Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Wrinkle in Time and final thoughts on the Banned Book Challenge

I have finally realized that if I have a quiet weekend, that is, do not have anything planned outside the home, then I blog more. I have only done 15 posts this month, which is my lowest total! It was though, a very busy month. Holly-Anne's Spring Fling at her school, Westfest (a district of Ottawa called Westboro holds a music and street festival every year), and Italian week, when the Italian community on Preston St holds their festival, culminating in the Ferrari parade. Tuesday coming is Canada Day, and I will take some pictures of us; for now, this is the second full day at home and I am enjoying not having to go anywhere!!

At last I can catch up on book reviews, and maybe some Weekly Geeks!!

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle: I read this first many years ago, and remembered only that I had liked it. I approached it with eagerness (and dismay that it was on the banned book challenge), and from the opening page, couldn't put it down. Meg and her vanished father, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin. Yes, I remember being in love with Calvin the first time around! And he was pretty good this time too! What I had forgotten was the sense of evil, how they move through time and space - and it is a fascinating concept of time/space travel - and at the end, the simplest of answers - anger doesn't help Meg, love does. I have to admit I cried at this part of the book.
She knew!
That is what she had that IT did not have.
She had Mrs Whatsit's love, and her father's, and her mother's, and the real Charles Wallace's love, and the twins', and Aunt Beast's.
And she had her love for them..........
.....She could stand there and love Charles Wallace.
Her own Charles Wallace, the real Charles Wallace, the child for whom she had come back to Camazotz, to IT, the baby who was so much more than she was, and who was yet so utterly vulnerable.
She could love Charles Wallace.
Charles. Charles, I love you. My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. I love you, Charles. Oh, Charles Wallace, I love you.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she was unaware of them.

I would recommend this book to everyone to read, if you haven't already. I am going to read the rest in the series, just so I know what else happens. This book is about family, about faith, about being different and accepting it, about love. It's also about the dangers of science without humanity, about the mindlessness of conformity and the danger of letting someone else (say, government) make all our decisions for us about how we want to live. But mostly, it's a book about being fully human and the precious gift it is.

So....why is it banned? Why are any of the five books I read for the Banned Book Challenge, banned?

Pelham Library Banned Book Challenge 2008: done! Hurray, my second Challenge, completed!!! Final thoughts: Fahrenheit 451; Suite Francaise, A Wrinkle in Time, The House of the Spirits, Inkheart. What do they have in common? Why are they banned? I am going to be honest: I do not believe in banning books, period. Ever. Looking at the books I read, three are science fiction/fantasy, two are based on real-life events, fictionalized. What they all have in common is the indomitable human spirit, the will to survive, the desire to live free and not the same as everyone else, and they tell in their own way a truth that we all need to hear. Whether as teenagers (to whom many of banned books are directed) or as adults, I don't think we can ever tire of the message to be who you are, and take delight in it.

Where, and why, and how have we as a society - each of the communities that seeks to ban these books, and any book - become so afraid of freedom of thought and discussion that the solution is to ban the book? Wouldn't it be better to talk about it? Talk about how Fahrenheit 451 and A Wrinkle In Time both show the danger of a world that is controlled by someone else who wants conformity? Wasn't that one of the principle goals of Hitler (Suite Francaise), the world he was trying to create had to conform to his ideals of perfection and beauty? I don't see the logic in banning books because the idea that created them still exists. And this is what gives me hope: that eventually we as a human race will lose our desire to control what other people think and do, because that is what is at the heart of banning books: think like me, be like me. And who is the target of most of the book banned challenges in court (here in North America, anyway)? Young adult books. So it's we as parents who hold most of the responsibility for trying to control our children. Isn't that sad, and frightening? As if teenagers aren't already too aware of everything awful in this world, as well as possibilities for a wonderful life. Wouldn't it be better if we could talk about it with them? I think so.

