Monday, September 24, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time

I first read A Wrinkle in Time sometime around the time I was 11 or 12, and I remember loving it so much that I went on to read all of its sequels and many of L'Engle's other books, including the adult ones. I think this prompted me to read a lot of other science fiction (and The Tempest), too, which led to an interest in science and other cultures that remains with me today. There's not too many books that I read as a child that I can point to as so influential, even affecting what I do and read today - which still includes lots of science and science fiction.

Despite my love for L'Engle, however, I never went back and re-read her books after my teen years. I'm not sure why. As my kids have gotten older, however, I've picked up many of L'Engle's books when I've seen them at library book sales, anticipating the day that they'll be old enough to read them. My son is finally old enough - but perhaps because of the somewhat girly 70's cover of the copy we have (see right), he didn't ever start it, despite (or because of?) my enthusiastic recommendation. Since we still read aloud at bedtime, though, and we're taking turns picking the books, I picked A Wrinkle in Time for the most recent story. And he likes it after all. Really, how could he not like it?

And how could I have forgotten this story for so long? It's very strange, reading about the oxygenating flowers, and creepy Camazotz, and the lovely fur-covered, tentacled Aunt Beast again. It's almost like reading it for the first time, but there's a familiarity, too - and I have to say, A Wrinkle in Time (like a few other Newbery winners - especially The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) really stands the test of time. There's just one part in the beginning, where Calvin and Charles Wallace and Meg are talking about people assuming that Charles Wallace is a moron that strikes me as rather painfully dated.

The descriptions of Camazotz were especially chilling:
Below them the town was laid out in harsh angular patterns. The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small, rectangular plot of lawn in front, with a straight line of dull-looking flowers edging the path to the door. Meg had a feeling that if she could count the flowers there would be exactly the same number for each house. In front of all the houses children were playing. Some were skipping rope, some were bouncing balls. Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play...

Then the doors of all the houses opened simultaneously, and out came women like a row of paper dolls. The print of their dresses was different, but they all gave the appearance of being the same. Each woman stood on the steps of her house. Each clapped. Each child with the ball caught the ball. Each child with the skipping rope folded the rope. Each child turned and walked into the house. The doors clicked shut behind them (p. 103-4).

And Meg? How could I forget a character like Meg, with her stubborn anger, her loyalty, and her love?

Now I just want to go and read all the rest of L'Engle's books again. If you don't hear from me for a while, that's probably where I'll be.


Sandy D. said...

One funny little bit that does show how things have changed - when I first came to reference in the book to a manifestation of evil on Camazotz known as IT, I thought "Information Technology??" before realized it was just a capitalized "it".

Joanne (The Simple Wife) said...

I hadn't read this book since childhood either and thought, "How could I NOT have read this again and again?" I too went back and read all the books in the series, some of which I'd somehow missed as a kid.

And, yes, Meg... What a wonderful character!