Tuesday, November 3, 2009

there is such a thing as a tesseract

wide o-
I was a bookish and peevish and generally ill-natured child and one of the many, many things that annoyed me so much that it made me want to jump out of my skin was the part of Madeleine L'Engle's classic children's book, A Wrinkle in Time where our heroine, Meg, travels to a dimension far, far away and ends up on a planet controlled by an evil telepathatic force known as IT, with a capital I and a capital T.

IT captures Meg's little brother, Charles Wallace, and it's up to Meg to save him. She's trying everything she can think of, when, suddenly, she realizes that the way to rescue Charles Wallace is through the power of love. Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.

I read those words and wanted to rip the page into tiny little pieces. Even then I could see that anyone depending on my ability to love would be pretty much out of luck. It wasn't exactly that I didn't have a heart. It was just that it was two sizes too small. Minus the evil and telepathic elements, I had a lot more in common with IT than with Meg. And, while I knew that that wasn't supposed to be the point of the story, that was what it was whispering to me.

What book from your childhood had an unusually strong effect on you? And, if you know, why?

33 comments:

slouchy said...

Harriet the Spy. She made me want to write.

areyoukiddingme said...

I too was somewhat skeptical of that LOVE crap, but I liked the travelling aspect of the book. I preferred A Swiftly Tilting Planet, though.

I read a lot of books, and not a lot of them stick with me.

Jana said...

Where the Red Fern Grows. I love, love, love dogs and my childhood dog WAS my closest friend and confidant.

GeekByMarriage said...

Yeah as I said on my blog last week, I loved that book as a kid.

Emily said...

Where the Lilies Bloom.

And I love this post. I can see a beating heart, squeezed into a sweater that is too small with ventricles and arteries flopping about the neck and arms. What does that say about me?

(And thank you, thank you for posting the virtual pumpkin carving link. That was very kind of you.)

Smiling said...

The Chronicles of Narnia, because Lewis used parenthesis to include details most authors would leave out. I still remember that he listed the house keepers names even though they aren't part of the story. The extra detail is the way i like to talk and think and read. It was like a little secret sign that maybe my way isn't all wrong.

i also liked the Ramona books because she kicked her heels on the wall, and i did that too, and it was the 1st time I realized that people from my state could be authors

Tash said...

Once I could read, I tore through mysteries -- Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, True Crime, anything really -- much to my mother's dismay. ("Are you sure you don't want to try 'Little Women?') And then it dawned on me in college that being a historian was a lot like solving a mystery: I got to read people's journals! And personal mail! And I was hooked.

I really can't think of anything that set me off viscerally as a kid, except maybe some of the comics in the paper. There are some comics I just don't get.

angie said...

I was a choose your own adventure kind of gal. I guess that means I was always a control freak.

Life in Eden said...

Actually, that Madeleine L'Engle series was very powerful for me. More because of the way she presents and intertwined nature of the universe. I could never buy my Catholic upbringing, and some how the ying/yang of good and evil in her books gave me some sense of a universal order.

I also LOVED Where the Red Fern Grows also. Made my husband read it as an adult. I always remember Lisa Bright and Dark too.

Oh, and by the way ... I don't buy that heart 2 sizes too small. That one's already claimed by that fuzzy green guy. You have an amazing capacity to love Niobe.

Aurelia said...

Yes, you do have an amazing capacity to love. We see it in the way you talk about Gray and the baby and the people in your life.

And all of us have felt it as well. Truly.

after iris said...

Ooh this is an interesting post.

I loved books that I could 'play': Anne of Green Gables; Pippi Longstocking; The Worst Witch; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Uncle; The Railway Children; Dune.

I think the first book I had a very strong reaction to was To Kill A Mockingbird, for obvious reasons. Also Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, which I read when I was 11 (and probably a bit too young for really). I had never read something of that scope before, and it had loads of sex in it, which I found riveting! I'm not really a fan of Robbins as an adult, but I still love that book.

Misc Momma said...

I would have to say As the Waltz Was Ending. It is a book about a young girl struggling during WWII. I can't say why it affected me strongly, but I became really interested in reading historical fiction.

serenity said...

