Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thoughts on E.L. Konigsburg

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
Reading the Salon article "E.L. Konigsburg Brought the City to the 'Burbs" reminded me of just how much I've loved her books--and how much they've shaped me in odd ways.

I got From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler from my late grandmother, a woman who had an uncanny knack for giving me books I loved.  My introduction to E.L. Konigsburg and L.M. Montgomery were both thanks to my grandmother. 

Reading From the Mixed-Up Files was eye-opening for a little girl from Delaware, a true suburban dweller.  I didn't necessarily want to run away to New York and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art--but I sure did understand Claudia's frustrations as a fellow mother's helper.  Jamie's tightwad tendencies always makes me think of my dad, too.

In sixth grade, I came across A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, the book that introduced me to the fascinating Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I still remember my mom special-ordering the book for me from the local Waldenbooks, because I had to have my own copy.  To this day, it's my favorite Konigsburg--a fact I was lucky enough to share with her at Book Expo America a few years ago.  I still hope, someday, that someone will write a book about Eleanor's granddaughter, Blanca of Castile, who was chosen by Eleanor to be queen of France, all based on Konigsburg's amusing version of this story.

A lesser-known but really amazing book by Konigsburg is Father's Arcane Daughter.  For a children's book, it's not watered-down (a highlight of all her books, really): there's flashbacks, adult narrators, and a compelling look at how we pity those who are different from us, those that we see as less than us.  I also see it as a bit of a love letter to Pittsburgh, a city where Konigsburg lived and that she recreates in the book.  Father's Arcane Daughter has a lot of similarities to the later Silent to the Bone.  (Gah!  I just saw on Amazon that there's a Kindle edition of Father's Arcane Daughter, retitled to My Father's Daughter.  Talk about missing the point . . .)

E.L. Konigsburg

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