07 September 2007

Three Paragraphs Of Little Sense But Much Love And Gratitude

Madeline L'Engle died yesterday. (She was 88 years old. Times obit here.) I read about this on Gawker, and actually got teary, which I never do because I don't know how to deal with death. I know she had some awkward weirdness with her kids, but it's a testament to the impact her writing had on my generation that the Gawker commenters are notably snark-free. It's all "She wrote amazing, amazing books" and "The first sex scene i ever read was in A House like a Lotus." I never read A House Like a Lotus but Yalith walking around topless in Many Waters and making out with the twins? I remember that, too.

The Time quartet (plus the honorary fifth book of An Acceptable Time) had an inordinately profound impact on my life, in the way that only books you've read very young and very many times can. I think I like physics because of these books. (And because my best friend at the time was a total physics dork. We watched a Nova special on the big bang at his house. He's also the person I read these books with. Jonathan Kaufman-Scher, where are you?) My ideas about science, love, beauty (Aunt Beast, anyone?), Welsh, liverwurst, unicorns, angels, mythology, mitochondria, pets - it all has roots in these books. I mean, god, the end of A Wind in the Door, what happens to Proginoskes? That wrecked me. When I was fifteen I reread A Wrinkle in Time, and my head almost exploded with new levels of getting it. I think I've read each of those five books at least seven or eight times, and probably much more for the couple that lived on my shelves. When I worked at Barnes & Noble, I basically spent my days waiting for "I need to buy a book for my eight-to-twelve-year-old niece or nephew - can you suggest anything?" so that I could run ahead of the customer to the exact spot on the shelf where these books lived and show them my favorite edition - the current paperbacks by Peter Sís, although now I'm nostalgic for the older uglier ones, but not too ugly. (And there is someone who cares even more about Time quartet covers than I do.) I named my cat Meg after Meg Murray, and only because Meg is too Irish a name for me to save it for a daughter. But Meg Murray is the kind of character you name your kid after. She's the kind of character, and these are the books, that make you who you are. Yes, that's a product of reading them so young, but I read a lot of books, and these are the ones that stuck.

Wikipedia just told me that there are four books about Meg and Calvin's kids, not just An Acceptable Time. I think I have some reading to do. If you haven't ever read these, read A Wrinkle in Time. It'll take, like, two subway rides, but it's a beautiful, special book. All of them are. I don't know if I'm more grateful to any other writer for bringing their words into my life.


Greg said...

RIP Madeleine L'Engle. She was some kind of wonderful. I remember being bowled over and excited by/weirded out by "A Wrinkle In Time." I didn't like the first sequel as much, but I think I need to give it another shot.

When did you work at Barnes & Noble? I worked there Aug. '02-July '05. 82nd & Broadway…

Jaime said...

I worked at B&N in high school and college, in books, the cafe, and back on the books floor. I miss it, sometimes. Not making frappuccinos - selling books.

The first sequel, A Wind in the Door, was my least-favorite of the four books, but enough rereadings got me to really appreciate it. Whether it was age or something else, I don't know, but once you get past people transporting into mitochondria, it's pretty great.

Moxie said...

Yes. Yes. Did you read the His Dark Materials trilogy?