Monday, February 26, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle
Big name publishers said the book was too hard for children to understand. 

The author, Madeleine L'Engle, disagreed. She thought children would understand perfectly -- but she feared it was too hard for adults.

The book, of course, is L'Engle's Newberry-winning A Wrinkle in Time, a book that has been in continuous publication since 1962 -- much to the chagrin of the publishers who rejected it (at least 26!). 

In this story, three children -- Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace -- travel by means of wrinkles in space and time across the galaxy to the beleaguered planet of Camazotz. They come to a town "laid out in harsh angular patterns." Eerily, all the children here bounce their balls in the exact same rhythm. Up, down. Up, down. All the mothers call their children in to dinner at the exact same time. Everything in this world seems to be pre-planned and controlled by an evil mastermind.

In order to save Meg's father from the dark power of Camazotz, the children must draw on more strength and courage than they know they possess. They are helped by three mystical, magical creatures known only as Mrs Who, Mrs Which, and Mrs Whatzit. Like Dr. Who's TARDIS, this story is bigger on the inside than the outside, and it keeps getting bigger the further into it you go.

"The Persistence of Memory," Salvador Dali

Ways to Experience This Story

Read the book. If you don't have a copy, order it online or visit your local library. It's a book you can read again and again and always find something new. 

Or download it to your Kindle or Nook.

Listen to the audio-book. I've been enjoying the Audible version that features an "appreciation" by Ava Duvernay (who directs the new Wrinkle movie), an introduction by Madeleine L'Engle, and an afterward by Charlotte Jones Voiklis, who is Madeleine's granddaughter. Listening to this story makes me feel like a much-loved child, being tucked in at bedtime with a favorite story.

Watch the movie. On March 9th, you can visit "a theater near you" to view the new film version, starring Storm Reid (Meg), Levi Miller (Calvin), Deric McCabe (Charles Wallace), Chris Pine (Dr. Alex Murray), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Mrs. Murray), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs Who), and Oprah Winfrey (Mrs Which). 

Note: In case you're wondering if the Stark Raving Mythopath is getting a little sloppy with her punctuation, the three Mrs W's are spelled with the British version of Mrs -- which isn't followed by a period. In fact, when the book was first published, Madeleine was disappointed to find that an over-zealous copy editor had added periods after every occurrence of Mrs.  I think that omitting the periods gives these characters an extra hint of mystery and other-worldliness. 

"The Past," Anastasiya Markovich

So what makes this story so special, so beloved?
  • Meg Murray, the main character, is easy to relate to. She's gifted, but she doesn't know it. She feels clumsy and stupid, and she doesn't fit in at school. All us misfits relate to Meg.
  • In fact, all the main characters -- Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace -- are just the sort of people I would like to have as friends. Self-effacing to a fault, they go beyond surface values and think about important things. I want to spend time with them.
  • The stakes are sky high. The life of Meg's father is on the line. In fact, all their lives are at risk in this space-and-time epic. The evil is dark and menacing and seems impossible to defeat.
  • Sci-fi is the perfect vehicle for exploring the big ideas of philosophy and theology. And this author isn't afraid to ask the hard questions.
  • The science is fun -- tesseracts and space travel -- the nature of time -- and Madeleine L'Engle explains complex concepts in a way that mere mortals can understand.

Astronomical clock
Fans of A Wrinkle in Time -- around the world -- are looking forward to the March release of the new movie.  I hear people talking about it.
"I hope they didn't mess it up."
"I heard they already did..."
Well, we can only wait and see. I imagine there will be much to enjoy in this new version. And even if it somehow disappoints, there are many other ways to enjoy this timeless tale about time. 🕝 🕢 🕧

Want to know more about Madeleine L'Engle? Click here:

  Madeleine L'Engle: Wikipedia
  Bouncing ball: Author: Original uploader was AndyD at en.wikibooks
  Persistence of Memory: painting by Salvador Dali, from Wikipedia
  The Past: painting by Anastasiya Markovich
  Astronomical Clock: Author: Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia
  Blue Clock:  Public Domain photo

Monday, February 19, 2018

Requiescat In Pace

In case you haven’t heard, I really hate to break the news, but. . . .


I have this doleful discourse on good authority from several reliable sources — the internet, for example. And social media. And even some people I may have inadvertently married or given birth to.   

Apparently, now that our species has digital information at its fingertips, print books are no longer necessary. In this scenario, books are the dinosaurs, and the digital revolution the asteroid. 


For example, blogger Benny Lewis says, "I am absolutely confident that within a few decades books will just be antiques. Collectors or die-hard fans will keep them “alive” in much the same way LPs still exist today." ("Books are dead--it's time to ditch the 15th century technology," Benny Lewis.)

