Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time Turns Fifty

Do you remember the first book you fell in-love with, the first title that inspired you to read, to ingest all other books and other worlds like there was no tomorrow?


I am sure that I am not alone when I tell you that A Wrinkle in Time was my book.


Thirty-six years ago, I was in second grade when Sister Madeleine Mary started reading it to my class. I remember sitting ramrod straight on the floor in my navy blue uniform dress and white knee socks, listening to Sister intone the words of Mrs. Whatsit and Meg. 


I wasn’t reading books that complex yet on my own, but I couldn’t wait until the next week when Sister would read us another chapter: I had to start reading it at home. It was then that my reading took off, and my life was never the same.


Did it make a difference that my grandmother was the author, Madeleine L’Engle? I don’t think that the author/grandmother connection would be my only motivation to surpass my teachers’ reading expectations. It was the wonderful story that compelled me, and kept compelling me to rediscover over and over again. I am sure that I felt the closest kinship to the book when I was eleven or twelve, but that didn’t stop me from falling in-love with the possibility of “story” when I was seven. I grew up with the characters - I understood Meg, marveled at CW, and crushed on Calvin. 


From the beginning, when Meg is scared in the attic on “a dark and stormy night” I slip into her skin, going downstairs for the comfort of hot chocolate and my mother and brother. I too am wary of Mrs. Whatsit at first, not trusting the world “out there” - the world that has not only taken my father, but uses his absence as a way to isolate my family. I too tingle with surprise when we meet Calvin in the woods and bring him home for dinner, and I am ready to believe the Mrs W’s when they call on us/them to save my/Meg’s father on the planet Camazotz. 


It was the first book I read where I - so closely identifying with Meg - got to be the hero, where I realized that parents are fallible, and that anger and stubbornness aren’t necessarily “faults” - that our anger and stubbornness can protect us and serve a purpose. And that love is most important when it’s not just a feeling, but an action, a verb.

For it's fortieth anniversary, I developed a workshop based on Wrinkle - first for a Drama Therapy conference, and then for the education department at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I still love to lead this workshop: using both drama and writing exercises - with a combination of collaborative and individual work, my hope is for participants to emerge empowered through working with the archetypes of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin. (I will be leading this specific workshop at the Mobile Library in Mobile, Alabama on the morning of March 3rd, and the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY on the afternoon of March 20th.)


Now to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of a book that almost didn't get published (26 rejections!), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux has republished a gorgeous special edition of A Wrinkle in Time with a stunning retro jacket flap in FLAMES, and then, when we remove the cover, SURPRISE! We are treated to the original navy blue circles gracing the hardback. 

This Saturday, February 11th, if you are anywhere near New York City, come celebrate with us at Symphony Space at 4PM where my family and I will be in the audience applauding Rebecca Stead, Lowis Lowry, Katherine Patterson and others, who will be giving props to my all-time favorite book. 


What would Gran think? I KNOW that she is thrilled that we are keeping her memory alive and that all of us are making such a big fuss over the 50th birthday of her amazing opus. We will be feeling her beams of joy radiating through the universe, holding us. All of us who love Madeleine L’Engle, whether as a family member, a friend or a fan - we all share in her legacy of the power of her written words and the joy of reading them. We have all become more quintessentially “us” because of “her”. Wouldn’t you agree?


What is your book, the one that turned you into a life-long reader? (For my boys it’s been Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.)
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20 comments:

  1. This is going to be hard to believe, but, when I was young I HATED reading. Shocker, I know right? Well anyways, that all changed when I read The Trumpet of The Swan. I loved that the swan couldn't use his voice, just like I couldn't use my ears. Granted, trumpets rank as one of my least favorite instruments unless played well, but the story gave a nice message. Plus, it was totally the first love story I read, gotta love romance, eh? To be fair though, I can honestly say I haven't read a book that I couldn't enjoy or appreciate the genius and story behind.

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    1. That is a surprise Ian, and look at you now - a tremendous lover and supporter of books! Trumpet of the Swan - I'll have to re-read that! As always, I appreciate what you have to share. Ciao!

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  2. Woohoo!!! Edward sent me an ARC of the 50th anniversary edition of A WRINKLE IN TIME....I haven't read it since I was little, but I started again and I'm loving it!

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  3. It was absolutely A Wrinkle in Time for me. When I was in elementary school, parents would come in to classes on Dr. Seuss's birthday (Read Across America Day, March 2) and read a picture book or a chapter of a novel to us. In 4th grade, my best friend Megan's mom read us the first chapter of A Wrinkle in Time, and I was hooked. I bought it at the bookstore immediately, and I can't even count the number of times I've read it since. I always loved reading, but that book opened my mind to so many other genres, and I believe it's why I maintain a dual love of science and literature/writing! I love the rest of the Time Quartet, the Austin family books, and the Crosswicks Journals, to name a few. Your grandmother is quite an inspiration to me!

