Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.
I’m often asked what book inspired me to become a novelist. But I think the more interesting question is: What inspired me to become a reader of novels? With so many alternatives to reading available today – electronic games, on-demand movies, online videos, social media – the pull of a good novel, in any format, remains irresistible. Why?
I wish I could report that my inspiration was something weighty and “important.” Anna Karenina, for example, or The Grapes of Wrath (two of my favorite novels, as it happens). But in fact, it was a children’s book that first showed me what great storytelling could do.
The book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It was published in 1963 and has been in print ever since, so clearly I’m not the only person inspired by this great novel. I was nine that year, and reading on my own. My parents gave me the book for my birthday, and each night that week I’d read a chapter or two, using a flashlight, on the top level of the bunkbed I shared with my younger brother. The next day I’d recount what I’d read to my mother, no doubt in the breathless, spare-no-detail way that children tend to adopt when describing what they’ve read to their patient, if half-listening, elders. I must not have bored my mother too terribly, because she began to read the book, on her own, the next day. Over the following nights we tore through the book, separately, and then talked about what we’d read the next morning.
We loved discussing Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. And especially the Happy Medium. I’m sure the wordplay sailed right over my head. Also unnoticed by me was the novel’s undercurrent of Christian themes. My mother didn’t point this out to me, but she was an astute reader and I’m sure she picked up on it. To me it was just a grand adventure, albeit one with profound lessons about life, conformity and truth.
But what I really learned from A Wrinkle in Time was far more significant to me than anything in the plot or even in the lessons it contained. The novel, or I should say the experience of reading the novel, taught me that reading, typically a solitary endeavor, can bring people together. It was a powerful lesson. Even today, when I think of A Wrinkle in Time, what I remember most isn’t the story itself, magical as it was, or the Happy Medium with her crystal ball. It’s a feeling of closeness to my mother, who died almost thirty years ago, and the experience of sharing a magical journey with her. And I think that’s when my life as an enthusiastic, committed, can’t-ever-be-without-a good-book reader really began.
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