Why You Need to Own a Copy of
Madeleine L’Engle’s The Kairos Novels (box-set).
Library of America, 2018.
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By C. Christopher Smith
The Library of America has recently released a gorgeous hardback box-set of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and its seven subsequent novels, a collection they have dubbed The Kairos Novels. The eight novels are presented in two volumes that contain four novels each: The Wrinkle in Time Quartet (Wrinkle, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters) and The Polly O’Keefe Quartet (The Arm of the Starfish, Dragons in the Waters, A House Like a Lotus, An Acceptable Time). The novels in the first four volumes trace the adventures of Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe, to whom we are introduced in Wrinkle. The second volume follows Polly O’Keefe, the daughter of Meg and Calvin.
Many L’Engle fans will already have copies of most, if not all, of these novels, so why recommend the box set?
But before tackling that question, I should emphasize that if you aren’t already a L’Engle fan, this set is a superb introduction to L’Engle’s fiction. If you’ve read and enjoyed Wrinkle, then the box-set is a worthwhile investment for immersing yourself in the fictional world that evolved in its wake, or for giving as a gift to an eager reader unfamiliar with L’Engle’s work.
If you already a L’Engle fan, here are three solid reasons why you need the box-set:
- The books are durable hardbacks, suited for reading and re-reading. Most of these novels, although originally released as hardbacks, are no longer affordably available in hardback editions. These volumes are printed on lightweight acid-free paper designed to last a lifetime and more.
- They will take up less space on your shelf than the eight separate novels, even slim paperback editions of each novel. The box-set is less than 3 inches wide.
- The unpublished L’Engle writings included in the appendices of each volume. Each book has a treasure trove of appendices, totaling 80+ pages of unpublished talks and other materials that supplement the novels, that are not available elsewhere and that are an asset to the collection of any L’Engle fan. The crowning gems of these appendices are the four deleted scenes from A Wrinkle in Time. I won’t spoil these scenes, but (briefly) they include: a) an entranced Charles Wallace explaining “the allure of life on Camazotz”; b) Meg’s attempt to escape from the Camazotz tour guide; c) a timely “discussion of totalitarianism, democracy, and security among Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry”; and d) Aunt Beast tessering with the earthlings to a school planet in hopes of getting assistance from the teachers there in contacting Mrs. Whatsit. Other appendices include several award-acceptance speeches, including the one for acceptance of the Newbury award that Wrinkle One of my favorites was “Dare to be Creative!,” a lecture that L’Engle gave at the Library of Congress in 1983. Collectively, these appendices serve to illuminate the novels, giving readers deeper insight into the richness of L’Engle’s mind in which these novels took shape.
So, while the Kairos Novels box-set might not be for everyone, it offers a superb introduction to L’Engle’s fictional worlds for those who haven’t yet ventured into them, and it offers some distinct perks for the hardcore L’Engle fan.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of the ERB, and author of multiple books, including the forthcoming How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, April).