Friday, October 30, 2009

A Posthumous Letter To Madeleine l'Engle

October 30, 2009

Dear Ms. L’Engle,

I was so sorry to hear about your passing a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed your books for decades. I loved Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, about your forty years with the actor Hugh Franklin. Through reading it, I felt I came to know you as a real person, and not just as the seemingly ethereal author of some books I like. I meant to write you a letter a few years ago, while you were still with us, but I put it off, as we tend to do sometimes with our good intentions. I wanted to share something with you that I thought you might enjoy.

When I had children, I couldn’t wait to introduce them to your books. One of my sons began to consume books at a very early age. He was driven by a hunger for information, excitement, and a good story. Your books provided all of these. Because his interest in some topics was so strong, he sometimes read books that he probably wasn’t really ready for. And because his interest was so strong, he was able to get through these books that were really too difficult for him. For instance, he read the C.S. Lewis Narnia series the summer after first grade. Over the years of his childhood, he reread them several times. I remember his once telling me “I love rereading these. Each time I read them, I pick up on more and more that I missed the first time I read them.” I can’t remember how old he was when he read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time, but I know he was pretty young. Years later, when he was a teenager, he, my daughter and I were discussing your books. “For some reason,” he confessed to us, “I always pictured Calvin as a big bug. A giant cartoon bug.” We laughed and laughed. I knew he had probably been too young when he read it, but a bug? “Kurt,” we told him, “Calvin and Meg get married. You thought she married a bug?” “Well, yeah. I was just a little kid. I didn’t think there was anything weird about that.” Sometime after that, while in a nostalgic mood, I reread A Wrinkle in Time. Riddle solved: chapter two, page 29, about a third of the way down. Meg is telling Charles Wallace who Calvin is. “He’s in Regional, but he’s older than I am. He’s a big bug.” Ha! I couldn’t wait for the kids, especially Kurt, to get home from school so I could show them what I’d discovered. Your book was first published in 1962, a year before I was born. The term “ big bug” must have been like “big man on campus” back in those days. Calvin was a big bug. You’d written it yourself. What else would a little boy in the 1990’s think?

I hope this letter somehow finds its way to you. I’m sorry I didn’t write it when I first thought to. Perhaps you can tesser your way back and read it on the internet. Thank you so much for the wonderful legacy you’ve left the world. We are truly blessed to have your books among us.


Melinda W. Gassman


  1. I love her books too, although they got increasingly bizarre as the series went on and I always wondered where she got her inspirations. I loved this post, very entertaining because I remember reading A WRinkle in Time for the first time and not understanding a lot of the terminology.

  2. Hello!
    I just realized that you have a blog! Looks great. I will stopping in frequently!