As most of you probably know, author Madeleine L’Engle died this month at the age of 88. I’m a bit late perhaps, but I thought it fitting to pay tribute to this science fiction and fantasy legend and her classic (and quite poetically named) novel, A Wrinkle in Time.
NEWSWEEK: So you’ve seen the movie?
Madeleine L’Engle: I’ve glimpsed it.
And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.
The movie she’s referring to featured a “watered down” version of the story, in particular in regards to its religious elements (sound familiar?).
So has a better or at least feature film not been made for fear of religious controversy? Or perhaps due to its heavy science content, or the difficulty (i.e., expense involved) in satisfactorily reproducing a classic fantasy book?
Who knows. But here are some fun facts about this well-known tale to help make my case for a great Wrinkle in Time feature:
But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.
The opening line
The book begins with the line “it’s a dark and stormy night.” Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s still lots of fun, and of course perfect for the movies.
Trivia: It had to start somewhere… That inescapable line was originally written by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his novel Paul Clifford.
Like many classic books, A Wrinkle in Time was, according to the NY Times, rejected by 26 publishers before finally being published at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. To give another example of a rejected classic: Harry Potter was also turned down by publishers – though naturally, accounts of how many times vary, from just a few to about a dozen (her stack of rejection letters was thiiissss big!). JK Rowling herself, and hopefully she knows, says in an interview:
“Four or five publishers turned it down, I think, and the consistent criticism was, ‘It’s far too long for children.’”
An article in the National Review Online also notes that “…a British publisher that rejected The Sorcerer’s Stone did so because it was “too literary.”” Ah yes, the typical complaint against (eventual) huge bestsellers.
Again according to the NY Times, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) has sold 8 million copies and is now in its 69th printing. Sure, JK Rowling can sell that amount in about a day (with her hands tied behind her back), but considering that 12 million copies of the three books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series have been sold worldwide so far and around 10 million copies of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have been sold since it was first published… in 1900… – the figure sounds a bit more impressive.
Not a lone classic like Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time is actually the first book in a series, although it is without question the most read and the most famous book in the series. The other three (A Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A Swiftly Tilting Planet) combine with A Wrinkle in Time to form the series “Time Quartet” about the Murry family. So no need to come up with a Wrinkle in Time 2: The College Years for that summer franchise. Phew!
For a complete list of Madeleine’s works, click here.
Tradition of children’s fantasy
The Chronicles of Narnia. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland. Harry Potter. The Golden Compass (hopefully). Most anything by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda). Some of the greatest classic books of all time have been made into the greatest classic movies of all time. And really, I think there’s room for one more in the pantheon.
Some fun, and of course entirely random, trivia: Roald Dahl wrote 6 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents… Perhaps an odd pairing at first sight, but when you think about it, you can certainly see a shade (or more than just a shade) of Hitchcock in Dahl’s books. Hordes of squirrels attacking a girl? Yep, that’s what I thought.
A Wrinkle of Time has frequently been banned for its religious and mythological themes. It’s number 22 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Harry Potter is number 7 and Bridge to Terabithia (another film adaptation) is number 9. Which brings me to…
Time travel. Science. Love. Religion. Good vs. evil.
Controversial and heartwarming? If that doesn’t scream movie, I don’t know what does.
Hayao Miyazaki: closeted Wrinkle in Time fan?
Live action fantasy is expensive, limited and time consuming. Animation is expensive and time consuming, sure, but the possiblities? Practically endless. And Miyazaki’s record with animated fantasy adaptations? Spotless.
His most recent adaptation of fantasy literature was Howl’s Moving Castle, inspired by the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Chrestomanci fantasy series (think Harry Potter, but with more eccentricity, a smaller castle and less children).
Miyazaki was even originally interested in directing an animated version of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels, although his son Goro ended up making the animated film (titled Tales from Earthsea) instead.
As Ursula LeGuin herself says:
Twenty or so years ago, Mr Hayao Miyazaki wrote me expressing interest in making an animated film based on the (then only three) books of Earthsea. I did not know his work. I knew only Disney-type animation, and disliked it. I said no.
Six or seven years ago, my friend Vonda N. McIntyre told me about My Neighbor Totoro and we watched it together. I became a Miyazaki fan at once and forever. I consider him a genius of the same caliber as Kurosawa or Fellini.
With praise like that, plus Miyazaki’s additional background in science fiction, who else better to direct an animated version of A Wrinkle in Time? Dubbed, limited release in art house theaters, here we come!
At this point, if you haven’t read the book, you might be saying: okay, that’s all well and good, but what is this book actually about?
Here then is a (spoiler free) plot summary, taken from Madeleine L’Engle’s official site (because who can describe the book better than her?):
Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. She claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time.
Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?