More on Madeline L'Engle

Gili Bar-Hillel abhillel at
Wed Sep 13 04:58:50 EDT 2000

Nat wrote:
>>She spoke at Carleton my freshman year, and I recall being turned off by 
brand or religiosity... it seemed smug, somehow. >>

I have a friend who heard her speak at Princeton (maybe even took a workshop 
with her) and reported almost exactly the same feeling. She says she has 
stopped liking her books as a result.

And Hallie wrote:

>Twasn't really the opinions/beliefs that were a problem for me.  More
>the rigidity with which they were presented.

which I tend to agree with, and Irina wrote:

>I liked
_A Wrinkle in Time_ immensely when I first read it as a teenager, and
quite a bit still when I reread it in my late twenties, but then I
got into a fit of completeness and bought everything else (the only
title I remember is _Many Waters_) and it all got to be a bit much.
She's so heavy-handed. There's only one right way of thinking.>

Which I also agree with. In fact, I think I would still like the earlier 
books if I hadn't read the later ones. I think a number of factors are at 
play: one is that I became more sensitive to the blinkered morality than I 
had been. The other was that some of the characters were simply ruined for 
me. I can give an example, but it's from a book that I remember only very 
vaguely. I don't even remember what it was called, I don't even remember is 
the female protagonist is one of the Murray/O'Keefe gang or one of the 
Austins. But an important character in the book was Zachary, from "The Moon 
by Night" and "A Ring of Endless Light".

Zachary had always been one of the "unenlightened" characters, but he seemed 
to be struggling to improve himself and break free from his upbringing and 
heritage. I thought of him as traumatized and conflicted, but heading in the 
right way. And then in this book, in which he is suddenly involved in 
fantastical happenings though up to now he was a strictly "realistic" 
character, some shaman type of person "looks" into his heart and sees a dark 
flaw there that can never be repaired. I *HATED* that. Basically, it 
amounted to laying down as fact "this character is bad", and in one stroke 
wiping away any potential for Zachary ever being "good"; in effect 
FLATTENING a character that used to at least seem 3 dimensional! It ruined 
the earlier books for me as well.

In short, if you're going to try any of L'Engle's books, I'd recommend 
reading them in order, and reading no more than what I see as "the basic 

A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET (borderline annoying)

And the Austins series, which is not a fantasy series (at least for these 
three books):


I'd steer away from any of the later ones. I found them to be either boring 
or extremely irritating or both. Except maybe MANY WATERS which I found at 
least partially enjoyable.

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