Madeleine L’Engle. Just like a lot of you, she saved my life. She’s also one of the biggest reasons I became a librarian. But after reading the article, I was stunned for a different reason: I wished I’d never read the damn thing.
Why? It’s a long story: at ten I was fat, geeky, frizzy-haired and miserable. I didn’t have many friends, though that was mostly due to me–I preferred books to people at the time. People scared me to no end; I could barely talk to anyone outside of my family and even then I was choosy as to what I’d say. To top it off, my sister was so well-adjusted and so well-liked that I pretty much figured my best bet in life would be me living in the attic of my sister’s house, peeking at the world through lace curtains (hey–I may have been maladjusted, but at least I was entertaining about it). Other than school, my only real contact with the outside world was my weekly visit to the base library. My dad was perversely proud my how many books I checked out each week, but I didn’t have the nerve to tell him it was to put as much psychic space possible between reality and me.
But there was one book I studiously avoided: A Wrinkle in Time. I’m not sure why, though I recall a time I avoided all books that had a girl on the cover (I had an adversion to girly books at the time, however I defined it). After about a year, I was running out of unread books, leaving me with two choices: Wrinkle and Island of the Blue Dolphins. And since the girl on the Wrinkle cover was only in silhouette, I went with it.
I never did read Island; instead for the past thirty-odd years I have been entranced with the story about Meg and Charles Wallace Murry. I longed for a Mrs. Whatsit to guide me, to assure me that things would be fine. More importantly, Meg was me: ugly, smart and seemingly ill-prepared to exist in the world. And she prevailed. In the darkest times of my life, Wrinkle and the subsequent series, the Time Quartet , got me through. All due to Madeleine L’Engle. To know that there was someone out there who understood me, who understood what it was like to be an ungainly and smart girl, meant there was hope for me. So what did I do? I idealized her. And in return she fed me spiritually.
It was a comfortable relationship until the New Yorker arrived in my mailbox….