03 June 2016

Books: A Wrinkle in Time By Madeleine L'Engle (1963)

There are many books that I’ve not read. Not that I’m embarrassed, or foolish, or thoughtless about it, but part of the reason I did not read books, like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time comes from not having access to a large library when I was a kid, except the limited one at my grade school. And a mentor to help me.

Plus, I don’t remember being encouraged to read, something I’ve mentioned before, when growing up. Or if I was, I don’t recall it. I do recollect that once I got my bike for First Communion, it freed me to go to the closet library, which was in Schaumburg the next town over. There I found the traditional boy books like The Hardy Boys –though I passed them over for the less popular The Three Investigators (which, as I reflect, is probably where I began my notion of liking non-conformist things).

But the great things about books, of course, is that no matter how much time goes by, they’ll always be there. Yes, today, if you miss a TV show, the odds are it’ll pop up on streaming sites or DVD; the same with movies and music. But books have always been there, waiting patiently like your favorite dog, for you to pick them up and begin a new adventure.

“ It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. ‘Wild nights are my glory,’ the unearthly stranger told them. ‘I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract’. Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?”

Thinking back, I do remember when I really began reading, which was my freshman year of High School. I do know I read other books before then, but beyond The Three Investigators, I can’t recall others. But while I had nothing wrong with female writers (though only over the last decade or so I’ve been reading more of them)–spent that first year of High School reading Agatha Christie, I just don’t think I was fond of reading books where females were the protagonist (though I did like her Miss Marple tales). Christie’s Hercule Piorot was a man and for reasons back then, this was what I liked and wanted to read.

After reading A Wrinkle in Time today, I simply wonder what my young brain was thinking back then. While short in pages, L’Engle is able to construct a complex, yet easily readable tale of science fantasy that is less science fantasy and more a social commentary on religion, conformity and the status quo. While I found Meg to be annoying at first (she does come across in the early pages as a girl caught up in the era in which this book was written; meaning she always saw herself in a negative light to boys), by the end, the character had grown. And I can see why, when L’Engle was trying to get the book published in the late 1950s and early 60s, publishers were not interested in it -not only taking on the concepts of religion, conformity and status quo, but the very idea a girl can save the day. 

Then add on the unique notion that L’Engle is a woman and was writing science fiction to begin with.

Still, I have now, intentions of reading the three other books in this series, though I know they can be read in any order. But what I guess I learned here is that books like this, designed for young children and young adults, can be read anytime. Another words, you don’t have to be a kid to read them (thank you Jo Rowling). Maybe the best part of reading these “kids” books for the first time as an adult, you can clearly see what the author was doing, and you can understand the “message” now. 

But there is a part of me who now regrets that I did not read these books back when I was younger. But if wishes were horses, right?

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