Movie Mom

Movie Mom


A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Interview with Madeleine L’Engle’s Granddaughter

posted by Nell Minow

Madeleine L’Engle’s classic book A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th anniversary this week with a sumptuous new edition. It includes photos and biographical information about L’Engle, an introduction by US Ambassador for Children’s Literature Katherine Paterson, discussion questions, pages of the original manuscript, L’Engle’s thoughtful and inspiring Newbery acceptance speech, and an essay by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis.

L’Engle’s book was turned down by a number of publishers because it did not fit into any genre. It is the story of a teenaged loner named Meg Murray and her precocious little brother Charles Wallace who travel to another planet to rescue their scientist father. It has elements of science fiction, religion, science and mathematics, adventure, coming of age, family drama, and some teen romance. When it was finally published, it was an instant classic and it was awarded the highest prize in children’s literature, the Newbery medal. It led to four sequels and continues to be loved by each generation of children.

Dr. Voiklis spoke to me about her grandmother and the origins of the book and about L’Engle’s faith, which is the subject of some of her books, including Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and The Irrational Season.

I love A Wrinkle in Time. I read it as a kid and then I read it aloud to my children.

My grandmother wrote it in her early 40’s. She always described her 30’s as a decade of rejection, very hard for her. She felt nothing she wrote was getting published. She and her family were living in northwestern Connecticut and she wasn’t your typical housewife or a published writer making money and she had intense guilt about that. She started writing A Wrinkle in Time during a period of transition when they were moving back to New York, a period of transition. And she first got the image of Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who when they were driving through the Painted Desert area. The landscape was just so otherworldly. She said herself that she really couldn’t explain it except that it came during a period of transition and doubt and that it was a way of affirming a vision of the universe in which she wanted to believe.

I was charmed when I read that she argued with her publisher that she did not want to have a period after Mrs for Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which, and Mrs Who as they do in Europe. Why was that important to her?

She felt that those little typographical details would convey a great deal. For American readers, that little signal would show that these women were not typical.

You said you helped her answer her mail from readers. What were some of the questions she got asked most often?

“Where do you get your ideas?” She liked to quote Papa Bach, who said he couldn’t get up in the morning without tripping over ideas. What to write about was never a problem. More than questions, the letters that touched her deeply were the ones from readers who were so moved by what they read in her books that they felt that they could trust her. They shared a lot of themselves. The Facebook page for A Wrinkle in Time has a number of comments from people who say, “This book changed my life.” She really felt deeply honored by that and took it very seriously.

Meg is somebody everyone can identify with. Everyone feels misunderstood and alone some of the time.

And the fact that its her faults that save her, that’s important, too. She really was like Meg, the passionate intensity, the emotionalism. If she felt something she had to say it. That kind of authenticity was totally her. She wrote fiction and non-fiction and there were elements of non-fiction and truth-telling in her fiction and elements of fiction in her non-fiction, the narrative of it.

What about Charles Wallace, who is only five but is so wise and knowledgeable?

He’s a leap of imagination. It’s not like she knew anybody who was like that. In one of the early drafts, she calls him a mutant. In the final version they just say, “he knew.”

He might be the next level of evolution.

Exactly.

Your grandmother was so prolific. Do you have a favorite of her books?

I have a very strong connection to The Small Rain, which was her first book. She was always a little disappointed when I told her that. “Well, I hope my books get better!” But I thought Katherine Forrester, who was the protagonist, was terrific, and that book tackled young womenhood with great insight.

What did she teach you?

One of the most important things I learned from her was her sense of discipline. And discipline as a way of creating order so there would be opportunities for growth. She practiced the piano religiously. She went to bed every night at nine o’clock. She took a bath and shut the twelve shutters in her bedroom in a very methodical way. When I was a teenager, I didn’t get that! But the sense of order that an outward discipline gave her helped with the internal discipline needed for writing and using her writing to make sense of the chaos that is in everybody’s life.

The religious discipline worked the same way, the liturgical calendar, the liturgical year. She read the Bible every night. She liked to quote Karl Barth, who said, “I take the Bible much too seriously to read it literally.” It gave her a framework.



  • http://L'Englewasthefinest Mike Shuck

    Her words were mesmerizing, her ideas infallable,her spirit unconquerable. She received a lot of admiration and kudos during her life, but not enough. She changed a LOT of lives. Any time I hear the word “tesseract” I think of her. Mike Shuck, middle of Kansas

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks for a great comment, Mike!

  • Pingback: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time et sequelae | Josephine's Readers Advisory

Previous Posts

Should Movie Audiences Text to the Screen?
It is annoying enough when someone near you in a movie theater takes out a cell phone to text. Imagine how it would be if you then saw the text on the screen. That's what a Chinese theater is experimenting with in what they are calling "bullet screens." The idea is that what you are there to enjo

posted 3:59:17pm Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Back to School Guidelines for Parents on Kids and Media
Screen time is a treat, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure that it comes only after homework, chores, other kinds of play, and family time. Make sure there is some quiet time each day as well. The spirit is nourished by silence. All too often, we try to drown out our unsettled or lonely fe

posted 8:00:27am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

After the Ice Bucket Challenge: Two Upcoming Movies About People With ALS
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought a lot of money and attention to a devastating illness, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease for the the New York Yankee who had to leave baseball when he was afflicted with ALS. Two upcoming films about people with ALS

posted 7:00:17am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Thursdays in September on Turner Classic Movies: The Jewish Experience on Film
This month, TCM has an excellent series of films about the Jewish experience, every Thursday. TCM proudly presents The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film, a weekly showcase of movies focusing on Jewish history and heritage as portrayed onscreen. Co-hosting the films each Thursday is D

posted 9:21:56pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Start the School Year With a No-Screen Week
A new study shows another good reason to detox from all screen time now and then, especially for kids.  Children who take a five-day break from all screens are better at reading real-life facial expressions to understand the emotions of the people around them.  Psyblog described the study, which s

posted 3:56:33pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.