11 March 2011


"Duel" Perspective on Madeleine L'Engle, Part 1

Late last month, Lauren of Little Wonder's Recommended Reads invited me "to duel" with her over Madeleine L'Engle. It was an invitation I was more than happy to accept!

What I didn't realise, until I checked my archives, was that our joint venture also serves an "anniversary special" for Shredded Cheddar. If you were reading this blog one year ago, you must remember my Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown!


I love it when L'Engle dabbles in science; I cringe when she dabbles in Scripture. The first book sends its characters deep into the cells of a sick little boy, to convince his mitochondria to "deepen" for his sake; the second takes its characters several thousand years back in time, to help Noah build the Ark and to learn that both "many waters" and much time cannot quench true love . . .

Find out which book won this face-off and read the rest of it . . .

Round 1 + Round 2 + Round 3A + Round 3B + Round 4 = Final Winner

First face-offs and now duels! Ah, what is it about L'Engle that makes me so aggressive? =P

It was a pleasure to spend the past few weeks with Lauren debating discussing genre and feminism in L'Engle's novels, with a special focus on An Acceptable Time--which I really love and which she didn't even want to finish.

Below is my take on L'Engle's "Kairos" novels . . .

I'm one of those readers who became a Madeleine L'Engle fan as a child because of her Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her Time Quintet was to me what C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia were to millions of other children: a magical introduction to the seemingly-ordinary, but really wonderful world we live in. As a child, I could feel her fascination with tesseracts, mitochondria, virtual particles, and soon became hungry for more. While still in high school, I started reading non-fiction books on the hard sciences--physics being my favorite.

But the scientific and fantastic elements of L'Engle's novels could not have drawn me on their own; what really sets these books apart from other Adventure Lit for teens is that L'Engle casts everything into a greater cosmic context. (Again, a comparison with Lewis seems apt.) Her "Kairos" books (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.) and her more realistic "Chronos" novels (Meet the Austins, etc.) are both thoughtful, deeply emotional, and existentially open-ended series, despite their other significant differences. In all of her novels, we get a peek into certain workings of the universe, but they don't clear up the great mysteries of life for us any more than real-life scientific discoveries solve the mysteries of religion. In these stories, science resolves the immediate conflict--finding the missing father, healing the sick boy, preventing a nuclear war--but it is simply one weapon in the greater war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. I'm kind of a sucker for good vs. evil on such a cosmic scale, so this conflict is what gets me in the end.

Well??? Agree with me? Disagree with me? Excited about Lauren's take?

You should be! Click on the link for the full post (in which I got to have the "Last Word"!) and remember to leave Lauren some comment love as well!

Little Wonder Lauren is a very thoughtful blogger with a focus on YA--so if you like that sort of thing, you should read her regularly, too. She's also open to dueling over other authors and novels with other like-minded readers; and since it has been so much fun for me, I recommend that anyone interested take her up on it!

Image Sources: a) A Wind in the Door, b) Many Waters, c) Time Quintet Collection


Lesa said...

I remember the smackdown! I found your blog near the end of the battle and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Lauren couldn't have chosen a more worthy opponent to duel with-- you are fierce! A regular biblio-warrior princess! ;o)

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Lesa! I already have two smackdowns planned for later this year. One is book-themed and the other is TV-themed. Stay tuned!

And thanks for joining the combox at Lauren's blog. We have a great discussion going with Many Waters! =D

Lesa said...

Well, I've been rereading Many Waters today-- I interrupted Bridgett Jones' Diary for it. I will discuss more on Lauren's blog tomorrow.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's great! I look forward to your comments. =D