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    1. You are making me grin from ear to ear! Thank goodness that Wrinkle opened up your mind to science! Alas, I never excelled in that area myself, but I am thrilled to live in a world where girls and women can pursue whatever turns them on!

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  4. You already know it was Wrinkle and that I still have my original copy signed many years later by your grandmother. I would compare its impact on my young heart and mind to the Chronicles of Narnia.

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  5. Wow. 50 years already? A Wrinkle in Time is an absolute classic. And I love your personal story and connection with your Grandmother's book. :)

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    1. Thanks Cherie - I always love seeing your name in the comments!

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  6. Wrinkle is such a part of who I am that I can't imagine who I'd be without having read it. I'm so grateful for having read, at a very young age, a book that told me that it was possible to be a scientist even though I was a girl - and even though I was also "creative," i.e., loved writing and acting. When people told me I had to be one thing or the other, I remembered Wrinkle (as well as many other of your grandmother's books).

    I gave Wrinkle to my scientifically-inclined 10-year-old niece last year. She devoured it, and has since been ransacking the library for all Madeleine L'Engle's other books. It really brought back my own experience with Wrinkle!

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    1. Hi Dusty - I am so glad to hear about you sharing your love of reading and M'LE with your niece!

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  7. Hi Lena,

    Before your Gran wrote WRINKLE, a wonderful volume of WORLD HISTORY and Rudyard Kipling's JUST SO STORIES were read to me. I loved words and music was in my blood. When WRINKLE came into my life along with other Madeleine L'Engle books, I was deeply moved and then had the good fortune of participating in many writing workshops with Madeleine. Our friendship grew and in 1993 I produced Madeleine's recording of WRINKLE for TesserTraks believing that future generations should have the chance to hear Madeleine's special reading. So WRINKLE carries a deep significance for me and the text still rings in my ears from our days in the studio. I will always treasure the sacred friendship that I shared with Madeleine and the profound work of preserving her voice.

    It is a joy to be approaching the celebration in NYC this week. I so look forward to seeing you and your family.

    xoxoMaryJo

    p.s. Here is a little trivia for you...Do you know about the BIG FAT LITTLE GREEK MISTAKE? In my WRINKLE workshops, I explain that Mrs Who's Greek quote in WRINKLE is not exactly accurate. The text should read....Αελπτον ουδεν παντα δ'ελπιζειν χρεων. Euripides smiled down on us as I taught the correct version to Madeleine for the recording but he would probably question the fact that millions of copies later, the book has never been corrected. Perhaps for the 100th year celebration?


    See you soon........

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    1. Thank you for sharing MaryJo - I am so glad you are coming . . . ALL THE WAY FROM CHICAGO!!!!

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  8. For me, believe it or not, it was learning Bible stories as a small child and the Nancy Drew series--about a young woman who was the heroine; she loved to solve mysteries and was smart! I also loved The Exodus by Leon Uris at about age 12....and I've never stopped loving stories. Fantasy captured my heart in my teens with CS Lewis and Tolkien. I was introduced to Madeleine L'Enge's books in my late 20s and I've been a fan ever since!

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    1. Hi Carolyn - thank you so much for sharing!

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  9. I actually met your grandmother when she gave a lecture at Chautauqua Institution in New York State back when I was a Catholic school girl myself. She was wonderful, of course. I already knew I wanted to be a novelist, so I really took to heart those words of advice she shared with us that day. She spoke of rejection letters as a fact of life instead of as a measure of one's talent, telling us that she could have papered the walls of her room with them at one point. Her words made the possibility of rejection less frightening and turned it into something I could face with acceptance. I spoke with her briefly after the lecture, and it was a huge moment for me. I had read all of her books that I had been able to get my hands on, and it was one of those moments when as a child you realize that an actual, real person created the wonderful stories you loved to read. I wish now that I could listen to that lecture again to get the grains of wisdom that my childhood mind may have missed, but I am still very thankful for having had the opportunity at all.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth - he stories of rejection are sometimes the only things that get me through - I am so glad that you had the opportunity to have the Madeleine Experience!

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  10. Where I realized that parents are fallible, and that anger and stubbornness aren’t necessarily “faults” - that our anger and stubbornness can protect us and serve a purpose.Can you tell me how i remove slowly this.

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