A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is another great fantasy work, focusing on a fair mixture of science and religion.  L’Engle explores topics which focus on ideas that young adults can struggle with on their way to adulthood.

Meg Murray is a young teen who struggles a lot with school, many of her classmates consider her an idiot, but when it comes down to it, she does very well at math and science (with two scientists as parents, it’s easy to see why).  Her father has been missing for a couple of years after leaving on a science mission with the government. Her mother continues her chemistry experiments at home, patiently awaiting her husband’s return.  Meg also has younger twin brothers who do fair in school, get along well with their peers, and they have a hard time understanding why it’s all so difficult for Meg.  The youngest member of the Murray family is Charles Wallace.  He was late in developing speech, and many people in their town believed he would be dumb, but he was actually very mature for his age of five, and he had a very impressive vocabulary, along with a nearly sixth-sense of mind reading as he always knew what Meg was thinking.

As Meg and Charles Wallace were walking through the woods to their new neighbor’s home, they befriended Calvin, an older boy who was a star athlete and student.  Calvin also had some extra perception capabilities, like Charles Wallace.  Together, they met the ‘witch’ neighbors and were soon whisked away to find their father who was on a distant planet, trying to save the universe from an evil darkness that was taking over stars and planets.  Mr. Murray was not the first to battle evil, as the witches explained, others like Jesus, the Buddha, and famous artists and scientists also had fought against the evil forces.

As the book explains, they use a form of travel called ‘tessering’ which gets them from planet to planet and into other galaxies in the universe.  Soon, they land on the target planet, Camazotz, where they found a society that was completely conformed to do every task at the same time and citizens were exterminated or retrained when they ‘fell out of line’ or caught an illness. Charles Wallace in his naivety, decided to challenge the man who was explaining the order and conformity to the group, and he became hypnotized.  The new Charles Wallace led the other two children their father and Meg used a special gift to free him.  Together, Charles Wallace then led the crew to ‘IT’ to try to have them hypnotized and join the society as well, he was a completely different and untrustworthy person at that point. Mr. Murray tessered Meg and Calvin to another planet to escape, leaving little Charles Wallace to IT.

The group had tessered to another planet in Camazotz’ solar system and there Meg was nursed to health and found a true belief and good and love and is sent back to Camazotz to use her love to untrap Charles Wallace and return home.  The conformity of Camazotz and IT were essentially short circuited by this emotion as they left little free will or capability of truly understanding love.

As mentioned before, important topics in the book focused on young adults gaining a better understanding of the world.  L’Engle emphasized the importance of the perseverance of good over evil frequently in the book.  She also stressed the fight against conformity and importance of free will as the children explored Camazotz.

This was a fun and quick read.  I generally enjoy sci-fi, and those of course were my favorite parts of this book.  I liked how they explained ‘tessering’ and traveling at hyperspeed.  L’Engle did a great job of describing the emotions and physical feeling of tessering through Meg’s character.

Quick amateur sketch of my thoughts of A Wrinkle in Time: (Kids skipping rope and bouncing balls with a conformed rhythm, boy on end is out of sync, mothers leaning out of houses to call the kids in all at the same time while Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin watch. Evil darkness rising behind the houses.)

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Rating: ********8/10

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On The Road – Jack Kerouak

On The Road, “Yass, Yass, egad, whoopee!” as Dean would have said.  The book that shot Kerouak into notoriety also catapulted the ‘beat’ generation.  What is beat? Beat is not knowing but seeking, not just living but experiencing, not just observation but immersion, it is IT!  Kerouak’s characters felt like getting out and living to the fullest.  Driving or hitching across the US in a couple of days just to say hi to a friend, endless drunken parties, going just to go.  While they seemed to have wonderful lives, they also had periphery lives that included aunts, parents, grandparents, and multiple wives and kids they had to neglect to fulfill their longing of seeking.  When he had enough of one wife, Dean would leave her with child and head to the other coast to live with his other wife and kids, spending every dime to get there.  A constant life of spinning wheels.

