Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lloyd Alexander

When I finished reading The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, I was impressed by the large bibliography of Alexander's books listed at the beginning of the book. The first books of his I ever read were the first volumes in the Chronicles of Prydain -- The Black Cauldron, I think, is the first one I read. I can still remember the library I checked them out from. It was not my normal library. I have no idea now which town that library was in, how I happened to have a library card from there, or what I was doing there at all. I remember the shelves, and the look of the books, and not much else.

Now that I'm raising two fantasy buffs, both of whom love Tolkien, revisiting those books made sense. Tolkein's work is grounded in European mythology, the Chronicles in Welsh mythology; both deal in an epic way with the struggle between good and evil. Interestingly, the books we got out of the library seem to have been the same editions I checked out so many years ago. Published in the early sixties, they mark the beginning of Alexander's successful career as a writer for children. Forty years later, it's not really surprising that he's written a lot since then, but when I saw the list it was a nice feeling. Something that has existed only as a memory, feeling fixed and static, is in fact a living, growing thing. His body of work is a living bridge between the present and my past.

"It's great," I thought, "that a writer I remember from my childhood can be part of my life now. It's cool to know that he's still writing."

So I started looking for the publication date. Which is when I noticed that the book had been published by his estate. And that the little author bio found on the back flap of the dust cover has two years in parentheses next to his name, as in (1924-2007). Apparently he died in May.

So the discovery of his many books that remain for our family to explore is a sad one, too, because now that list really is fixed, written in stone as much as any monument to his memory.

I was surprised to learn that he is an American writer. Given the double l in his first name, and the Welsh underpinnings to his best-known works, I had jumped to the conclusion that he was British. Nope. Born in Pennsylvania, and living there when he died. It also somehow surprised me that he's written several award-winning books that I've never even heard of. There is a list of them here, which I plan to work my way through. I just wish I had gotten to it sooner.



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