Monday, August 24, 2009

The Golden Girls in the Basement

I have a shocker for you.

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite children's books.

Staggering, isn't it? Yesterday, I came across a quote from its author, Madeline L'Engel, that made me instantly wish I'd known her in real life. When asked if she'd seen the Disney movie version of her classic tale, she replied, "I've glimpsed it." When pressed with the question, "Did it meet expectations?" she said, "Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is."

The quote comes from a 2004 Newsweek article in which she discusses faith and the themes certain religious groups deemed offensive in A Wrinkle in Time. She was a plucky woman with controversial ideas and the age and courage to speak her mind. Her take on both Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code is worth the click alone.

I used to imagine Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which were the Golden Girls of the Tesseract and how great it would be to score passage through the fifth dimension and a plate of warm cookies all at once. Now, I have my own version of these ladies:

Mrs. Who, who finds original expression difficult and often spouted foreign languages and Shakespeare, is the bespectacled portion of my fractured muse who is captivated by the blinking cursor. From her, I also hear my grandmother's voice in my head saying, "Das ist scheisse!"

Not only is Mrs. Which a nebulous entity during most of the novel, but she trips over herself in double letters. Ffamiliar? Mmost ddefinately, Mrs. Auto-Correct-Dependent-Muse.

Mrs. Whatsit is the most relatable of the three. She wraps herself in many layers, sacrifices a portion of herself to defeat The Black Thing, and transforms into a winged, centurion-type figure. Aside from the two billion year old thing-and the wings-she's the greatest portion of my muse trinity.

Madeline L'Engle was on a cross-country trek at the time she conceived A Wrinkle in Time. Not surprisingly, she was also reading a book on quantum physics. The manuscript was rejected twenty-six times because, in her words, "it was different."

The Golden Girls and I couldn't have asked for better inspiration.

What were your favorite childhood novels?


Charles Gramlich said...

The BLack Stallion books by Walter Farley, and the dog stories of Jim Kjelgaard.

the walking man said...

I read some of the Hardy Boys but they were my older brother's thing, I thought them kind of lame. I read a lot of newspapers because they were always around the house. I do remember mom steering me to Steinbeck pretty early on though.

Jen FitzGerald said...

I loved the Winnie the Pooh books well into elementary school, even to the point of memorizing and reciting one of the poems in fourth grade.

Any one remember Miss Suzy, the little gray squirrel who lives in an old oak tree until some toy soldiers come along and chase her away? (Written by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel) Love that story!

And I still have the books packed away...

I grew up with Dr. Seuss, but no titles stand out as faves.

I loved The Secret Garden, too, but I couldn't get into the story until I was probably in high school.

Great post, L.A.

Robin said...

When pressed with the question, "Did it meet expectations?" she said, "Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is."

That is brilliant!

My childhood favorites include The Velveteen Rabbit, Old Yeller, Nancy Drew, Little Women, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Charles - Staples of boyhood: stories of horses and dogs.

@walkingman - The Hardy Boys were lame. Even Nancy Drew wouldn't give them the time of day. I can see you being an old soul very young.

@Jen - Miss Suzy sounds familiar but I don't think I ever read them.

I also LOVED The Westing Game. I'm surprised I didn't turn out a mystery writer. I guess A Wrinkle in Time had a stronger pull.

@Robin - Awww...The Velveteen Rabbit. It's like a child's first Lifetime

laughingwolf said...

white fang; love me, love my dog; the time machine; and many more

and your granny's right: shit does come in all shapes/sizes :O lol

Barbara Martin said...

Black Beauty and National Velvet.

Madeline L'Engle is ahead of her time and still is, while the remainder of society stays in the stone age.