Book Review: “A Circle of Quiet” by Madeleine L’Engle (pt. 3)
(originally published 15 November 2004)
I love her occasional turn of phrase, as well, as she describes wonderful creative concepts. Read this one, for example — her imagery is as lovely as her acceptance of the beauty of myth-making:
If we are not going to deny our children the darker side of life, we owe it to them to show them that there is also this wild brilliance, this light of the sun: although we cannot look at it directly, it is nevertheless by the light of the sun that we see.
If we are to turn towards the sunlight, we must also turn away from the cult of the common man and return to the uncommon man, to the hero. We all need heroes, and here again we can learn from the child’s acceptance of the fact that he needs someone beyond himself to look up to.
Yes, exactly. I tend to rather agree with her belief that children’s books should be good enough for adults too — censorship, no matter what the reason, is bad. As an example, I resent it when I hear a bunch of undersocialized male computer game designers consider games for women to be ‘dumbed down’ regular games. If it’s not interesting enough for them, why would they think it would be interesting enough for anyone else? If there is no joy in the creation of an object, why would there be any joy in its consumption?
I also love her version of ‘write what you know’: “Our projecting from the tangible present into the ‘what if’ of the imagination must be within the boundaries of our own journeying.” That’s been my experience also, and paradoxically is one of the reasons I’ve stuck to intellectual speculation. Still, despite my fear that I’ve not had enough journeying to write believable fiction, I too believe mystery can be beautiful in and of itself.
On the other hand, I don’t resent attempts to comprehend mystery — intellectual challenges are beautiful and wondrous too, after all. So I agree with her that disagreement does not necessarily equate to misunderstanding — more than once I found myself empathizing with her lovely conceptual descriptions (as with the beauty of mystery), then wincing at the examples she gave.
On the whole the book was interesting, if somewhat self-indulgently rambling. Unfortunately what I most got from it was mildly interested disagreement. I happen to agree “an acceptance of contradiction is no excuse for fuzzy thinking. We do have to use our minds as far as they will take us, yet acknowledging that they cannot take us all the way.” Nevertheless, I think she gave up on her mind far too early.
In the end I couldn’t agree with her assessment of philosophy, even as I empathized with her delight in learning. I respected her dedication to her craft, but I felt King’s On Writing was a better writing tutorial. I think she’d do much better to stick to fiction, rather than books of this sort — although upon reflection, I can’t really say this isn’t fiction also.
Still, it is my hope she would understand I disagree without desiring to threaten, as she herself notes in a listing of elements of maturity. It’s a challenge to retain the “ability to judge and dare creatively,” and for that I value the book — it made me think, even if my thoughts were mainly disagreement or puzzlement.