OK, so I have to admit, I went back to the Pilgrim Place sale today. Mostly for the craft booths and the apple pie—I just got a couple of books this time though, a new hymnal and a new Joan Didion. It’s been a good way to fill out some of my collections: I’ve filled out collections of nonfiction writers/memoirists that I’ve been following for a while: Madeleine L’Engle, Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott. All of whom I want to be when I grow up—writing nonfiction that illuminates how we see the world, how we see God.
Focusing on my editing projects has been hard with all these books on the table. Between edits, I’ve been leafing through the first book that came to hand, the top of the stack—which happened to be L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, which I wrote about last night. It’s full of small gems about faith and art, and as I read, I remember how it hit me in high school when I was first starting to think seriously about what Christianity meant to me. Some of my first proto-theological insights, the “accounting of the hope within me,” if you will, were sparked by this book.
But then I got to the part of the book where L’Engle remembers writing A Wrinkle in Time—and I remember how that rocked my world. That book, with its witches, unicorns, two-dimensional planets, and villainous disembodied brains, lived in my imagination for most of my childhood years. More than most of the personal essays I’ve read. And certainly more than the ones I’ve written so far.
I guess what I’m trying to say is tonight I might be reconsidering my addiction to memoir. I’ve written before here about discovering creative nonfiction: about how telling factual stories is easier for me than fictional ones, or how prose can pinpoint images as well or better than my poetry ever could. And the questions I have, about faith and creativity, they seemed to be too big to hit in fiction or poetry without being wooden, stilted, tripping over allegory. I had—still have—this yearning to ask big questions, and to somehow, by writing, be part of the answer.
And so this past year I’ve written “serious” essays for the world, and then I’ve written cheesy fiction, for my own eyes only. And blog entries, which have been trying to be personal essays.
Maybe I’m trying too hard. I’m not moved by sermons but by stories, after all, and if I ever write something that says half as much about faith and art as A Wrinkle in Time, I’ll die happy. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at a short story again, cheesy or no. Or at least in the next used bookstore I visit, I’ll scour the children’s lit section for any and all L’Engle sci-fi, and read them again, and remember.