R.I.P., E. L. Konigsburg, 1930-2013

“Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.”

E. L. Konigsburg, beloved and multiply Newbery-winning author of the wry, quiet, and brainy children’s classics From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerThe View from Saturday; Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth; and many others, passed away at 83 on this past Sunday, April 21.

I can’t count how many times I’ve read From the Mixed-Up Files…, thrilled to the furtive elegance of Claudia and Jamie’s runaway plot, and dreamed about harvesting coins from the Met’s fountains and sleeping in its brocaded beds alongside them. There’s so much to love about Konigsburg’s portraits of watchful, thoughtful, growing kids. With concise wit, she captures their probing intelligence; their capacity for nurturing odd thoughts in secrecy; their pride; and, both humorously and sympathetically, their disaffection. Her affection towards them isn’t so much the fond downward gaze of an adult, but the admiring, good-humored glance of one comrade at another. Thank you, E. L. Konigsburg.

Also, from her obituaries I’ve learned that she was a woman in the sciences (chemistry, specifically) long before it was widely accepted. I feel proud to be following her, and women like her. I would have loved to be able to talk with her about science and writing.

Obituaries:

And see Wikipedia for a full list of her works.

 

– E

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