentioned earlier in this blog told me recently that Relevant Magazine, a magazine geared towards young twentysomething Christians, gave a positive review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in their latest September issue. The article is Harry's Last Stand by Dustin-Lee Casey, who is the webmaster of Christian Writers Forums, and is a short but worthwhile read. Here is a quote:
There were also similarities in the story to what some Christians think the "end times" might be like if the anti-christ came to power and began to fight and exterminate believers. Harry, his band of followers and their adventures reminded me that no matter what, we as Christians should never lose faith and continue to fight for what we believe in.
This is interesting because Voldemort does have some parallels with the "antichrist" figure in the New Testament. Voldemort brands his followers with a mark, takes over the wizarding government, and comes back, so to speak, in the middle of the seven novels. One could make the argument that Harry Potter has more in common with the Left Behind novels than Wicca. That said, I prefer reading Harry Potter.

Relevant Magazine's review is just another article to add to the overwhelming positive reception to the Christian themes and symbols in the last novel. Of smaller note, I posted my latest entry at Sword of Gryffindor, No God in Deathly Hallows? giving some brief words about Michael O'Brien and Lev Grossman's view that the series is devoid of God. If we consider the presence of biblical scripture and a church in Godric's Hollow, then we can say ontologically that God exists in the series. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Behold a Phoenix at the Blogengamot

I usually announce things late in the game but Travis Prinzi posted the following at his blog last week:

A few weeks ago, just after Prophecy 2007, I sent 40+ pages of my work to Zossima Press, and they have agreed to publish a book! More details will follow in the coming months, and the book should be on the shelves sometime next year. For now, I need time to write, so I have formed the Blogengamot (BLOGG-en-guh-mott), a council of incredibly talented, magical blogging brethren who will carry on the work of SoG in the coming months. I will continue with the weekly (hopefully) Hog’s Head PubCast, while the writing duties will be taken up by Matthew (Korg20000bc), Dave the Longwinded, and Johnny (Behold a Phoenix). Ben S is now our official Tech-Elf. Matthew is also the official moderator.
Now Blogengamot is a brilliant play on the Wizengamot, first mentioned in Order of the Phoenix, which is the high court of wizarding law in Great Britain. Of course we won't be writing any laws, but we are responsible for the content at Sword of Gryffindor while Travis writes his book. I'm patiently waiting for more details on that but I would like to say that I can't wait to buy my copy. I'm just flattered to be brought aboard by Travis. He's been a big part of this blog and I will always be grateful for his comments and advice. I'm also humbled to be among talented writers and fellow devotees to JKR's series, Matthew Boyd and Dave the Longwinded. I would also like to mention Ben S, who is the tech-elf at Sword of Gryffindor and is just brilliant with web design. I'm glad to be a part of this group. I lift my pint of Butterbeer to the members of the Blogengamot and wish Travis all the best in writing his book.

I just submitted my first post The Pardoner's Tale in Deathly Hallows yesterday so enjoy!