Saturday, October 20, 2007
Fae Malania, Writer
Fae Malania died this morning. Although her family is long gone, friends gathered in at her bedside to recall her sweetness and to make the responses in the prayer book as Father Abbott of Christ Church led a service. We paged through her three photo albums and looked at a lovely young Fae, and then we followed the thread of her life through pictures.
The window was open, the watch stopped on her arm.
Outside the sky was wonderfully blue, the hills autumnal and muted.
You should have wept her yesterday,
Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep to-day
That she is dead?
Lo, we who love weep not to-day,
But crown her royal head.
When has a "wherefore" ever stopped anyone from crying?
Reprint of an old post from fall, 2005. This dates from when we threw two book parties in her honor, one at Christ Church Cooperstown (home of James Fenimore Cooper, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Paul F. Cooper, William Wilberforce Lord, Fae, me, and many another writer) and one in the parlor at The Thanksgiving Home.
Fae Malania is one of my very favorite old ladies in the Village of Templeton. In 1961 she published a collection of spiritual essays with Knopf--a prestigious publisher then and now. This month the book is being resurrected in an elegant small paperback with an introduction by Lauren Winner and a biographical essay (that's by me.) The text has been slightly revised, with a new order given to the pieces, but it's interesting to see how well they have stood the test of years.
These are beautiful, lyrical essays, with an interesting sensibility behind them. The history of their re-publication is astonishing, if you know anything about how very difficult it is to get a reprint on a book that has been out of circulation for almost fifty years. Over a year ago, the book was submitted to three publishers, was highly praised by all three and received offers from two. That's a score any writer would find quite acceptable. John Wilson (Books & Culture) and Lil Copan (Paraclete Press) helped us along the reprint path, and now the book is being launched by Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. One curious bit of rightness about the choice of publisher is that Fae's husband, Leo Malania, was instrumental in organizing and overseeing the revision of The Book of Common Prayer, published by Church.
"Fae Malania's lovely book is a small offering, like a hazelnut. Like the hazelnut, this book is a reminder of God's love. And like a hazelnut, it can unlock a world."
--Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath
"The resurrection of a good book is always cause for celebration. 'The Quantity of a Hazelnut' is a very good book indeed, neither extremely loud nor incredibly close but quietly unforgettable.
--John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture
"With beautiful language and a winning confessional style, Malania offers a spiritual vision that is steeped in traditional Catholicism while open to truth in diverse places."
--Jana Reiss, author of What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guidewww.seaburybooks.org
About the title of the book:
I had an awful dream once, it was a terrible dream, terrible things happened in it. There wasn't any future in my dream. It was all gone, lost, irretrievable; and by my fault, by my own fault.
At the deepest point of my despair, in the twinkling of an eye--though nothing was changed--everything was changed. I was holding--something--in the curve of my palm. Its weight was good to the hand, it was very solid, round. It might have been an apple, or a globe. It was all that mattered, and in it was everything. Even in my sleep, I think I cried for joy.
A long time later in the "Revelations" of Dame Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century English anchoress, I met my dream again, and I knew it at once.
"In this," she says (this vision or, as she always calls it, shewing)--"In this He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, and to my understanding it was as round as any ball. I looked thereupon and thought: 'What may this be?' And I was answered in a general way, thus: 'It is all that is made.' I marvelled how it could last, for methought it might fall suddenly to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts and ever shall last because God loves it, and so hath all-thing its being through the love of God."
--Fae Malania, The Quantity of a Hazelnut