“What’s your road, man?- holy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”

The main character, Sal Paradise, started the series of journeys in 1947, leaving from New Jersey to visit friends in San Francisco with the intentions of meeting a friend and finishing his novel.  He hitched to Denver, stayed a few days, and went to the West coast.  He stayed with a friend, Remi, and guarded a camp for shipmen.  He carried a gun and was supposed to keep the sailors quiet and sober instead of joining the fun.  Not his cup of tea.  Eventually he moved on to Los Angeles where he met a nice Mexican woman and joined her village to pick cotton.  Her family was not accepting of Sal so he moved on and went back to New Jersey.

“I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.” 

The next year, Sal had finished his book and his friend, Dean, came from Denver to New Jersey to pick him up and drive West.  They went south to New Orleans, across Texas and up to Denver.  In New Orleans they stayed with an old friend, ‘Old Bull Lee’ (said to be a character based on William S. Burroughs).  Lee was wise but a heavy experimenter of drugs, spending most of the day in a haze of heroine.  When he was alert in the mornings, Lee kept the crew entertained and tried to convince Sal to stay with him and forget his friends who lacked much in ambition. When the time came, Sal joined his friends and continued on to Denver.  Upon arriving, Dean left Sal and his ex-wife, Mary Lou, to meet up with his wife Camille.  For nearly a week Dean was gone and in the meantime, Mary Lou left with some other guy.  After Dean’s return he was solemn and careless of Sal, so Sal decided to buy a bus ticket back to New York.

“I realized these were all the snapshots, which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking that their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, or actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road.”

The following spring in 1949, Sal loaded up from New York and went to meet Dean in San Francisco.  Dean had had part of his thumb amputated after an infection caused by hitting Camille.  He was starting to show his age, he went from a bright beacon for Sal to a load of  childish nonsense, but Sal stuck with him.  Together they left for Denver. Few friends were left there and they spent a few days digging the jazz joints.  One night, Dean stole car after car for drunk kicks and the next morning they found out the last car they drove back to the where they were staying was a detective’s car.  They quickly left Denver and headed to New York.

“As the cabby drove us up the infinitely dark Alameda Boulevard along which I had walked many and many a lost night the previous months of the summer, singing and moaning and eating the stars and dropping the juices of my heart drop by drop on the hot tar, Dean suddenly drove up behind us in the stolen convertible and began tooting and tooting and crowding us over and screaming.”

The final trip in the story saw Sal planning to go to Mexico City, via Denver.  While in Denver, Dean came from NYC to drive them, with plans to get a Mexican divorce from Camille so he could join his new love, Inez, in New York.  After the long journey, Sal stayed in the hospital with dysentery for several days and Dean left them to go home as he accomplished his own goal of the divorce.  At that point Sal realized how unsympathetic and shallow Dean’s life and friendship was.

Decided to try to sketch my image of the book:

ONtheRoadDraw.jpg

Dress Your Family in Corderoy and Denim – David Sedaris

This was my first David Sedaris book, it was enjoyable, he has a knack for storytelling.  Each chapter was a new story and while I came in expecting loads of humor, each was a different spectrum of emotion.  I noticed a lot of disappointment- be it with himself, his parents, boyfriend, or siblings.  He seemed to try to find humor in some of the stories, but many of them were just put out there.  Some seemed believable, but others involved such nonsense as his sister rifling through trashcans at night and collecting teeth.  An interesting aspect of his stories involved his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorders.  One story relayed the feeling of needing to touch a stranger’s head.  Many times in an airplane he gets the itching sensation to touch the passenger’s head in front of him.  Not once, multiple times.  He tries to play it off as an accident, but the compulsion returns again and again.  He said the normal number of touches is three, any more and the person catches on and gets upset/uncomfortable.  The writing reminds me a bit of Augusten Burroughs in humor, storytelling, and non-sense. While it may seem uninteresting, the stories were all little pieces of his life, where one could think ‘This happened to me,’ or ‘I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that.’  Sedaris is a contibutor to NPR and I read the book, I imagined an ‘NPR voice’ projecting the story over my car radio.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard him on there, but it was a fun way to imagine the stories.

Rating: *******7/10