A Wrinkle in Time
Austin Allen has a lovely post on Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time up at Big Think:
L’Engle insisted that her novel be published as a children’s book, but she nearly gave up on finding anyone willing to do so. More than two dozen houses turned it down before Farrar, Straus & Giroux took a gamble. It’s not hard to see why: how many kiddie books feature imaginative riffs on Einstein’s theories or inside jokes about Macbeth? How many feature both?
In fact this tale of physicists and witches, Genesis and general relativity conflates so many genres and worldviews in 200 pages that there’s something unassimilated about the finished product. L’Engle claimed that “it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant,” and while this might sound like standard authorial coyness, I actually believe her.
What she seems to have intended to do is add a new twist (wrinkle?) to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Those, too, combine fantasy with a religious message; The Magician’s Nephew even includes an element of planet-hopping sci-fi. But while the Lewis of Nephew was a veteran children’s author who knew, metaphysically speaking, where he stood, the L’Engle of Wrinkle was a relative newcomer, and there’s something less slick and complacent about her universe. Blend pagan myth with Christian themes and you’re repeating an old formula; stir in large quantities of secular literature and modern science, and you get a more intriguing, more volatile chemistry.
This book, and the other novels in the series, are some of my favorite fantasies. I remember reading it as a child. It was one of the most frightening books I’d read at the time. The evil is quite palpable while at the same time remaining, at least for me at the time, sort of vague. This made it even more disturbing. Years later I’m still puzzling over it.
I’ll have to read it again, I suspect, before I can say anything particularly profound or interesting. I wonder if anyone will attempt another remake of the book – I didn’t see it but a made-for-tv film was done at one point – now that animation technology has advanced so far and fantasy has gone mainstream? I’m not sure how they could pull it off.