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Leonard S. Marcus
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Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  196 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
A biography of the author Madeleine L'Engle by noted children's book critic, Leonard S. Marcus.
Published 2012 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
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Justin Morgan
Jan 04, 2013 Justin Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book in one long sitting while sick with strep throat, but admit that while I give it a 4 star rating it's not a book for everybody. If someone wants a good introduction to L'engle, they can really find it through reading her books, both fiction and non-fiction. It was through reading and rereading her that I felt such a close "relationship" and fascination with her. In 2004, the New Yorker published a sort of tell-all style of artist profile on her. While many fans felt that it ...more
Emily
This collection of interviews with people who knew Madeleine L'Engle in various capacities (ranging from her daughter, her editors, her colleagues at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and friends all the way down to someone who exchanged a few unsatisfactory words with her while getting her copy of A Wrinkle in Time signed) got a little repetitive. One reads of certain details again and again: her tallness, her dangly jewelry, her charismatic manner. Various biographical details are also men ...more
Holly
Jan 16, 2013 Holly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
Why publish a book like this and not write a real biography? It's an assortment of recollections about ML'E in the format of interviews of those who knew her. Is this a cop-out by the author, or did he try to write a biography based on these interviews but failed, did he or his editors decide the task was beyond him?

Now if the recollections themselves had been scintillating or controversial, or covered wildly divergent territory, then that would have justified leaving them as interviews. But th
...more
Rebecca White
Jun 21, 2013 Rebecca White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine L'Engle has been a lifelong hero to me. I can't underestimate the influence she's had on my thinking and expression. Or perhaps, as I thought when I was younger, I already had these thoughts and was attracted to her as a kindred spirit. Before her death there was a semi-expose published in The New Yorker, discussing her "reinterpretations" and sometimes downright invention of life events (as she wrote about them in her books) as well as how her mothering skills could have used some imp ...more
Ann Woodbury Moore
Like many of Madeleine L'Engle's fans, I became hooked on her as a middle-schooler; my favorite title was "The Young Unicorns" (1968), a young adult novel. As I grew older I delved into her nonfiction (I still have notebooks filled with quotes from "A Circle of Quiet" [1972] and other musings) and stories for adults. Over the years, my interest began to wane. I watched the TV version of "A Wrinkle in Time" (2003) and reread the first three books of the Time Quartet, but they were so preachy and ...more
Ruth
Mar 02, 2013 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reason #985 that I'm glad I'm not famous: I don't want the story of my life to be told by a motley crew of acquaintances and close friends, some of whom only met me once. I read this collection of memories of L'Engle because I was a rabid L'Engle fan as a kid, and I still have a soft spot for her in my heart, even though I have little patience for her children's books (yes, Madeleine, some of them are children's books despite your protestations) as an adult. There are many things I found interes ...more
Nancy Butts
Jul 19, 2013 Nancy Butts rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It's been disheartening to re-read my childhood idol Madeleine L'Engle, because now I find her books didactic, with impossibly mature characters and contrived plots bent to accommodate L'Engle's religious sensibility. I still love the world she created in both A WRINKLE IN TIME and MEET THE AUSTINS, but I can't love them as unreservedly as I did when I was eleven. So in a weird way, this non-hagiographical look at L'Engle helped restore my love for her—though in a new and more balanced way. This ...more
CarolineFromConcord
This collection of interviews with people who had contact with Madeleine L'Engle (best known for her child/adult novel "A Wrinkle in Time") was defintely interesting. It was ultimately unsatisfying for me as there was so much repetition and contradiction and no analysis. I think it's valid to present contradictory views of a person (was L'Engle a saint of kindness or an icy performance artist?), but I guess I was looking for more of a biography and a clearer point of view from Leonard Marcus, on ...more
RuthAnn
Would recommend: Yes, but I think it's only for the Crazy Fans out there

