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more Wrinkle in Time

SCHMID at Butler.EDU SCHMID at Butler.EDU
Thu Jan 5 14:02:15 EST 1995

One more vote for Madeleine L'Engle.  When I first read A Wrinkle
in Time, I HATED science and all its works.  Despite the fact that
I'd consumed most of the Bookmobile and was getting desperate, I
wouldn't touch Science Fiction because it was just too Weird.  I only
read the L'Engle because she'd written some passable non-SF.  I can't
say I was an immediate convert  -- I was still going to be either a
detective, a writer, or both.  (Count the proportion of these
avocations in juvenile fiction!)  But this book and its successors
made a significant chink in my anti-science-and-math armor.  At least
I let in some more science fiction.

I still reread the L'Engle books periodically.  (OK, so I probably own
the biggest collection in, er, Indiana.)  Sure, there are things that bug
me about them today.  For instance, the impression left by A Wind in
the Door that mitochondria PRODUCE oxygen (a common error
among my students).  Or worse, the offhand  comment in one of the
Austins books that "Daddy doesn't like women in pants." (may not be
direct quote)  But, overall, I'd say that the Wrinkle series and some
of the others (Arm of the Starfish, for example, male protagonist
notwithstanding) are very positive contributions.  I still have hopes
that Meg's daughter Poly/Polly O'Keefe will end up in science, but
lately she's been described as a "creative" type.  Although
occasionally L'Engle allows that science can be visionary, she may be
reserving "creative" for something more artsy.

What about the big criticisms of superperson characters and sanitized
science?  Both have some truth to them.  Still, I can't see them as
dreadful flaws given the genre.  After all, if Nancy Drew's perfection
didn't upset  me, why should the achievements of noncardboard
individuals who actually struggle with things like not fitting in at
school?   For that matter, we need to keep in mind that the "genius"
and  beauty w/ "mind like a razor" descriptions mentioned by a
previous poster are made by an insecure teen who worries that she
herself lacks talent, looks, etc.   Even Mrs. M., double Ph.D. and
Nobel Prize winner though she may be, occasionally loses control,
though she tries not to let her kids see it.  She also gives her
daughter some sage advice on the subject of the Ph.D., something
like "It's really not the answer to all problems."   Too true.

Kathy Schmid
schmid at butleru.edu
strict enforcer of "no food in the lab" rules

P.S.  Are scientists also writers and detectives?

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