I am slowly making my way through the final books in the Kairos portion of L’Engle’s oeuvre. This is the sixth book in chronological story order and the fourth book published in the Murray-O’Keefe books (AKA Kairos). It takes place about six months after the action of The Arm of the Starfish and a few years (I think) before A House Like a Lotus which my response should be published later this week.
I’m glad I’ve expanded my L’Engle reading if only to fully finish the Murray-O’Keefe story line, which the more I dig into the less I think I have actually read because all of her works are intertwined, but I think I will be giving her a rest after I finish this Super-Series. With only A House Like a Lotus and An Acceptable Time left to go I think that would be both a reasonable and acceptable dive into L’Engle’s works.
What I have constantly enjoyed about L’Engles works is how she does not dumb things down for the reader. Sure, she’s writing about a family of really smart people (quite a few of them actual geniuses) and she’s writing about really dense theoretical science, but she does so in an approachable and understandable way. Between the science and religion, L’Engle asks her readers to answer or at the very least think about incredibly complex questions and ideas
“The Great God Science. It has failed us, because it was never meant to be a god, but only a few true scientists understand that.” (Loc. 3310)
Dragons in the Water and from what I’ve gathered, A House Like a Lotus move away from this. There are still ties to science and the future of the world based on scientific principles, but they’re more about the character development of Poly (even though she plays a secondary role in this story) and Simon.
The second thing that I always notice about L’Engle’s work and this one in particular is her ability to write characters that are true to themselves. Similar to the Federico Fellini quote
“You have to live spherically—in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm—and things will come your way.”
L’Engle’s “good” (as in good vs. evil” characters embody this because her “bad” characters
“They’ve forgotten how to play Make Believe. That’s a sure way to tell about somebody—the way they play, or don’t play, Make Believe.” (Loc. 521)
She writes characters and stories that no matter where the character goes, internally or in the universe, they have strong senses of self and if they don’t yet (Calvin O’Keefe and Simon) they will by the end of the story.
And then there’s her language. Apart from the really weird spelling of y’all as “yawl” throughout Simon’s entire dialogue (maybe it was a snapshot in time), L’Engle uses such beautiful language, sometimes it’s just one word, like “liquid syllable” in the second quote that just made me melt a bit.
“…she was a superb musician, with the depth and power of suffering behind her technique, a musical wisdom beyond her age.” (Loc. 1356)
“He spoke in the strange liquid syllables of Quiztano, which reminded Miss Leonis of flowing water and which was completely different from the flat intonation with which he spoke English.” (Loc. 3047)
And last but not least, I found this one quote hilarious. L’Engle, I guess because she wrote classics was always in this far-off untouchable place when it came to pop-culture to me. But looking at the dates of the books a comment like this is not in the least bit odd.
“‘Well, it says 5 boxes reefers. What are the reefers, Captain?’ Poly was simply curious. She did not think for a moment that the little ship was carrying marijuana.” (Loc. 733)
I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s funny right?
Recommendation: I wasn’t as enamored with this novel as I was with the Murray series or even The Arm of the Starfish, but it was well written and the ideas L’Engle explores in all of her works are still important today! (There was an entire episode of Archer last season (IMDB link) focusing on fossil fuels vs. renewable energy.) If you enjoy her writing, enjoy thought-provoking fiction or even just find the area between science and religion interesting I would recommend her works.
Opening Line: “The M.S. Orion was tied up at Savannah, Georgia.”
Closing Line: “Simon raised his glass to the assembled company. ‘It is good to be home,’ he said.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Dragons in the Water
“Even the most innocent of journals, if they are honest, contain pages which could hurt other people.” (Loc. 417)
“The dying of a name was as real as the death of a person.” (Loc. 655)
“It was quite true that occasionally Charles knew something in a way not consistent with reasonable fact. It was odd and it was disturbing, but there was no denying that it happened.” (Loc.1388)
“Many men find occasion when a change of name is helpful.” (Loc. 1462)
“But when a memory flickered at the corners of his mind he had learned that it was best to bring it out into the open; and rather than making him sorry for himself, it helped him to get rid of self-pity.” (Loc.1516)
“Not in the way you’re implying Charles dreams. That sounds to me more like the ripples you see spreading out and out when you throw a pebble in a pond, or the way sound waves continue in much the same fashion. So it seems quite likely to me that there are other similar waves. Strong emotion, I would guess, either very good or very bad, would leave an impression on the air.” (Loc.1887)
“Hate dies less easily than love.” (Loc. 3114)
“It is our loss in my world that we no longer value the memory of our people.” (Loc. 3163)
“I also believe that if just in one place we can win the battle over greed and callousness, that one victory may swing the tide over the entire world.” (Loc.3861)