Monday, June 19, 2006

Trees and a Book Review

Today I:

  • am cursing Blogger
  • had vegan toaster waffles for breakfast with maple syrup and white tea
  • ate some veggie sushi (I made it!) and seaweed salad for lunch
  • am actually getting tired of seaweed

I went to the Arboretum this weekend. I was hoping to get in on the roses, but they were pretty much bloomed out.

There were also trees. Big trees:

And small trees:

The figure in the background is my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot. Don't let the stance deceive you: he likes bonsai.

I was going to post a picture of me, too, but apparently I have been saved by Blogger: it will not upload any more photos for me.

(SRP3) A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle (1973) 203 pgs.

I remember listening to A Wrinkle in Time when I was in elementary school, and at the time it blew my mind. I'm not certain how old I was - the library room I remember was in the school for grades 3 through 5 only - so I was somewhere between 7 and eleven years old. I thought "A Wrinkle in Time" was very original, and the descriptions were evocative. It stuck with me. So when I encountered a L'Engle book last week in Goodwill I decided to test my pre-pubescent reading tastes.

A Wind in the Door was rather original, and the descriptions were rather evocative. The bends it puts a person's mind through are entertaining. However... I found certain other things annoying enough to consider not finishing the book. Being a children's book is no excuse. I've read a lot of children's books - Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc., - and all I usually have to deal with is maybe a tendency to preach, gloss over some realities of life (light fiction, you know), and maybe not go too deep.

The first thing that bothered me was how naive the oldest child, Meg, who was also the main character, was for fourteen years old. She would have been more believable as twelve. She was a little down on herself about her appearance, but that was the only thing that marked her as being pubescent. Her relationship with her "friend-friend", Calvin, was excruciatingly platonic, even though she had no qualms saying she loved him. I just don't believe any fourteen year old could act that way, even a brilliant one. Maybe that's just me, maybe I was weird at fourteen. Hard to say. Also, while I appreciate the removal of slang from the children's vocabulary, sometimes it was very stilted.

Which reminds me: Is Madeleine L'Engle American? Because she writes like a Brit. Vegetable marrows, village, etc. The whole story stank of Brit trying to write American. Maybe that's just me, too.

Speaking of America, the thing that really almost had me tossing the book down was the blatant "America the Wonderful" propaganda that happened at times. "The height of civilization", a "great democracy"... is this 1950's propaganda, or what? This aspect was wrestling with another annoying thing: the overall Christianess of the story. Practically Narnia, folks.

Then, of course, nothing was really explained, or rational. Yet it was supposed to be science.

Somebody else might really like this book. Me? I am just to jaded, I suppose. Although I loved the Anne of Green Gables series. C+


Jeanette said...

Lovely pix. I saw that book on your shelves on Saturday, I didn't look too closely (including not looking at the author). For some reason I decided it wasn't a L'engle book even though that was my imediate first reaction on seeing it. I read 3 books by L'engle, Wrinke in Time (on my bookshelf now) Swiftly Tilting Planet and possibly Wind in the Door, though I can't remember for sure now. When I read them (as a child) I remember liking them all. If you want to re-read Wrinkle in Time let me know.

wenders said...

I think you also have to look at WHEN the books were published to see what was the norm for a 14 year old. What's normal now certainly wasn't 20 years ago (which may be when the books were written). And I think that often with children's books, there's an attempt to make them more 'timeless', which leads to no slang, etc. :)

Carrie K said...

1973? Actually, that sounds fairly normal for a 14 year old back then. The sexual revolution had barely started, Women's Lib was in its infancy, Diversity awareness wasn't going to happen for another decade - we didn't even have VCR's or microwave ovens at that point. Heck, I don't think there was a remote control for the TV and cable meant you got 13 channels. None of them HBO.

Carrie K said...

Re: your aunt, well no TV, what was she supposed to do for entertainment?

Hmm. I don't know if even the Victorian women were as sexually innocent/ignorant as they're portrayed. I think a lot of that is male fantasy that gets catered to.

Not having read the book, it's hard to tell. Not really tempted to either, with that description, although I did love A Wrinkle in Time way back then.

Lissy said...

This may be an indication of my lifelong preoccupation with food, but the only thing that struck me about A Wrinkle In Time was that weirdly mature/precocious young boy making tomato samiches for everyone. :P

Kat with a K said...

Hee, I wrote my thesis on L'Engle, so let's see. She is American, although she spent much of her childhood in Europe. Her portrayal of children and teenagers seems pretty similar to other literature of the time, except of course that her kids tend to be smarter. I think the pro-Americanism is also a function of the Cold War atmosphere of the book's creation.

Heather said...

Wow, great discussion about WItD! I read it ages ago, and don't really remember it, maybe I will revisit it...

Great bonsai shots, I will have to see if my husband has been there before. Sounds like a safer (wallet-wise) option to ogle bonsai than at his favorite shop Bonsai West