Valerie's Reviews > A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle
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Apr 25, 12

I own a copy

My edition is this edition, but an earlier printing. Mine is the 11th Laurel-Leaf Printing, from 1980.

It would be interesting to read an author's preface for this book. For example, I wonder if she'd ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton contest when she began her book "It was a dark and stormy night". I know she didn't get the first line from Snoopy, because 1962 was before he took up writing.

I would say that I'm like most people in that I don't remember when I first read this book. I'm pretty sure I was younger than Meg when I did, but older than Charles Wallace. I didn't really identify with Meg. I've never cared what I looked like, and never had much respect for people who did care. I had, in fact, more in common with Charles Wallace.

I'm not sure when I began to realize that I didn't accept Charles Wallace's and Calvin's claim to be 'sports'. At the time of the first reading I'm not sure if I knew what was meant by the term. A later writer might have used the term 'mutation'. But I do know that I began questioning the idea of people who were profoundly different by descent fairly early on. Not that people were different. But that it was a matter of how they were born. I'll have more to say about this in later books.

The book is well written. L'Engle had quite a gift for phrasing. I've retained quite a bit of the phrasing from many readings. Some of it I realize I'd forgotten where it came from.

The same year L'Engle died I was shocked to learn from a Banned Books Week publication that this book is often challenged, especially in school libraries. I think I knew quite early on that the book was quite orthodox Catholic doctrine. It was one of the main quarrels I had with the book from the start. So why would people challenge it? I still haven't gotten an answer.

I find that as I reread, I'm anticipating points. I like the diagrams of the tesseract. I have fairly serious questions with the attempt to resolve the predestination/free will by analogy to a sonnet. But it's an interesting idea.

I wish that there'd been more time spent on describing life on planets that are NOT 'shadowed'. What IS life meant to be like? What would cause the 'Black Thing' to develop and grow, if life on 'unshadowed' worlds is so good? The very brief glimpses we have of life on Uriel and Ixchel (the home planet of the 'Beasts') are tantalizingly unrealized. We have no real grasp of things like the botany and zoology of the worlds. Or government. The Beasts seem to have an egalitarian participatory democracy, but it's not clear, since the problem of the aliens is resolved by an ad hoc group, and such a group might be more egalitarian than the society as a whole.

I found the violent metaphors (everything is described in terms of 'fighting' and 'battles') very disturbing. It's not surprising that Meg had difficulty understanding what she has that IT does not have, if she's always schooled to think in terms of conflict. There's very little actual violence in the book: but the verbal violence is in every lane and path.

The description of Camazotz is almost entirely superficial. It's an indication of how much it is so that the visitors only go indoors twice, and both times to confront rulers. There are people moving about, but is there no vehicular traffic? Only one powered bicycle is shown. How do they get goods distributed? The people of Camazotz are described as living 'useful' lives. Useful to whom? People who can't become 'useful' are culled: that is, killed. This is apparently done by means of an overdose of anaesthetic: but who manufactures the drugs? And how are the decisions made? What are the night watchmen watching for? Maybe fires? Not crime, surely, since it's argued that this is prevented. And don't any of these alien planets have any weather?

The arguments that IT and The Man with The Red Eyes make are not particularly original. Perhaps they're not meant to be. They're reactive, after all: countering debate points raised by the 'con' side.

The first impression that this is just another coming-of-age story with fantastic trimmings is not that far off. Is it plausible that the teenage Meg had NEVER considered that at some point she would have to do things on her own? Or that it made no sense to argue that her Father was omnipotent, and yet somehow couldn't get back to his family? Or the distinction between 'equal' and 'the same'?

The quest the children embark on is something like a vision quest, though it has a practical goal and though Charles Wallace is unusually young for such a quest.

I was left feeling unsatisfied. Ok, they set out to find Mr Murry. But didn't they ever feel a need to set wider goals for themselves? What WILL happen to Camazotz? A supernova doesn't seem like any sort of solution to me. Aren't there any plans to help? One might think that later books would set out to resolve this problem. But not noticeably, as I remember. I don't think Camazotz ever comes into the discourse again.
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