Lloyd Alexander, 1924-2007

Tuesday May 22, 2007 @ 10:28 PM (UTC)

On May 17, Lloyd Alexander crossed the Sundering Sea.

Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles were perhaps the first truly great books I ever read. His writing was funny, simple, earnest, and beautiful. He wrote stories about growing up, sheer adventure, and (endlessly) about the fascination and splendor of the feline. Notably, he wrote heroes who were real, fallible people; moral choices which did not come with a trail of breadcrumbs; stories for children that resonate with adults.

My favorite Prydain book, Taran Wanderer, is the most obvious example. It renders the mythic true and palpable. It makes the struggle of life, of growing up and finding an identity, into a quest both adventurous and normal. I hope I will never stop finding it deeper and more true as I get older, because I feel that if I do, perhaps it means I, not it, have stopped growing. All that, my friends, from a ‘children’s book’.

The only fan letter I have ever written was to Lloyd Alexander. I still have his response, framed. I hold it in my lap now, trying not to cry on it. It is typed (with a typewriter) on personalized stationery, with a fiddling Puss-in-Boots gracing the head. I couldn’t tell you how dear this letter is to me without quoting it nearly in full, nor without explaining what I’d said in my letter. I can only say that if, as the aphorists claim, “You regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do,” this letter represents one of my spectacular avoided regrets. It’s a beautiful letter.

However dark the world may seem, there are special, unforgettable people in it with us. They and we are here so briefly. Be foolish, earnest, and heartfelt. Try to be a hero. Be kind to cats. Forgive yourself. Tell those people what they mean to you while you can.



Wow. I never even read any of his books, but your description of his letter made me all weepy-eyed. He sounds like someone the world needs to make more of.

Do you have recommendations of anything else he wrote? I couldn’t get into the Westmark series (okay, I did, but the last book left a bad taste in my mouth), and The Rope Trick was just horridly bland, sorta turned me off of trying anything else. Time Cat? Anything? Bueller?

On a related note, go to the library today or tomorrow (you do have a library card by now, right?)-no, this can’t wait any longer than that-and pick up a copy of Kiki Strike in the Shadow City. I forget whom by.

That’s assuming, of course, that you’ve already read Onion Girl, by Charles De Lint, because if you haven’t done that then you need to leave whatever you’re doing right now as you read this, buy yourself a copy at the closest retail outlet and enough food for you to survive for the next 23 hours, perhaps more if you have a wedding or funeral to go to between now and then.

But you’re making me stray from my point: Kiki Strike is a totally squee-worthy book, easily the best I’ve read since Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (which was the best since Onion Girl, which was the best since Feeling Sorry for Celia, which I gave you because you needed to read it so much). But I really did start this post wanting recommendations from you!

I haven’t read Time Cat yet, tho’ I own a copy.

The Chronicles are a big obvious one. The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, The High King and even the charming supplement The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain are highly recommended.

Of his stand-alone books, my favorite so far is The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian, and The Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha is rather amusing too. The Vesper Holly books are a matter of taste, but amusing. If only for the hilarity of a female action hero blowing off the handsome guy who falls in love with her each book, telling him she is too busy having adventures for a boyfriend.

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