L'Engle · Reading

Completed: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle
(US, 1962)

Her mother carefully turned over four slices of French toast, then said in a steady voice, “No, Meg. Don’t hope it was a dream. I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.” (Ch 2)

I admit I approached A Wrinkle in Time with some trepidation. Although I had fond memories, it had been so long since I last read it, that I was afraid the magic might be gone.

I needn’t have been afraid. Not only did A Wrinkle in Time maintain the sense of magic I remembered from so long ago, I found much more insight in it than I would have as a child. L’Engle does not condescend to her reader, and so she creates a story that is not merely enchanting, but that imparts seamless lessons for living that extend to any reader.

“But nobody’s ever happy, either,” Meg said earnestly. “Maybe if you aren’t unhappy sometimes you don’t know how to be happy.” (Ch 8)

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of three children—Meg and Charles Wallace Murry and Calvin O’Keefe—who are tasked with the rescue of Mr. Murry, who went astray in space in a lab experiment gone wrong. It is a story of fighting against darkness—inner, outer, spiritual, here given form as “the Black Thing.” And it is a story of family and friendship and individuality and finding one’s place and learning one’s strengths. It introduces us to the fifth dimension, a tesseract, a “wrinkle” in time. And so Wrinkle is a science-fiction story. It is that rare science-fiction story—to my familiarity, at least—where a girl is a hero. And L’Engle makes Meg a marvelous, well-rounded hero. She is allowed not only her strengths, but her faults as well, indeed is told to use her faults. She is allowed to be both strong and weak, smart but a struggling student, determined and impatient and stubborn and angry and full of love.

Nor is Meg a “token” female character; Mrs. Murry is allowed not to merely be a mother, but a highly-educated working scientist, and the children are guided by the delightful—and wise—trio of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Nor do these wonderful women come at the expense of males: Charles Wallace and Calvin are essential to the story as well, their strengths and weaknesses playing off Meg’s and providing two more examples of intelligence and individuality and two more problem solving approaches as well; and, like his wife, the scientist Mr. Murry reminds us that even as adults we still struggle with the challenges life may throw at us and with how best to protect those we love.

Refreshingly, A Wrinkle in Time seems at times to be a celebration of the intellectual, while also providing a caution against the pure intellect and a reminder to guard oneself against smugness and superiority. In the end there is a strength greater even than book smarts or wisdom or determination, but this is a lesson Meg (and the reader) must learn for herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed returning to the world of L’Engle’s words and I am even more excited for my 2018 L’Engle reading project than I was even a month ago.

“Do you think things always have an explanation?”
“Yes. I believe that they do. But I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.” (Ch 3)

For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. “No!” she cried triumphantly. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” (Ch 9)

Read for 2018 TBR Pile Challenge and as a children’s classic for Back to the Classics.

Challenge

Back to the Classics 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

So…I did okay in 2016 with the Back to the Classics reading, I just didn’t post on most of the books. And in 2017. Whoops. I guess I read two or three books that qualified, but, again, didn’t write about any. So I wasn’t going to sign up for this (or really any year-long challenge except the TBR challenge)–but–when I looked over my TBR list, I realized that if I finish all my TBR Challenge books I will have completed the basic level (6/12 books) for this challenge. And if I read the two alternates, I will be 1 away from the middle level (9/12). So…third time’s the charm?

Hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate, the categories this year are (all books must be at least 50 years old):

1.  A 19th century classic
2.  A 20th century classic
3.  A classic by a woman author
4.  A classic in translation
5. A children’s classic
6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction
7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction
8. A classic with a single-word title
9. A classic with a color in the title
10. A classic by an author that’s new to you
11. A classic that scares you
12. Re-read a favorite classic

(More details/rules at Karen’s original post.)

I will admit, even assuming success with the TBR list, I may not get much further–there are a few categories I’m not sure at this moment what I’d do with, especially if I try to stick with books off my own shelves. At least there’s plenty of time to decide!

Thanks again to Karen for hosting. Now what to read first…?

Classic Children's Literature · RAL

Anyone for a RAL?

It’s inevitable – no matter how lousy the reading’s been, no matter how many books are currently in the TBR stack next to my reading chair – come December (if not earlier), I’m thinking about the next year. What wondrous reading will be then? Admit it – you do it too. All those lovely end-of-year lists/goals/dreams. Truly, one of the highlights of December for me! (Can you tell I’m a planner/list-maker?)

So yes, I already have a pretty good idea of what I’m planning on for next year. And while I usually wait to share until either a) I’m signing up for a challenge I likely won’t actually complete or b) my end of year post, I thought there was one plan that I should mention early. Actually, a non-plan as well: I currently have no plans to continue the Children’s Classic Literature Event for a sixth year. If anyone else wants to host a similar event, please feel free (and I may even read along), but I won’t be hosting one.

A Wrinkle In Time Movie Poster (low res)

However. I am planning some Madeline L’Engle reading for next year, starting with a reread of A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, of course this is because of the upcoming film adaptation. And the fact that I asked for and received a box set of the Time Quintet books several years ago and still haven’t (re)read them. And then I thought, “hey, there’s a movie coming out–maybe I’m not the only one who wants to (re)read this?” So let me know if you think you might want to read along – if there’s enough interest in a A Wrinkle in Time RAL prior to the March release (I’m thinking January), I’d be willing to host. Alternatively, if there’s already a RAL planned/running, please point me that direction as I haven’t found it yet!

Now, just to clear the deck off first…

The Classics Club

And the Title Is….

