Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back through A Wrinkle in Time



I just re-read A Wrinkle in Time - kind of a time travel experience in itself. As an eight-year old, I adored Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery winning tour de force. First of all, there was awkward and believable Meg - whose full name, Margaret, was my own proper name. Then, of course, I've always loved any literary vehicle that transports me to a vivid and compelling imaginary world - in this case making stops on a few remote planets. The endearing characters Mrs. Whatsit, Charles Wallace and Calvin made that world all the more pleasurable to visit.

Re-reading it led to some interesting discoveries. There were things I liked that I hadn't remembered. Foremost, L'Engle's wonderful writing, especially her pitch perfect dialogue. All the characters had such distinct voices - like Mrs. Who's propensity to speak in pithy quotations. There was a lot of humor - in details like Mrs. Whatsit's eccentric clothes and the whimsy of a two dimensional planet - "rather amusing to be flat," as Mrs. Whatsit says.

An integral theme that hadn't stood out to me as a kid was the underlying religious innuendo. The struggle between good and evil was always pervasive and clear, but from my adult POV, I was struck by the allusions to Christianity.

On re-reading this childhood favorite I'm reminded of something I realized a few years ago on revisiting The Idiot - my favorite book when I was 18. I was so smitten with Prince Myshkin during my art school days, I ignored much of the scenery floating by as I rode through the French countryside on a train. Years later, reading it again was disillusioning.

There's a good reason not to re-read a favorite book. It ruffles the magic of the treasured memory - a feeling that can never be recaptured. Wherever I was in my own life I was most receptive to those books when I read them then - and can't return to that earlier version of myself - without the magic of a tesseract of course. So much depends on timing - time travel notwithstanding.

Please do check back . My Q & A with Seth Grahame-Smith, NY Times bestselling author of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is upcoming, along with poetry for poetry month and much more!

9 comments:

Dana said...

Really nice post. I've had the same experience with books. (I read A Wrinkle in Time as an adult & made the observation about the religious theme.)
You're so right; sometimes you can't recapture the feeling of the first read. Would be interesting to find books that do hold up 20 years later....

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

I reread Little Women recently and felt the same way. There are some wonderful things about the novel still, but I hadn't remembered how much moralizing is in it. Sigh. I guess we can't stay innocent forever.

Diane Browning said...

I agree with you in most cases, but I have found exceptions. Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Mara (about ancient Egypt) is still delightful, in spite of a flawed ending. I'll still re-visit it. And Mary Roberts Reinhart's 1917 masterpiece Bab, a Sub-Deb never ceases to entertain. (Anyone else have a copy?)

Megan Frances said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Dana. Something I re-read last year - my favorite childhood book - met every expectation - Joan AIken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I wrote about it here: Site Name Here

Megan Frances said...

Thank you Beverley and Diane for your insightful comments. Diane - I will look for those 2 books! On re-reading The Idiot and A Wrinkle in Time I still found them to be great books - it's just that they affected me differently because I have changed. Lost idealism mixed with a dose of cynicism perhaps - Beverley you're right.

Lori W. said...

I really appreciated the last paragraph of this post about how favorites sometimes are favorites because they resonate with us at a certain time in our lives. There are some books I can go back to again and again and come away with the same amount of joy and awe, but your comment put words to that disappointment I experience when it's just not the same.

Looking forward to those upcoming posts!

Tiana Smith said...

I hate it when that happens. Or--I try and share one of my favorite childhood books with my husband, and because he is an adult he can't appreciate why I love it so much. When you're a child reading things, there is a kind of magic that is hard to recapture.

Jan von Harz said...

I came to Wrinkle as an older reader and didn't quite get it until I began teaching it in 7th grade. It became for me one of my favorites and I can understand why it is #2 on Bird's top 100 children's books. I have not taught it in a while but I think it is time to reread it along with Jane Eyre another on my favorite rereads.

Great post I really enjoyed reading it.

Cyn Narcisi said...

One of my favorite books from childhood. Made a lasting impression on me. I've been wanting to re-read it and I think I will this summer. Thank you!