My blood boils a little whenever anyone says that books are dead — meaning print books, of course. But my revenge is to curl up on the couch with a stack of good books and a cup of hot cocoa (with swirly, twirly mounds of whipped cream) until these false prophets are forced to (choose one). . . .
  • jump overboard into the jaws of a great white whale
  • relive adolescence with Holden Caulfield
  • compete in the Hunger Games    and/or
  • reinstate their library cards and read until they get some sense.

Meanwhile I, along with other enlightened ones, will continue to enjoy the heft of a book in my hands, the smell of a used bookstore on a rainy day, the beauty of a well-designed book, the delights of reading a beautiful book by a favorite author, the joy of discovering yet another new favorite.

And along with my precious print books, I’ll also enjoy books in digital and audio formats. I agree with Stephen Fry, who said, “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” Have you noticed? Nobody ever says "Stairs are dead."

I love being surrounded by shelf after shelf (after shelf...) of my old friends, the beloved books that have encouraged and shaped me through the years. Although I must admit that whenever it’s time to move to a new house, I sometimes have a teensy twinge of regret about my book hoarding. (Twinge = "What the bleep was I thinking when I got all these blankety books?")

All those boxes of books are so darn heavy to lift and tote. Just ask my grown children, since they are usually the ones doing the aforementioned lifting and toting. But I feel bad about it. 

I really do.

Oh well, serves them right for saying that books are dead!

(...Um, just kidding, guys! You know that, right? . . .Right?)

So, books are dead? Never! To the contrary, books are alive and thriving. In fact, many of them are living a life of pampering and privilege at my house. You can trust the Stark Raving Mythopath.

Photo Credits:
     Crying angel -- © Can Stock Photo / mkistryn
     Candles -- © Can Stock Photo / Irochka
     Girl reading -- Public Domain
     Bookcases -- Public Domain
     Cartoon of Moving Day -- Public Domain
     Mourner -- © Can Stock Photo / gina_sanders

Monday, February 12, 2018

Happily Never After?

The shoe fits!  [The peasants rejoice!]

To everyone's surprise, the ash-streaked girl who has waited hand and foot on her ugly-wicked-stepsisters for many long years marries a prince. Her life is changed forever. Freedom. Riches. And best of all, True Love.  💗 💗 💗

Wait! There's one more girl to try!

What is this, a fairy tale? You bet. 

By magic, a beautiful mermaid loses her tail and grows legs like a human. She washes up on the shore and is rescued by her prince. At last she has everything she ever wanted.

Almost. In order to grow legs, she has traded her voice, and now she has no way to tell the prince of her love for him. The prince -- her everything, her one true love -- marries another. The only option left to her is to pursue an immortal soul for three-hundred years.   😧 😧 😧

The Mermaid bargains with the Sea Witch

A fairy tale? Yes, this one is too.

Which story is a reflection of real life? They both are, for fairy and folk tales contain glimpses of deeper truths. 

Sometimes a real-life love story works out. And sometimes, not so much. In spite of what Disney and Avalon Romance try to tell us, not all love stories have a happy ending. 

What is "happily ever after" anyway? I have trouble believing that Cinderella and her Prince spent the long, blissful years of wedded life with never a cross word muttered or eyes rolled in impatience, with never a dispute about whose turn it was to take out the trash or who tracked mud on the Persian carpet.

I think we all know by now that having a fairy tale wedding or becoming a princess doesn't necessarily mean happy-ever-after.

And how many of us, I wonder, now look back with fondness and a sense of relief  on that girlfriend or boyfriend who broke our hearts so long ago. Oh, the pain, the tears! The comfort food consumed! But in hind sight, it's a blessing that relationship fizzled out. How different our lives would have been. And look at all we would have missed.

Next week, my Valentine and I will be celebrating 43 years of marriage. We have four grown children, five grandchildren, and many happy memories. So hats off to the boyfriends of days-gone-by. How nice that they merely broke my heart instead of ruining my life.

Even the Little Mermaid's story didn't have a truly tragic ending. She lost her prince but gained an immortal soul. Ironically, it was she who wound up with a true happily-ever-after.

Happy Valentine's Day from the Stark Raving Mythopath! 💗

Photo credits:
  Little Mermaid: Ivan Billibin illustration, Public Domain
  Princess Diana: Author:  Princess_diana_bristol_1987_01.jpg: Rick; derivative work: Crisco 1492  
  Little Mermaid Postcard:  E. S. Hardy, Public Domain