Closing a door but opening a window

Some of you who have been with me for a while may remember that I boldly decreed 2012 to be my Year of the Russian Novel. YotRN had some successes and some less-than-successes (five months to read AnnaK, coming up on six for Bros. K with no end in sight). If I’ve learned one thing (and perhaps it’s something I should have known ahead of time), it’s that those Russians are de-press-ing. Seriously. There were beautiful bits, and I felt a certain amount of cocky pride for delving into serious literature of my own accord, reading those books was a near-constant downer. YotRN

I know there’s still a full month left in the year, but I’m calling it anyway. YotRN is over. I have put The Brothers Karamozov back on my shelf, where it will hibernate, partially finished, until such time as I feel in my stomach the tender unfurling of an urge to pick it back up. I don’t think our breakup is acrimonious. It’s just not the right time for us.

This was not an easy decision, because I generally don’t like to leave things unfinished, and I liked the idea of neatly closing this out. But when I considered the prospect of slogging through a long, depressing book during one of my favorite times of year, I knew in my gut that this was over.

Fear not, for a new scheme is afoot. But first, some context.

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite writers, starting from when I was very young. When I was in elementary school, my mother gave me her old copy of A Wrinkle in Time, and with the very first line (“It was a dark and stormy night…”), I was irrevocably hooked. She was a way with words, and on an emotional level, it feels like being wrapped in the hug of someone who loves you very much.

Over the years, I’ve amassed a fair collection of her works, and have even given some out as presents. But the thing is, Madeleine was incredibly prolific. Even more so than I realized. (I’ll take the liberty of calling her by her first name, because as you will soon see, she and I will are going to become very intimately acquainted)

On Monday night I pulled from my bookshelf a book that has long resided there, unread: The Small Rain, by Madeleine L’Engle. Small Rain

As I read the forward, I learned that it was, in fact, the first novel she ever wrote. And that’s when I had my idea.

Starting this week, I’m going to read everything Madeleine ever wrote (with the caveat that anything out of print will necessarily be excluded). Learning from my past experience with YotRN, I’m not going to put a timeframe on it. It will take however long it takes.

So, with that, I’m excited to announce The Madeleine L’Engle Project!

What about you guys? Are any of you fans of Madeleine’s work? What’s your favorite of her books?

p.s. This past Thursday, November 29th, was Madeleine’s 94th birthday, so this is even more auspicious timing. Happy Birthday, Madeleine! We miss you!!


8 thoughts on “Closing a door but opening a window

  1. I read L’Engle in school, and I’m afraid that colored my entire experience – you have to try really hard to enjoy an assigned book. I didn’t dislike A Wrinkle in Time, but I had no interest in reading anything further, ever.

    For the Russian classics, don’t give up! Try Master and Margarita (1937) by Bulgakov, translated by Mirra Ginsburg. Of the four or so translations floating around, hers gets the humor across the best. (And in reading Russian Lit, the translation really makes all the difference. Garnett, for example, is one of the most prolific translators who made Russian classics accessible to the West — aaaand who also makes all Russian authors sound pretty much the same, and a bit British.)

    • So true about things you have to read for school! I think my problem with the Russian classics is much the same…it felt like an assignment (albeit one I gave to myself). Excellent point on the translation issue. That may have been part of the problem.

      Thanks for the Bulgakov suggestion. Maybe one of these days I’ll feel ready to give the Russians another shot 🙂

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