The Wildness of Christianity

THE LEGACY OF MADELEINE L'ENGLE

The remarkable Madeleine L’Engle died in September, at the age of eighty-eight. The book that made her famous and won her the Newberry Award in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time-the tale of a homely, brainy fourteen-year-old girl who ends up saving the universe-remains beloved by many today. But L’Engle’s accomplishment can’t be measured by a single work. For nearly seven decades she wrote erudite and soulful fiction, essays, and poetry, building an eclectic oeuvre grounded in a love of both literature and science, and in an abiding Christian faith.

Born in 1918, L’Engle was very much a child of the past century, a typical member of the Greatest Generation, the cohort that came of age during WWII and the 1950s. “They were a dull generation,” Lillian Hellman wrote of them, dismissively, while Flannery O’Connor observed that they “had the moral sense bred out of them the way the wings have been bred off certain chickens to produce more white meat on them.” O’Connor was a pre-Vatican II Catholic and had, for better or worse, a unified worldview from which to glower at the banality of America in the 1950s. Madeleine L’Engle was Episcopalian, with a life history that bears out O’Connor’s joke: “Scratch an Episcopalian and you’re likely to find almost anything.” In the High Church-the closest to Roman Catholicism in liturgy and yet in some ways the furthest from it in sensibility-aestheticism counts for much, and some...

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About the Author

Tanya Avakian, a librarian, lives in Delaware.