By the way, L'Engle says in her acceptance speech (included at the end of my copy of A Wrinkle in Time) that "A writer of fantasy, fairy tale or myth must inevitably discover that he is not writing out of his own knowledge or experience, but out of something both deeper and wider. I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know this is true of A Wrinkle in Time. I can't possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant." Isn't that a fascinating way to look at books, the best books - that the writer is chosen to write them, maybe because we as a society need those words to be said then. Whether it is the greater intelligence that decides the artist - at the universal level where our deepest myths that we all share come from, the Jung also thought might exist - the place where these great books of art that cross time and space come from - they tell the truth. Banning books is about trying to control the truth.

I think banning books is terrible. And after reading the five I chose, I've come away with a sense of hope about humans, because all of these books represent triumph of love over hate, freedom over conformity. The freedom to choose how to live, who we love. I think these should be on the reading lists for every high school in the world. And if you are like me, when you read those words, you thoughts immediately flew to some country in the world where those books wouldn't be welcomed - and there are too many that both officials ban, as well as individual schools/communities. That to me shows how far we still have to go as a human race.

With every breath I take, I have to fight for the freedom to read what I choose, and support writing and writers. They tell the truth, and our world needs them. We have always needed writers. We always will. They will always tell us what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong.

I'd like to leave this challenge with the words of Madeleine L'Engle from her acceptance speech of the Newbery Medal, which is included as an appendix in my copy:

Berth Mahony Miller, in her article "Frederic G. Melcher - A Twentieth Century John Newbery", says that "The bookstore's stock trade is.....explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly..." I like here to think of another Fred, the eminent British scientist Fred Hoyle, and his theory of the universe, in which matter is continuously being created, with the universe expanding but not dissipating. As island galaxies rush away from each other into eternity, new clouds of gas are condensing into new galaxies. As old stars die, new stars are being born. Mr Melcher lived in this world of continuous creation and expansion......
A book too, can be a star, "explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly," a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe."

Other reviews: Rebecca Reads
Geranium Cat
Rhinoa's Ramblings on Monday Sept 1 2008


Jeane said...

I always thought A Wrinkle in Time was a wonderful book. It doesn't make sense to me that it would get banned.

Nymeth said...

Great thoughts, Susan. Banning books really IS's something I'll never get at all. I love that Madeleine L'Engle quote you shared. I read this book earlier this year and I really enjoyed it. I must read the rest of the series.

Rebecca Reid said...

I can't believe it was banned! I read one of L'Engles memoirs and she said that when she submitted it for publication, the first few publisher rejected it because they thought it was too "scary" for children. But really, we all face good and evil in our life: we must learn how to face it. Thanks for including the quotes from her acceptance speech. Here's my review of Wrinkle

Bybee said...

Would you believe I've never read A Wrinkle In Time? Time to track down a copy!

Bybee said...

That was a beautiful, eloquent post, Susan. Cheers.

Andi said...

Susan, you reminded me of why I like L'Engle so much. (I've read Wrinkle in Time many times and all of her other books in the series - I hope you enjoy them when you read them). The passage you quoted from the book is my favorite as well.
Unfortunately, I fear it is often the church that helps to ban books because we fear what they say. The irony of that, in terms of this one at least, is that L'Engle was such a devout Christian and she was writing from a place of deep faith.
If you want to see more of her writing about writing and art in general, I really recommend her book Walking on Water. Thanks for this post.

Susan said...

jeane: I know, I don't quite get why this one is, since it is about love and family, - and good family relationships! - so what is there to be afraid of?

nymeth: did you do a review? I'll add it to my post (the link I mean)if you did. I loved this book. I really wish I could meet Calvin, I think I could still have a crush on him!

rebecca: as you can see, I've added your review to my post, thanks so much for sending it! I enjoyed your review too.

bybee: I am surprised! But I bet your T&CIB had something to do with it! Just tell her it won an award, that should make it easier to get it! lol Thanks for the compliments, too. Sometimes it's hard to know what I want to put on the post, then i just remind myself I'm mostly writing this for me, and I am not getting graded by a professor somewhere!!

andi: I don't have her book Walking on Water! It sounds really good. I like any writer talking about writing and art! Thanks for recommending it. I have her Circle of Quiet, which I enjoyed, but have to reread again ( year?). thanks for your compliments, too. It really is a book I recommend and can hardly wait for my children to be old enough to read it!