L'Engle - (was: Re: YotG along with other, off topic things.)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Sep 14 00:01:46 EDT 2000

I've been meaning to say more about this, but I've suddenly gotten too busy
to think, let alone post...anyway, this is a little late, sorry.

On Mon, 11 Sep 2000 12:38:44 +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>This thread is really interesting to me, because I had the same
>reaction to _A Wrinkle in Time_ as Melissa, Lizzie, Dorian and Gili, but
>for a rather different reason - it was the style which seemed off-putting
>to me now, rather than the "beliefs".  This is only a question, _not_ an
>argument (so Melissa, you don't have to say anything about here we go again
>;)  Really!)

Now, would I do that?  :)

I think I relate L'engle's actual beliefs more closely to her method of
expressing them than most people do.  Specifically, it *does* annoy me that
she is so "rigid" in not allowing for any truth but her own, but what gets
me is that this attitude always makes me want to argue--"but then WHY can't
this be true also?"  So in the back of my mind I'm coming up with things I'd
like to say to her, but I can't--and while I might do this with other
authors who have opinions different than mine, almost all of them allow some
wiggle room for dissenting opinions.  So it's not this pressing desire that
I have with L'engle.  (That's mainly her later books, as others have said,
but it happens to some degree with all of them.)

The more potent reason I have for disliking L'engle's books is completely
unrelated to this.  I hate that her characters have the families they
do--reading together, scientist parents, this whole intellectual
environment.  It made me incredibly dissatisfied with my own family when I
was an older teen.  Unlike most of you, I don't come from a reading family.
Although we are all fairly intelligent, I am the only one who reads.  And I
think you know what I mean by "reads" there.  You probably know people who
*think* they are readers, but it's not breath and blood to them.  Some of my
younger sibs like to read to, and a few of them might actually be great
readers, but I'm no longer at home--so essentially I grew up in a family of
non-readers.  And I hated being jealous of fictional characters.

And this brings us round to Pamela Dean, surprisingly.  Her books have a
similar quality of "rightness" that makes me unable to enjoy them.  No
matter what the characters say--for example, the narrator in _Juniper,
Gentian and Rosemary_ isn't herself smug, despite her group of friends being
just as intellectual as Janet's crowd--I always have this sense of Dean in
the background, this feeling that this is how intelligent well-read people
really are, and since I'm not like this I don't qualify.  

What's funny is that in _Tam Lin_ it actually breaks down.  There's a scene
(I only read this book once, so I can't give many details) where someone
quotes the line from Dante about "abandon hope all ye who enter here."  In
context I think the person was depicted as having gotten the line from the
same well of popular culture that everyone draws from.  Janet, of course,
has actually read Dante, and as I recall she exchanges glances with her
cronies and they all recite in unison the "correct" version of the quote.
And it's intended to show how well-read they all are and how much they have
in common.  But if you have read _Inferno_ you know that there are several
different translations and all of them are a little different.  As it
happens, their "correct" version is not the one I read in high school (and
not the one I read in college either, both different, and neither of which
is the one I gave at the beginning of this tediously long paragraph).  So
when I read this scene, Janet and her friends actually seemed pretty sad,
thinking they were so literate.  And yet...it's so *persuasive*, this view
of intellectualism.

And at the same time, I was wishing I *did* have a group of friends like
this.  Never mind that yes, I had been in the honors program at Brigham
Young University and yes, I knew that a lot of the people in it were just
not my kind of person...I still wanted this.  So I was hating Janet at the
same time that I wanted to be her in that small way.

I can feel myself getting maudlin now, so I'll stop.  What this amounts to
is that my reaction to both L'engle and Dean is more complex that just not
enjoying them...and not as simple as dislike.  Too bad I couldn't link this
back to DWJ too, eh?

Melissa Proffitt
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