Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time

Nothing will ever beat the Chronicles of Narnia for me. There is my prejudice. However, I am starting to realize I must acknowledge its peers and competitors: this and the Dark Compass books, and later, perhaps, The Lord of the Rings, and maybe, when I am 50 or so, Harry Potter. Sawyer reads Madeleine L'Engle's story in 1x19: Deus Ex Machina, in his sexy Frankenglasses. That's right, I'm putting a picture of them up. Here.

A Wrinkle In Time is a pretty short, and very tightly written--alot of fantastic things happen without too much fanfare. We're set up with a sort of grumpy, but intelligent, teenage girl named Meg and her weird little family. In particular, her much-younger brother Charles Wallace seems to possess some extra-ordinary connections. Her mother and long-absent father are scientists. The book starts out with a bit of ambiguity about their work, but that is only so that the rest of the plot is all the more interesting. There are three witchy types( Mrs Who, Whatsit and, Which) who end up transporting our heroine, her brother, and a boy from her school to far-off planets, to save Meg and Charles Wallace's father who is trapped on a planet called Camazotz. This planet is consumed by"the dark thing" which also threatens to consume Earth, so our heroes get a chance to see what they must, in later books, save the earth from.

But how do they get around, you ask? Well, this is probably the most obvious Lost-esque element of the story. We found out gradually that Meg's parents have been working on the concept of "tesseracts", which are more or less the titular wrinkles in time of the story. By folding time, people and non-terrestial beings can travel very great distances very quickly, to other planets, especially. Yes, LOST's time-space continuum movement methods are blurry at present, but if they're as simple as this, then I say hooray.

One of my favorite fantastic conceits from the book is the planet of Camazotz. It was the classic industrial-type distopia: everyone does everything in unison--children bounce balls in perfect time, mothers call them in all at once, anyone who shows the slightest sign of weakness, like a common cold, is quietly exterminated, and creativity and self-expression are non-existent. I couldn't help but think of my favorite film, Brazil. Ok, that envisions a world where everything is supposed to be regimented but is in reality a huge mess...but well, I just like that thread that something that seems so ordered can be so deeply messed-up. So is this what the Island is protecting the world from? Is the black smoke anything at all like the black thing that looms over Camazotz? The Smoke Monster seems to have good reason for attacking the people it attacks on-island, but maybe it has bigger consequences.

Another important point brought up in the book is psychic communication. The evil ruler of Camazotz, "IT", speaks directly into the brains of our heroes, and eventually takes control of Charles Wallace. While plotting how best to save him, Meg, Calvin, and her father end up on a planet where eyeless, tentacled, fuzzy monsters engage in some less sinister mind-to-mind communication. While again (surprise!) we don't have hard evidence of psychic communication on the island, psychic powers do seem to be a strong theme, and communication could well be one of them.. could mind control be?

Finally, there's the cultural and intellectual milieu that this book is set in. One of the witchy types talks only in philosophical and artistic quotes, usually in different languages. One of the great evils of Camazotz is its lack of concern for art and beauty. The black thing threatens to sap the world of these things. Although I think that the conscious cultural reference thing is a parallel with LOST, I maybe resented them in a book intended for kids...I think LOST does it better. The one place where I didn't mind it, was in a quote from the Bible in the final chapter of the book...

"The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, bretheren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." —1 Corinthians 1:25–28

Sigh. Thanks, Bible. Now I am not saying that I think that the Losties are particularly foolish, but I think in a lot of cases they have shown themselves to be less than mighty. And thats a good thing: they might have the world to save from the hands of the mighty, after all.

Finally, this book ties science and magic and religious faith together, without any of them seeming particularly false or contradictory to one another. I think LOST does that too, with equal or exceeding panache, and it is pretty rare these days, so I really value it. Anyways. I think its definitely worth a read, if only because its not very hard and has a few really elegant images of other worlds. Yep. That's that.

I'm currently working on Stranger in a Strange Land. Here's a preview: I think its insidious. We will find out if that is the right word. I'm also trying to read Out of The Silent Planet. They are confusing themselves in my mind. Oh space travel. Adios.

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