Oh, You L’Engle Men

With ALA over, I was playing catch up with my blog reader and Twitter to see what I’d missed while in New Orleans.

And I missed men.

Namely, L’Engle men.

Sarah Rettger of Archimedes Forgets has been doing a series on the men in the novels of Madeleine L’Engle, starting with Paul Laurens from And Both Were Young.

Rettger includes people like Wally Austin of the infamous women don’t wear pants comment, which I didn’t notice on my first reading of The Moon By Night and was appalled by on my second. (No, really, it still bothers me that Dad and the boys wear jeans for their camping trip, because Daddy doesn’t like women in pants,  mother never wears them, but she’s ready for that camping trip in a nice plaid skirt, white blouse and red cardigan.)

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who pronounced Dennys’s name like the restaurant, and, really, still think that first and then have to correct  myself to Dennis.

And Calvin O’Keefe. I really wish there had been a book about the grown up Calvin and Meg!


9 thoughts on “Oh, You L’Engle Men

  1. First of all, I adored AND BOTH WERE YOUNG beyond all imagining. I believe I was in 5th grade at the time and it seemed the absolutely most romantic book I’d ever read. I loved it so much that after taking out of the library over and over and over I tried to COPY it into a notebook. I did not live in a time or place where there were bookstores (this was mid-60s East Lansing, Michigan) so it never occurred to me I could buy it.

    Secondly, there is such a generational difference in my reading of the women in pants comment. I mean, when I first read those books, again in the 60s, women tended to wear dresses. Our public schools (Michigan and Missouri) only allowed us girls to wear them UNDER DRESSES when it snowed — a lot. My mother wore house dresses when cooking, cleaning, etc — not pants. My sister and wore shorts more than we wore pants. I do believe we wore dungarees when camping, but I can’t recall if my mother did. So reading that sort of thing now (along with mention of smoking, etc) has me simply chalk it up to the times.


  2. I’ll restrain myself from getting into the history of women’s fashion, even though it’s a fascinating topic – the Katharine Hepburn/Marlene Dietrich women-in-pants trends, and the dress-code battles of the 60s and 70s… must stay on topic.

    (Except to note that women-in-pants is a thing in at least one of the Maisie Dobbs books – Maisie admits Priscilla looks great in trousers, but isn’t actually willing to put them on herself. Anyway.)

    AND BOTH WERE YOUNG was the book that turned me into a L’Engle fan, after some false starts with the Kairos books, so I have a special fondness for it.

    And Liz, until your intro here, I totally hadn’t considered the Men of L’Engle series in light of the lack of men in my life — but it’s true.


  3. Thank you! I wandered over there when you Tweeted it yesterday– or the other day– whenever it was. I am always up for a L’Engle discussion, and a L’Engle men discussion is much fun!

    And I still can’t pronounce Dennys’s name right, either.


  4. Monica, it’s rather fascinating how L’Engle’s books are both timeless (many work very well with being “now”) yet tied to the times they were written (the pants comment). I’m curious if Mrs Austin wore pants in any of the later Austin novels. As an adult reader, I get what you’re saying — as the teen reader, reading in “now,” it was jarring and has tinged my POV towards Dr. Austin, in terms of sexist and controlling.

    Sarah, oh, excellent discusion, tho! Yes, I remember that Maisie comment myself. Oh, Maisie…out of time with her pilates and meditation and investigations but oh noes to pants.

    rockinlibrarian, I’m beginning to wonder if anyone pronounced Dennys name right!


  5. I disliked the glimpses we got of grown-up Meg through Polly’s eyes in her books – I don’t know if I could have stomached a whole book about brainy Meg giving it all up to bear a million children to Calvin (much as I like teenaged Calvin…..)


  6. Kirsten, it’s funny… I want a book even though Meg seemed to have disappeared and changed in those other books; and even though I was disappointed with what Camilla became in her grown up book. I guess I want more L’Engle!


  7. Here is just a thought — I remember Anne Shirley Blythe saying in one of the later books when someone asked her if she had written anything and she replied that she was writing ‘living epistles’. And then later in my reading life, I read an essay from Anna Quinlan about why she had quit Newsweek (I think???) to raise her kids and she said that you CAN have it all, just not at the same time.
    I try to keep that in mind with my own two teenage boys. There will be time for me and time for me to be WHATEVER when they are grown and gone but right now, they need me. And this was true for Madeline L’Engle as well.
    And I also think that if you had asked me my opinion of my own so brilliant mother at 13, I would have cast her in an extremely unkind light. Polly has no clue of the ‘real’ Meg. When you are a kid and a teen, the world revolves around you.


  8. Sylvia, interesting point — Polly only has a narrow view of her mother. It’s not unusual in teen/ya books for parents to be shown only thru the lens of the teen/ya, which may mean the parent may seem more distant/ uninterested / busy/ controlling than they would seem from the POV of another.


  9. There’s an exchange in one of the Polly books (Lotus? Acceptable Time?) in which someone (Calvin?) tells Polly that Meg made a deliberate choice not to be a professional while raising her kids because of the conflict/competition with her own mother that she felt while growing up.

    There’s so much to unpack and develop in that, on top of the “having it all” aspect Sylvia brought up.


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