 

Cover: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

With #4 spun, it looks like I’ll be reading Mary Barton over the next few weeks (hopefully!). It’s been a while since I’ve read Gaskell, but I do really like her, so I’m excited for this one. And it will be nice to get back to some Victorian literature; it’s been quite a while.

Looking forward to a short work week, too—hopefully some extra reading time to get this started.

Happy reading!

The Classics Club

Another Classics Spin

Question Mark - cover place holder

If at first you don’t succeed….

This is apparently the 16th Classics Club spin. I don’t know how many I’ve attempted, and it’s been even fewer I’ve completed successfully (maybe one?), but it seems always worth the try.

Actually, I’d been thinking just the other day that’s it’s been a while since I’ve really read any books to sink my teeth into, or even any 19th or early 20th century fiction. (Of course, then I remembered that I read Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea this summer, which I keep managing to forget.) So as it happens, this spin is quite timely. Because I’m craving some 19th or early 20th century reading, my spin list is largely from the middle of my Classics Club list, and I’ve left it in chronological order. I’m rather rooting for #1, Lady Susan, as I pulled that out for a reread a few weeks ago, though I haven’t gotten to it yet. But really, anything here would be good, especially as the bulk of the books are currently on my shelves just waiting to be read!

And you, are you spinning?

  1. Austen, Jane: Lady Susan (England, c. 1794)*
  2. Austen, Jane: Emma (England, 1816)*
  3. Brontë, Anne: Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  4. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Mary Barton (England, 1848)
  5. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Cranford (England, 1853)
  6. Trollope, Anthony: The Warden (England, 1855)
  7. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (England, 1860)
  8. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd (England, 1874)
  9. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)‡
  10. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)
  11. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Ireland, 1891)*
  12. Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine (England, 1895)
  13. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  14. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  15. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  16. Gibbons, Stella: Cold Comfort Farm (England, 1932)
  17. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  18. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  19. Wright, Richard: Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  20. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
Classic Children's Literature

A Farewell to the Classic Children’s Literature Event

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Time always flies so fast during the Classic Children’s Literature Event! I can’t believe it’s the end of the month.  Already! I had hoped to get just one more book finished before the end of the month, but I’m still over 50 pages away, so it’s not looking likely. I’m sure that in addition to this last book, I’ll have one more straggler into May. So, if like me, you’re just not quite finished, feel free to share any last reads here over the next couple weeks and I will update the participant list.

Participant List:

Carissa at Bookshelves and Daydreams:
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
The Borrowers
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Carol at Jouney and Destination:
My Friend Flicka
Devil’s Hill

Cleo @ Classical Carousel:
Finn Family Moomintroll
Cyrus the Persian

Emma at Words and Peace:
Charlotte’s Web

Faith at Household Diary:
The 101 Dalmatians
Children of the New Forest
Bed-Knob and Broomstick

TJ at My Book Strings:
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon

Amanda at Simpler Pastimes:
Beauty and Other Variations on La Belle et la Bête
Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Charles Perrault Fairy Tales)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Participants:

Cirtnecce @ Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices
Amanda @ Simpler Pastimes

Please let me know if I’ve missed your post!

Happy Reading!

Classic Children's Literature

Completed: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 250pxAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
1865, England

It has been many years since I last visited Wonderland. I’ve only ever been there via the written word, all of the film adaptations seem to have passed me by. And so this reading surprised me. It was both familiar and un-, a return to somewhere I’ve been, a return to somewhere I didn’t recognize. While episodes such as the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the homicidal Queen screaming “Off with their heads!” and the Mad Hatter’s endless tea party are so familiar as to have become recognizable pop culture, I was surprised both at how much I remembered of the Pig and Pepper chapter and yet the episodes with the Mock Turtle and the Griffin not at all.

That word, “episodes.” Although the action flows from one scene seamlessly–if sometimes incongruously–into the next, just as in a dream, it seems to be composed of episodes: the caucus race, the tea party, the croquet party, the trial, and so forth. There is not really a through plot line, it is Alice’s “adventures,” and adventures must always be unexpected. But Alice proves they need not always have a motive. (The closest we get to a motivation is Alice’s desire to enter a beautiful garden, but once that is accomplished we still have plenty of book left.)

It is a dream story–explicitly so–and so both nonsense and perfectly sensible in the way that all good dreams are. The delightfully odd mind that this must have sprung from! It is, I can tell, even without the annotations in the copy I read,* that these characters, these references must have meant something to the “original” Alice, Alice Liddell–surely she must have played croquet and with playing cards, knew the proper manners for tea, and had overheard talk of such mysterious things as “caucus races.” Even the poems Carroll parodies that are now largely forgotten (well, I do know “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) would likely have been familiar to her, perhaps learned for her lessons; recitation seems such a common occurrence here!

I was most surprised by the humor. Doubtless the jokes and puns passed my fourth-grade self by. It is meant to be a bit silly too, I think. Now that I have reread it, I have no desire to try to impart some sense, some greater meaning to it, for I am not convinced that any is intended. Perhaps as some scholars think, there are references to historical figures or perhaps it is full of symbolism and greater meaning. But I find that I am quite content to take it as it is, to let my inner child simply meet it with delight.

*The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, Introduction and Notes by Martin Gardner, 2000 ed. I have mixed feeling about annotated editions. Sometimes such notes are useful, other times they are merely distractions. Although sometimes interesting, here I thought they too often went on too long (no, I don’t care about the 1933 film version, I’m interested in the text) or into unnecessary deviations. The context provided and the reprinting of the rhymes Carroll was parodying could be useful, however.