Monday, January 09, 2006

Dying - The end of a two-part invention

I am reading Madeleine L'Engle's "Crosswicks Journal" books. The fourth one in the series (I read them in the wrong order), "Two-Part Invention", is mostly about her marriage to the actor Hugh Franklin. She starts the book with some funny stories and theatre gossip from New York in the '40s; then a bit about their years as general store owners in the Connecticut countryside; but the rest of the book is a depressing and painfully detailed description of how her husband of forty years is dying in cancer, while she tries to understand where God is when good people are punished for sins they have not committed (she is assuming cancer is caused by environmental pollution and "synthetic" life). But even in this dark book she says wonderful things about music and writing, like in "Circle of Quiet" (the first book in the series):
"As soon as Bion, our baby, was in nursery school, I dropped out of the group of mothers who occasionally gathered together to drink coffee and gossip. This was writing time. Nobody else needed writing time. And I felt that I was looked at askance because I spent so much time at the typewriter and yet couldn't sell what I wrote. I certainly wasn't pulling my weight financially.

"In my journal I wrote: 'There is a gap in understanding between me and our friends and acquaintances. I can't quite understand a life without books and study and music and pictures and a driving passion. And they, on the other hand, can't understand why I have to write, why I am a writer. When, for instance, I say to someone that I have to get home to work, the assumption is that I mean housecleaning or ironing, not writing a book. I'm very kindly permitted to be a writer but not to take time in pursuing my trade. Nor can they understand the importance of music, or why an hour spent with a Mozart sonata at the piano is not wasted time but time spent on a real value. Or really listening, without talking, to music. Or going for a walk simply to see the beauty around me, or the real importance of a view from a window.' "

– Madeleine L'Engle, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (1988)

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