Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle!

Sometimes, in a smaller library, I find these two "L" authors next to each other on the shelf: C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle. That tickles me because they are two of my favorite writers of all time.

  • But these two share more than shelf space. A birthday, for one. Both were born on November 29th -- Lewis in 1898 and L'Engle in 1918. And they share other similarities as well.
  • Both developed a love of books and reading early in life.
  • Neither one did very well in the early years of school. Madeleine's teachers often thought her dull-witted. She sometimes had trouble fitting in at the boarding schools where her parents sent her. Lewis was sometimes bullied in grade school, scarring him with terrible memories.
  • They shared a common faith. Both were Christians--and Anglican (Lewis) /  Episcopalian (L'Engle).

Madeleine as librarian at the library of St. John's Cathedral,
now known as the Madeleine L'Engle Library

  • They share celebrity and popularity. Madeleine's A Wrinkle in Time has sold more than 14,000,000 copies and counting. Jack's The Chronicles of Narnia (seven books), more than 100 million copies in 47 languages. And these titles represent only a fraction of their prolific output. Both were popular speakers as well as authors.

  • They also share some genres. Both wrote fantasy about space travel and both wrote poetry and nonfiction reflections on life and faith. Both wrote about pain and grief. Both were heavily influenced by the writings of George McDonald.

George MacDonald and his fantasy work, Phantastes

  • Both Lewis and L'Engle had keen and penetrating minds. I would dearly love to hear the two of them in a debate. Wits would clash like swords and words would fly like sparks! 
Magnum Photos
C. S. Lewis was a British academic, a novelist, and a lay theologian. Starting in his teen years, he was entranced by "Northerness" and the Icelandic sagas. He also grew to love nature and taking long walks through the English countryside. Although a confirmed atheist in his youth, his later discussions with Hugo Dyson and J. R. R. Tolkien helped to persuade him to become a Christian and started him down the road to becoming the foremost Christian apologist of the twentieth century.

Publicity photo
for Square Fish Books
Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer, best known for her young adult works -- the Chronos books (the fantasy A Wrinkle in Time and other books in the Time Quintet) and the Kairos Books (the more realistic O'Keefe and Austin family stories). Ironically, some readers found her books "too religious," while some Christian bookstores refused to carry her books because of her controversial views. I had the privilege of hearing Madeleine L'Engle speak many times, and I always noticed that during question and answer sessions, people seemed to look to her to answer the hard questions, to explain the meaning of pain and suffering.

What a joy that today we celebrate two amazing writers who left a great body of meaningful work. One blog post is far too short a space to tell of their accomplishments and of the impact they have made on my life and on so many others.

Photo by Joey Gannon
Thank you, Jack and Madeleine, for being true to your callings, for telling your stories, for wrestling with hard questions. Happy, happy birthday to you both!


  1. Amen, amen, amen!...and many, many, many thanks to The Creator for inspiring writers and their inspiring other writers!

    1. Yes, we writers are all so interconnected--feeding off each other and building on each other, producing something greater than any one person's work.

    2. By the Grace of God! WhooHoo! Alleluia!!