I snatched this book off the New Nonfiction shelf at my library, having never even heard of it before I saw it there. Then, as I opened it, I had a moment of apprehension: did I really want to read other people's interviews about Madeleine, when it was her writing that I loved? But then I realized that the first section was basically the opinions of her fan club in the publishing world. I tore through 150 pages in one go. It
...more
Beth Browne
If you love Madeleine L'Engle, you'll enjoy this book about her life, written by family, friends and colleagues. Some wonderful insights in here. I thought it went very long, and I skipped some of the comments by Madeleine's spiritual (church) friends, but overall, it was fascinating, especially the parts by her family members and close friends. It was interesting that so many people considered her a "close" friend. Apparently she had a gift of making everyone feel special. Such a talented woman ...more
Faith McLellan
Dec 26, 2012 Faith McLellan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writers
I enjoyed this book, though it was not always heart-warming to read about an admired author's quirks and imperiousness. She was a complicated person, with a rich artistic and spiritual life, and it's clearly not easy to keep all that together with family life/public persona/etc. Glad I read it, though, and it's pointed me to another memoir by her friends that I think I shall also have to read. And to go look through my library to see if I still have my Madeleine L'Engle collection.
Melody
Jan 10, 2013 Melody rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was so strange. It's a collection of interviews of people who knew Madeleine L'Engle at various points in her life. I came away from it discomfited- feeling like I'd been to a party where everyone was talking behind her back. It just felt unclean somehow- and not because the gossip is bad or damning, because on the whole it's quite positive.
Kelly
Bought this on a whim and would do it again! Just loved this one. Must read in conjunction with the New Yorker profile.
Kari Yergin
This is a strange book, an assortment of essays about the author of one of my childhood favorites, A Wrinkle in Time. I think I was expecting more of a biographical feel after having read it, but many of the essays were quite boring to me and I didn't know who most of the essayists were. I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction, though.

A few excerpts:

She is among the most quotable of writers. She could be acutely perceptive on the subject of human vulnerability. In a circle of quiet, a book in wh
...more
Fraser Coltman
Oct 03, 2014 Fraser Coltman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leonard Marcus weaves a tapestry portrait of Madeleine L'Engle with his compilation of interviews concerning the late author of children's literature and spiritual writings. Having read many of her novels and her more non-fiction books, I found it interesting to discover another side of the author through the eyes of family, colleagues, friends, and a variety of acquaintances. L'Engle was a gifted writer, an open-hearted mentor and friend to other writers and fans, and a woman with strong faith ...more
Elise
Oct 31, 2012 Elise rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well. I finished it. Despite my distaste for the format. I really cannot stand changing points of view.

Why did I finish it? I don't really know. I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to get better.

But I didn't like the book at all. Some of the people interviewed met L'Engle ONCE. How does that merit a place in this book?

All of the interviewees agreed that L'Engle was warm and adopted various people, very spiritual and very disciplined when it came to writing.

