Poking around the Lipstick Librarian's weblog today, I found two entries pertaining to a recent New Yorker profile of Madeleine L'Engle: A Wrinkle in Madeleine and A Wrinkle in Madeleine -- The Conclusion. They're good reading I can very much identify with Lipstick Librarian here:
More importantly, Meg was me: ugly, smart and seemingly ill-prepared to exist in the world. And she prevailed.
Meg was me too. I took it very personally when Meg got married; to me, it felt like she had settled somehow. I suspect my reaction, coming as it did on the heels of my acute disappointment when feisty Jo becomes an exemplar of womanly virtues in Little Men, had little to do with the institution of marriage. As an elementary-schooler, I had identified with the defiant oddball heroines who would never be meet with anyone else's approval; for much of their narrative lives, Meg Murry and Jo March aren't pretty enough, tidy enough, or socially adroit. But they do prevail, through unexpected talents and fierce virtue. They thrive as they are. And then, they turn into everyone else, settled smoothly into their selves and their lives. As a kid who defined a good day as one in which I managed to ignore my classmates' teasing and sink into my book over recess, watching my literary friends glide over to the land of the girls who did everything right felt acutely awful.
I still re-read Little Women from time to time, and I still love Madeline L'Engle's books. I remember re-reading The Moon By Night and A Ring of Endless Light the summer I was 12, because Vicky Austin, c'est moi. (Incidentally, the character Zach in those books prompted my lifelong obsession with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.") I used to wonder what became of Vicky after A Ring of Endless Light.
So I went and read the New Yorker profile after reading the entries; sadly, it's not online, and none of her fans seem to have played fast-and-loose with reprint rights yet. It's deeply fascinating, and makes me want to tear through all my L'Engle books again. The saddest part of the profile for me was not necessarily discovering that L'Engle's not Person of the Year (few writers seem to be), but that she could never face bringing Vicky to adulthood. If you can't do right by the people in your life because you're in service to the people you created, the least you could do is do right by your characters. My poor Vicky Austin, trapped forever in wanting to become something.
By the way, I still haven't decided whether or not to watch the Wrinkle in Time movie on ABC.