Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

What fun, what fun! Well, sort of. I fondly recall reading A Wrinkle in Time back in about fifth grade, and while I know I went back to it at least a couple more times after that, it may have been twenty years since I last read something by Madeleine L'Engle. This novel is good and earnest and pleasant, definitely, but I'm not sure my student will think it so, and I'm meeting with her later this morning to talk about its relative environmentalism.

L'Engle's first novel, A Wrinkle in Time continues to sell well, having remained in print continuously since 1962, and continues to play a vital cultural role, having made regular appearances on the American Library Association's list of most-challenged books (#23 overall, 1990-1999, immediately below Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen and Roald Dahl's The Witches, and right above Charles Silverstein's The New Joy of Gay Sex).

(And actually, if you've got time on your hands, you could do worse than to pore over the list of challenged books and figure out how to support the independence and good-hearted subversiveness of your local library!)

Where was I going with this?

Right. A Wrinkle in Time remains a gripping read, albeit one for a distinctly younger set than I thought it was for.

Environmentally speaking, I'm fascinated by L'Engle's insistence on describing the physical setting immediately on the opening of a new scene; she's really attentive to questions of vegetation, topography, and geology. The Murry family has a garden, too, which isn't the least bit relevant to the plot but presumably is meant to be a marker of their collective character. And as geeky, nerdy, brainy as Meg Murry and Charles Wallace Murry are, they're both constantly drawn to the outdoors.

My favourite element remains the occasional references to the inexplicable, and in particular to how we can sometimes understand things beyond our comprehension. For example, as Meg tries to grasp how five-dimensional space relates to Euclidean geometry, she suddenly cries out, "I got it! For just a moment I got it! I can't possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!" (pp.88-89). That's how math always worked for me: I had the hardest time manufacturing calculations that would look like I was showing my work, because too often I could just put down the right answer, right through Calculus but already in later elementary school, so it felt really neat to see a book character with something like my own abilities -- and in a heroic role. Nerd as hero, what a concept!


Popular Posts