Part book review, part impressionistic scribblings on the joys of reading and the struggles of carving out time in which to do it, #ABookishYear is a weekly dispatch from the front lines of an intellectual journey spanning fifty-two tomes.
A Wrinkle Revisited
By Roxanne Fequiere
Do you remember the collective frenzy we all worked ourselves into on account of the year 2000? We were told that our computers—and, by extension, our companies and institutions—were ill-equipped to transition into the new millennium, and that the consequences could be dire. I was eleven years old during the lead-up to the turn of the century, and while I wasn’t exactly convinced that the apocalypse was near, I did think that stocking up on rations couldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, all I could manage to talk my parents into was buying a few extra jugs of water at BJ’s Wholesale Club.
On New Year’s Eve, my cousin and I flitted from my bedroom to the TV room to the attic and back again, checking in on the news and Times Square goings-on. Upstairs, we peered out of a square, domed skylight at faraway homes perched on the hill—looking for what, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps a sign of distress, or the indication of some airborne arrival. We were giddy, hopped up on a heady mix of holiday cheer and morbid curiosity. We were betting on a blackout or power surge of some sort, but we were imaginative and products of the Catholic schooling system. We began speculating on biblical prophecies.
Meanwhile, my brother Gabriel sat nearby, rolling his eyes. Years later, he would come out to my mother as a Wiccan, nearly breaking her devout Catholic heart, but tonight, he was at turns sullen and ornery, punching holes in all of our theories. The three of us tumbled into a sprawling debate, spanning the concepts of time and belief, the universe and otherworldly visitors. It was thrilling, the sort of conversation people don’t typically deign to have with children. I imagine that young readers of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time must feel similarly upon first encountering the novel’s first tesser, like they’ve been granted access to a space typically reserved for adults.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how I never finished A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, opposed as I was to most stories that tossed its readers into far-off galaxies. I was taken in by the warmth of the Murry household, and I wanted more of its lived-in charm, interactions between the four Murry children, Fortinbras the family dog. When that setting was left behind, my interest waned—I knew what I liked, and that wasn’t it, but now that I’m reconsidering otherworldly tales, I knew I wanted to give the book a second shot.
There’s something to be said for science fiction and fantasy plots that are seen through the eyes of a child protagonist. The character stumbles over unfamiliar terminology, much like the reader might. Foreign creatures recognize these characters as young and inexperienced, and speak in such a way as to provide clarity and reassurance. More than any of the other sci-fi titles I’ve read to date, A Wrinkle in Time takes the reader’s hand and guides them gently through each new atmosphere, each bizarre event. It was a nice feeling, the literary equivalent of snuggling into the warm embrace of Aunt Beast.
Since finishing the book, I’ve been thinking about Meg Murry and the struggles of being a girl in the world, how early they crop up and how long they linger. For the past year, I’ve been mentoring a young woman whose moods are practically impossible to predict—one week she is upbeat, a glance from a certain boy or a recent outing with friends buoying her so that the future seems bright; the next week, she will tell you that, due to some slight or misread gesture, she has no friends, that nothing of note has happened over the past seven days. I try to offer some perspective, more specifically, a bird’s-eye view. Life is long and filled with peaks and valleys; friends will drift in and out of your life; boys will be mostly useless for at least the next ten years or so.
And yet: I may as well be talking to the wind, and I don’t mean to imply that she is particularly dismissive of my advice. No matter how carefully I choose my words, they’re just well-intentioned attempts to provide clarity and reassurance. She has to walk through her own roiling insecurities, her own rage and sadness and hurt, to get through to the other side. All I can do is give her talismans to accompany her on her journey. Maybe this book is a good start.
Roxanne Fequiere is a New York–based writer and editor who might just make it after all.