We mourn the death (last Friday) of E.L. Konigsburg, who never wrote a book I didn’t want to read. (Not that I love them all, but even where she went wrong, she did so magnetically.) I remember a slightly uneasy conversation with Konigsburg’s editor Jean Karl right after Elaine had won her second Newbery Medal for a book the Horn Book didn’t much like. “She never writes the same book twice,” offered Jean, and with that I could enthusiastically agree. Middle-grade adventure (Mixed-Up Files), po-mo mystery (Father’s Arcane Daughter), baby Kafka ((George)), and truly edgy YA (Silent to the Bone, link leading to my NY Times review). I could be wrong here, but Up From Jericho Tel is probably the only novel for children starring a dead Tallulah Bankhead.
I met Elaine several times, first when she gave a dynamite speech about censorship at the University of Chicago when I was a student, and last when she gave another dynamite speech upon receiving the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion in 1998. An acute critic, she was one of the few writers for children who I thought could do an equally good job on our side of the fence. She had a big Carol Burnett smile and was always the most stylishly dressed person in the room. That goes for her prose, too.