Monday, January 9, 2017

#Nonfiction Review: 'Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art' by Madeleine L'Engle

This book will be useful and instructive to all kinds of artists, from writers to visual artists to theater performers to musicians. Although it does discuss faith, and particularly Madeleine L'Engle's Christian faith, faith is not necessary to read and get something positive out of this book.

I'm a writer who wouldn't consider herself a Christian, although I was raised in the Roman Catholic church and have attended the Episcopal church as an adult. Madeleine L'Engle states in this book that she likes to call herself Christian and not particular denomination. However, she does mention the Book of Common Prayer, and I know from her other writings that the church she attended was also Episcopal. (For those of you outside the U.S., that's our version of the Anglican Church/Church of England. We split from the Crown during the American Revolution, but we're still part of the Anglican Communion.) Personally, I also find a lot of beauty and meaning in the Book of Common Prayer, but if you don't, that doesn't mean you won't enjoy this book.

Like many readers, I came to know of Madeleine L'Engle through reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child. I carried on with some of the sequels much more recently, and I found them to be quite wonderful too. I have enough appreciation for L'Engle as an artist to understand that she knows quite a bit about art and how art is done.

That's not to say that I entirely agree with everything she writes in this book. I find her lecture on why it's perfectly okay to use "man" to mean "human being" to be terribly old-fashioned and anti-feminist. No, Ms. L'Engle, we don't want the male gender to be the "default" setting for human being, thus reinforcing the idea that man is human and woman is "other." I don't know if she ever read Germaine Greer or Simone de Beauvoir, but she should have.

I will give her a little bit of leeway since she originally wrote this in 1980. Sadly, L'Engle passed away in 2007, so there's no possibility of asking her now.

Overall, though, this book gave me much more to love than to quarrel with. It serves as an antidote to the kind of misplaced piety that would try to separate artists from our art and to squeeze art into too-tiny, too-narrow boxes it no longer wishes to fit inside.

I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review, which represents my own honest opinion.

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