A Wrinkle in Time
I first read A Wrinkle in Time in third grade or thereabouts, and was vaguely conscious of being not as impressed as others seemed to be with this beloved classic of children’s science fiction. When the late Madeline L’Engle passed away shortly after the Reading List elections back in aught-seven, I decided to add Wrinkle to the List, expecting to be enchanted, or at least suitably impressed, this time around.
Alas, I am still a little underwhelmed. Whatever its virtues -- we’ll get to those in a minute -- A Wrinkle in Time is a real muddle. It involves a series of rather job-lot supernatural events -- some are fantastical, some are apparently mock-fantastical, some are science-fictionish -- that have only the thinnest logical connection among them. Villains with no clear motive must be fought within rules that are never really explained with the help of allies whose roles are unclear and whose tremendous powers, for reasons which seem rather arbitrary, have very specific limitations that force them to rely on a high school freshman and her little brother to save the universe.The primary characters bounce from event to event, having experiences that are only structured by the order the Ms. L’Engle wrote them in. That they by and large merely endure a series of trials, rather than actively engaging in a in a course of action, is a necessary side effect of a fictive universe with no particular rhyme or reason to it.
To be sure, Wrinkle adheres to the ground rules of children’s fiction. The characters succeed through perseverance and courage, their love of family and friends is affirmed as a principle human value, and it is stressed that it is OK to be and feel different than your peers. The book, published in 1963, is like much literature of that period in making a memorable assault on suburban conformity and the corporate mentality. Wrinkle is also lovable for its suggestion that it might be OK, or even kind of cool, to be smart and know things.
Most of my friends on the “GoodReads” online bookworm site rate A Wrinkle in Time very highly. One notes it as one of the books that opened up the possibility of realities other than the mundane one that we all had to wait through as children. From its reputation, it’s clear that Wrinkle played a similar role in the lives of a great many other of us bookish dreams. That’s a wonderful thing, and I can salute it, even while suggesting that this is not really a book that holds up well to an adult reading.
NEXT UP: Whiling away a long road trip with Ye Canterbury Tales!
ON DECK: Dreading a repeat of The Brothers Karamazov experience with Crime and Punishment!