Overall, I was disappointed. I don't t
...more
Jenny Schwartzberg
As a family historian and collector of stories, I found this form of biography deeply familiar. This is how I collect information on family members, through the many and varied perspectives others have of them. Leonard Marcus interviewed L'Engle's family, friends, co-workers, admirers, and less-than admirers to compile this multifaceted look at her. It is both a biography and memoir of a very complicated person who was loved and admired, but also to other people difficult and less than admirable ...more
Margaret Kalvar
As many of the reviewers already have observed, Madeleine's work made powerful impacts on the young readers of the '60's and 70's, including myself. Hr adult work also has made an impact on me, although I am very mixed about it. While accepting and agreeing with many of her views,I find her somewhat preachy and intolerant. However,that said, the gift of her young adult fiction has more than compensated! I have mixed feelings about this book as well- it isn't really surprising that it reveals tha ...more
Kifflie
Jan 07, 2013 Kifflie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This work is a series of interviews of people who knew or were associated with the author Madeleine L'Engle (disclaimer: she was one of my favorite authors when I was young). I found the various perspectives fascinating. Of course there is that human tendency to idolize others; I had figured out some years back that Madeleine certainly wasn't a perfect person and that she was probably in denial about the alcoholism that her father, her son, and possibly her husband suffered from (although if you ...more
Margaret Sankey
When I read A Wrinkle in Time as a bookish child, I was absolutely charmed, and didn't give any thought to what the author was like as a person. I found it hard to reread Wrinkle because the circumstances for women have changed so much, and accepted that this is a consequence of L'Engle writing in the early 1960s as very much a product of her time. This is a collection of oral history interviews about her revealing the real person and her times--her religious ideas, work as an advocate against ...more
Monica Edinger
I enjoyed this tremendously, but suspect it will be most appreciated by those who are L'Engle fans. While I knew a little about her, this book gave me a much more rounded and deeper taste of what she was all about. She lived in my neighborhood so I was especially fascinated by her involvement with the Cathedral of St. John the Devine and the flamboyant canon Edward Nason West. The book is mostly interviews with a wide variety of people who were impacted by her in their lives. In many cases these ...more
Jacqueline  Frey
Sep 20, 2014 Jacqueline Frey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved "A Wrinkle In Time" as a teenager, and it's always left me curious about the woman who wrote it. I'm so glad I read this book, as it gives a very balanced look at the life of a brilliant, fascinating, woman. Through the letters from and interviews with those who were part of her life (sometimes intimately, sometimes only briefly,) you really feel you get to know Madeleine personally. The letters are not always full of praise and flattery - many of them show Madeleine's flaws, her weaknes ...more
Erin
I found this book, which is a biography of Madeleine L'Engle, told through interviews that children's literature critic/historian Leonard Marcus (author of numerous books on children's literature, including a biography of the legendary Margaret Wise Brown) did with all sorts of people, from the obvious family members and editors, to unexpected others (a family from the L'Engle family's hometown in Jacksonville, the proprietor of a restaurant she visited regularly in her later years, the writer o ...more
Jan
Jan 06, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't like books that quote a lot of people who have opinions on a person. But Leonard S Marcus did such a fine job choicing friends, book publishers, grandchildren and children. and not with packaged same questions. Leonard really know exactly what he wanted to find out from his people. the introduction told you the facts of Madeleine's lonely history. So many great authors were pretty much left to the boarding schools and nannyies. I was amazed that she had listened to all the major ...more
Josephine
Jan 17, 2013 Josephine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Interesting! The basic idea is: interview a range of people who knew Madeleine L'Engle--writers and editors, family members, fans and friends. In one way, it's a little disappointing to find out the reality of such an iconic writer (at least if you're into fantasy and religion); why should she not be as perfect as her characters? In another...why should she BE as perfect as her characters? They were created fictions, she was real, both better and worse than I imagined her.

Not that she was horrib
...more
Jennifer Scoggin
This is a wonderful portrait of one of my favorite and most influential authors told from many points of view over the course of her long life. I especially enjoyed reading about her life at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine and of her last years. I thought too much emphasis was placed on A Wrinkle in Time (arguably her most famous book but far from my favorite and to my knowledge, I have read all of her books); very little was said about her "adult" novels but her non-fiction did get some me ...more
Shari
Jan 21, 2013 Shari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I'd really love is for someone to actually write a full biography of L'Engle, but this was really interesting. The book is divided into different sections, each focusing on L'Engle from a different perspective -- writer, matriarch, mentor, friend, icon. I think many of us who have loved her books feel like we know her so intimately, as she really is that kind of writer, but this adds a little dose of reality and presents her as more flawed and human. I didn't view that as a bad thing, thoug ...more
Claudia Mundell
Jan 04, 2013 Claudia Mundell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally, I avoided this book as I heard it was negative. However, I changed my mind and read it. While some negative comments were there, overall the book revealed the same wonderful author I have followed for years. The book might be an honest portrait in the end because who of us has perfect talent, skills, creativity, and goodness with a few warts and imperfections? Some of the people commenting also might be revealing more about themselves than Miss M. I found lines that I highlighted to ...more
Suzanna
I've never described Madeleine L'Engle as a favorite writer of mine. Some of her children's books are wonderful, the YA relationship fiction is just about unreadable, and I discovered some of her meditative writing on Christianity a few years ago. When I picked this book up, I assumed that it would be a biography, and interestingly, it's just a collection of brief interviews with people from Madeleine's professional and family life. For someone not familiar with the outline of her life, the intr ...more
E.L.
Feb 11, 2014 E.L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent collection of interviews with numerous individuals who knew Madeleine L'Engle in one way or another, presenting a clear portrait of the woman behind the image. I so appreciate the grace with which Marcus handled his subject. He didn't only present the good, but neither did he attempt to tear her to shreds. He even gave space to those who disliked her or had negative emotions connected with her. My one complaint is that it got a little repetitive, and by the end I was more than ready ...more
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Leonard S. Marcus is one of the world's leading writers about children's books and their illustrations. His many books include The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy; Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy; Dear Genius; and others. His essays, interviews, and reviews appear in the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. Leonard S. Marcus lives in Br ...more
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