Monday, March 5, 2012

Thank You, Madeleine L'Engle


I first read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time when I was in fourth or fifth grade at Saint Jane Francis DeChantal school in Bethesda, Maryland. And to this day, what I remember most about this astonishing book was that, after reading it, the world didn’t seem quite the same place anymore. It was a feeling both exhilarating and, to be honest, not a little scary for a kid from the comfortable suburbs of Washington, DC circa 1968.

Before tackling A Wrinkle in Time, I’d pretty much confined my reading to The Hardy Boys, Boys’ Life magazine and biographies of the Founding Fathers. And in their own way, reading these things influenced my lifelong love for adventure, current events and history. But it was a particularly non-challenging reading list even for grade-schooler. Frank and Joe Hardy always solved their assigned mystery. I would eventually reject the Boys’ Life way of life for something a little more fulfilling. And, though inspirational, the juvenile biographies published in the 1960’s lacquered an unreal gloss over the lives of such figures as George Washington and Paul Revere.

So when Madeliene L’Engle took me with her and the Murrys on a journey through space and time to find the children’s missing father, I was awestruck by just how weird and beautiful a thing imagination, and to a larger extent, the world itself, could be. Following Meg and Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin to the colorless planet Ixchel , meeting the tentacled “Aunt Beast” or confronting an evil intelligence, the IT, who could only be destroyed by love, tore the world open for me. Suddenly, everything, or nearly everything, became possible.

Maybe that means A Wrinkle In Time introduced me to “serious” literature: books about ideas to be considered even at the relatively young age of eight or nine. And maybe I didn’t even realize it at the time. But I haven’t lost that love for considering ideas about life in books, serious or otherwise. And for that I want to thank you, Madeliene L’Engle.

2 comments:

  1. I'm right there with you, Jeff! I also read A Wrinkle in Time as a grade school kid and I adored it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Kay. I'd love to hear from other readers about what books changed their lives!

    ReplyDelete