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.

--Christina Rossetti

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
ISBN: 1-59627-014-4


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


  1. A wonder.
    I'm sorry for your loss, Marly.

  2. I wish I had known your Fae. And I hope you will not be offended that I hope my good dog Buddy, who shared her death day, might possibly be ambling through wonder near her now.

    Reason and reassurance and wherefores never stop the tears, but they are cleansing and let us rest in some gratitude for what we had given to us, even when it is seemingly gone from us.

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us Marly.
    i echo jarvenpa's thoughts on tears.

  4. A poor player who strutts and fretts...........

    Good to remind us, thank you Marley; but I have had a terrible tooth ache today and I have a daughter at home organising me no end; an exhibition to put on and not enough hours left 'til they come through the doors. I will strutt and frett but not forget your Fae and her like.

    (the word verification letters spell something very naughty Marley, can't tell you but I am in fits of merriment!!!)

  5. Thanks for the lovely (and silly--silly is good, too!) notes--I think I'll be very busy through the weekend but shall pop by afterward.

  6. Marly I am sad to hear this. I love older creative people. They are so much fun. I had two elderly friends who left behind books of poems from their lives. They were the most interesting people. Also I now have an artist friend who is in her 80's an elderly yet young at heart sprite of a woman.

    I've given a new Flying Pig award and posted some silliness of my own on my blog.

  7. Thanks for private notes and the little public ones dropped here!
    Our celebration of Fae culminates tomorrow with the funeral and reception, and I'm pleased to be a lector--my last little gift. (Does one wear purple, Fae's favorite, or black because it is purple taken to an extreme?) It is lovely to see how somehow utterly bereft of family has made one out of friends from here and elsewhere.

    Here is one of my favorite quotes from the week: "Hers is an unforgettable personality. There was an aura bout her that exuded a deep and profound sense of life's struggle, triumph, and as you mention, sweetness." --Father Doug Smith, formerly of Christ Church Cooperstown, now of Hanover, PA

  8. Marly: I had a very quick look at this post and am definitely returning as it "moved" me somewhat and I want to read again about Fae. Thankyou Marly

  9. Hi Jan--

    Evidently I am going to be the recipient of some boxes of Fae's writings. So I may do a blog for her uncollected work, though I imagine it will take me a long time. We also have a lot of photographs of her husband at the UN and Fae throughout her life.

    Father Doug (her rector for 12 years, I believe) told me a funny story this afternoon. He saw her in the spring and immediately asked her how she was doing. "Oh, fine. In a sinking sort of way." That sounds so very Fae. In his homily, he told a story about her losing her car downtown and going on home... The whole event and reception was touching and sweet.

  10. Hi Marly,

    Got your e-mail. It is amazing that some people are able to make a family for themselves from friends. I have a friend Angela who is the same way. I hope that things settle some for you this week.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.