For me, it was Nancy Drew. For similar reasons - I never felt ONCE I could be as successful, as self-posessed, as SMART as she was. And she had a fantastic relationship with her dad of which I was VERY jealous.

It's funny, the sort of things we take from books when we're kids.

xxx

Chris said...

Beautiful post. Although I wonder whether your doubts/worries concerning your ability to love not already prove that your heart is bigger than you think.

I did not know "A Wrinkle in Time" so far (I am only slowly catching up on English/American children's classics), but I will read it asap.

A book that had a strong effect on me as a child was "Watership Down". I do not remember the details well enough to explain why. Maybe I should reread it. Good (wise) leaders worked (and still work) for me in stories. Especially if they are (like Hazel) neither perfect nor without self doubts. Even though I tend to question my motives for liking such stories and characters.

A series to which I probably would have responded strongly also as a kid is the Narnia series (which I have read only as an adult, so I cannot say for sure). I have a love/hate relationship with that story. It is enchanting and luring, a beautifully devised fantasy world (that's the part I love), but I deeply dislike the savior aspect. Too much ideology sneaked in for my taste.
I do not know for sure if I had responded the same way as a kid but I think it quite likely (I would have had the same feeling of mistrust -- probably not being able to nail down the exact reasons).

Oh yeah, thinking a bit more about the ability-to-love thing: as a teenager I was deeply shaken by a story about men and women in Pinochet-Chile enduring torture in order to protect beloved ones. And I could not but wonder whether I would be able to love deeply enough to suffer the way they did. And I felt very bad. Not because of my potential failing (nobody knows beforehand how one would act), but because of my doubts that my love is big enough.

Furrow said...

I fell deeply into the world of Anne (of Green Gables). She lived her fancy out loud, while I kept mine deeply, deeply hidden.

(BTW, none of us are buying this dark little heart thing anymore.)

Eva said...

King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak

Donna said...

Fairly early on in grade school I read a series of books about folk tales from around the world. I don't remember what it was called exactly - but I do remember how much I loved all the stories from different countries. I think this opened my eyes to different cultures and how they are all interesting and unique at a pretty young age. I still love to read that kind of story now as an adult.

Andrea said...

My dad would read me the Tolkien books as bedtime stories, and for a while there (maybe ages 6-8?) I had Gandalf and Jesus confused - they both had beards and performed miracles/magic and came back from the dead, right? I remember imagining my bed quilt was one of the elven cloaks that made you invisible and I would hide under it from monsters...

Anonymous said...

I read everything I could get my grubby little paws on. Aslan always bothered me as a prior poster mentioned. The subservience and obedience, the punishment for questioning his word or for being curious, his severe admonishment when Reepicheep was prideful, all led me to really dislike him. Other than that I enjoyed the fantasy and adventure. For a spell I was obsessed with the Laura Ingalls books. I wanted to be a part of her family. They were so loving.

-Shamela

leanne said...

The books that I remember most from my childhood... Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden (another, but younger, sleuth), Chronicles of Narnia. I loved getting lost in other worlds and searching for clues. Still do.

Someone mentioned comics... I love Calvin and Hobbes.

Oh, and one more thing... while you may not go "squee"-ing around the Internet, I find your heart far bigger and less black than you'd like us to think that it is. Rather you strike me as a very caring person.

erica said...

Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series started me out on a long love affair with Arthurian legends. I may even be able to blame those books a little for my attempt to become a medievalist. Great books to re-read in the winter, even now, I think.

And L. M. Montgomery's Blue Castle was my favorite childhood romance. I wanted to run away to the Canadian woods like Valancy.

Melissia said...

Gone With The Wind, which I read when I was eight. My best friend was reading it and so I begged my mother to allow me to let me read it and she said no, I needed to wait until I was slightly older so I sneaked it, that started a lifelong habit of reading books that were "forbidden".

Melissa said...

I adored From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. I loved the idea of running away and having a big adventure in a museum.

Later I moved on to the real life adventures of Richard Halliburton in The Royal Road to Romance.

I really had the wanderlust as a child.

