Madeleine L’Engle is a Genius

Some thoughts on revisiting a couple of her books, “A Wrinkle In Time” and “A Wind In the Door”…isn’t it funny how our minds automatically seize hold of ideas that are relevant to our immediate condition? I’m not talking about coincidence, although that’s weird, too. Feeling depressed? “Ode to Joy” comes on the classical station. Got Colin Hay’s song “Overkill” stuck in your head? Colin Hay is the musical guest on “A Prairie Home Companion” that week. I’m watching the Indianapolis monologue from “Jaws” on Youtube because I love it and I swear I went to see a solo theater show that week and the guy FREAKING DOES IT. The universe is conspiring to help you…and it’s worth paying attention. But anyway, Madeleine L’Engle is labeled as writing “children’s literature.” I still re-read her, because maybe I’m a man-child but also because it still speaks to me. As she said about her work, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Awesome. In “Wrinkle” I still identify with Meg and her trials. A passage in “Wind” talks about how a thing becomes more fully itself when it turns away from those youthful selfish impulses and looks toward a more generous cultivation of spirit. “The temptation is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker.” The term “deepening” is central to the novel. Damn. Is she talking directly to me? Children’s literature, my ass.
I don’t think that this scenario completely covers my situation in life, but it cuts damn close. I’ve been there, and not just a few years ago- more like last week. What I do know is that I’ve come up against a very strong wall, and I think a lot of it has to do with drama from when I was a kid. Unfortunately, L’Engle’s words didn’t hit me back then. And although I’ve acknowledged it for 20 years, I’ve never really confronted it, settled with it, put it aside, put down the pain. I need to adjust the way I’ve been dealing with it (immature pleasure-seeker, ahem) and the anger that goes with it. Anger, lack of compassion for myself and others. It’s real, and I haven’t shaken it yet. It has the power to destroy me. Yeah, that’s all in L’Engle’s books. So watch out when you read some of the books from your youth. They might bite you in the ass. I was going to be re-reading Judy Bloom, too. Then again, maybe I won’t.


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