Which Box said...

I love all the books so many have mentioned. Also loved Trixie Belden. I wonder if you have ot be a little older to appreciate her, as she might be even more old fashioned than Nancy Drew. Loved Little Women. Loved fantasy - Chronicles of Narnia, Watership Down, The Hobbit, And anything and eveything written by Madeline L'Engle.

I"ll admit I eye rolled at the love saving us all bit. But, wasn't MEg exactly like you? Unsure that her love could possibly be enough?

Also, the absolute funniest book I have ever read is called The Revenge of the Incredible Dr Rancid and his youthful Assistant Jeffry. There is a scene in that book that to this day reduced me to helpless giggles. Ellen Conford. LOVED all her books at a pre-teen/young teen.

BarbaraCA said...

"Harold And The Purple Crayon." It scared the heck out of me, and gave me nightmares. I know it's supposed to be about imagination, but it was set in a world that was boundless; there were no rules, and I asusmed one could fall off the earth there, like living in a very simple Escher print. I still cannot stand any in the series.

Heather said...

For some reason Beatrix Potter's creatures were frightening to me when I was very small. There just seemed to be something sinister about them.

I also was afraid of The Little Prince. I never got past the first few pages because it bothered me so much that he was on that teeny tiny planet, floating in space. I had nightmares about falling off the planet and drifting through space. I really should read that one now...

Emily said...

I was appropriatly frightend of IT and soothed by the notion of an "aunt beast".

I would say that the books that had the strongest effect on me as a child (and I read hundreds) were The Secret Garden, and My Side of the Mountain. Both having to do with independent children in their own worlds. I wanted to be that boy on the mountain. and I felt like Mary lennox.

Paz said...

Loved Pippi Longstocking. Wanted to be her! She was a bundle of demonic fun with cool socks.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading "The Red Pony" in 7th grade. In the first chapter, when JOdy arrives to see the buzzards eating the horse's eye, I was entranced by the visceral quality. It was both repulsive and intriguing. Before then, I hadn't understood symbolism. This chapter opened the door for an artistic means of expression in both reading and writing.
allypally

red pen mama said...

While I'm familiar with many of these books, and many left with impressions (Nancy Drew, Narnia, L'Engle especially), Judy Blume always had quite an impact on me, especially her female protagonists. I think she taught me about the inner world of girls in such a way that I was able to navigate the external world of girls. Whether through empathy, identity, or sympathy. To burn a cliche: she 'got' me.

ciao,
rpm

Carol said...

I think your child self sold yourself far too short. Sometimes, when we are children, we think (or hope) that there are stronger emotions out there than what we have already experienced.

I had a crush on a boy for years. He was, in my eyes, the epitomy of my perfect man. When he finally asked me out on a date when we were 13, I blew it in one sentence. We were talking about Romeo and Juliet, and I went on a diatribe about how stupid it was because they were so young, Juliet only 13, our age.

"13 year old kids can't fall in LOVE," I declared. "It's crazy. They don't love the way that adults love."

But I was wrong. Older and wiser in love, I realize that my feelings for that boy DID qualify as love, and were as strong a love as I would ever feel towards any of my romantic partners, including my beloved husband.

I thought there were stronger kinds of love, not realizing how we hide from our own feelings, dulling and suppressing strong emotions so that they don't drown us entirely. But just because we have blanketed them to muffle their effects, doesn't mean that they aren't every bit as powerful as people claim they can be.

Murray said...

The Little House on the Prairie Series. Loved their fortitude.

excavator said...

I'm not saying this was great literature (furiously disclaiming), but The Bobbsey Twins had a strong effect on me. Even as a 9, 10 year old, I could see that I had more in common with the villain Danny Rugg than I did with the spotless twins. And that really worried me, and had me looking over my shoulder for much of my life.

I was disturbed and haunted for days when I read "The Red Pony" by Steinbeck, particularly the scene a commenter described above. Here I'd thought I was going to be reading a typical pre-adolescent horse story and got far more than I bargained for. Strong stuff.

A huge influence was T.H. White's "The Once and Future King." That opened a lot of doors to my mind.