From an old issue of The New Yorker:
My copy was blue. The book was a small Scholastic paperback, and on the cover was a trio of pale-green concentric circles. They looked like radio waves, or the kind of design you could get by fiddling around with a Spirograph set. In one of the circles was the silhouette of a girl, and, in another, a matching image of a little boy.
The book was “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle. Published in 1962, it is—depending on how you look at it—science fiction, a warm tale of family life, a response to the Cold War, a book about a search for a father, a feminist tract, a religious fable, a coming-of-age novel, a work of Satanism, or a prescient meditation on the future of the United States after the Kennedy assassination. When I first read it, in 1967, at the age of eight, I was innocent of any of this, and I had no idea that the story was also about the author. The girl in the circle was her childhood self, lostand lonely in space. But for L’Engle, even more than for Meg Murry, who with her brother Charles Wallace is travelling, according to my edition’s back-flap copy, “through a wrinkle in time, to the deadly unknown terrors beyond the tesseract!,” it had been even more perilous, because she had no grave, precocious little boy to accompany her. I knew even less that those closest to Madeleine L’Engle considered her science fiction to be the least fantastical of her more than fifty books, which, in addition to her novels, include poetry, meditations, and memoirs.
I once asked L’Engle to define “science fiction.” She replied, “Isn’t everything?” On another occasion, in the vast, sunny apartment in a building on West End Avenue where she has lived since 1960, and where she and her late husband, the actor Hugh Franklin, brought up their three children, she offered an example. “I was standing right there, carrying a plate of cold cuts,” she said, pointing at a swinging door between the dining room and the pantry. “And I swooped into the pantry, bang, and got a black eye. It was exactly as if someone pushed me.” At eighty-five, L’Engle is a formidable figure. She is five feet nine in her stocking feet, and uses a wheelchair owing to a broken hip. She has a birdlike head, a sharp nose, and an air of helpless innocence that is almost entirely put on. She wore a loose-fitting dress in one of her favorite colors, peacock blue. “Most likely,” she continued firmly, “it was a poltergeist. There must have been a teen-age girl in the house. All that energy! They create the best atmosphere for them, you know. We don’t know how to catch and harness it.” She nodded. “Too true of most things.”
. . . .
Catherine Hand, who is an executive producer of a made-for-television version of “A Wrinkle in Time,” which is scheduled to air next month on ABC, fell in love with the book when she was ten. She says, “The engine that drives it is Meg’s inner life, and it’s astonishing, because here is a girl who at that moment is stronger than her father. For some of us, it planted the seeds of the women’s movement. I have had wonderful conversations with Madeleine, as a friend, who is, of course, Meg.”
Robert Giroux, of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which first published “A Wrinkle in Time,” says, “Madeleine L’Engle? She’s an unusual woman, brilliant intellectually. A really superior person. She’s what you used to call a bluestocking. I’ve worked with T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden, and so on, but my young relatives all say, ‘Oh, Madeleine L’Engle!’ ”
The hardcover edition of “A Wrinkle in Time” is now in its sixty-seventh printing, and continues to sell about fifteen thousand copies annually. (L’Engle says that she had a clause in her contract that Farrar, Straus had the rights to “A Wrinkle in Time” in perpetuity in the universe, but not on Andromeda.) More than six million copies of the paperback are currently in circulation.
. . . .
More than most writers, L’Engle has engaged with her readers. Until about five years ago, she was a tireless lecturer and teacher, annually accepting dozens of invitations to speak, on writing, family life, and faith—L’Engle has been a devout Anglican for most of her adult life—and she has often received more than a hundred letters from readers in a week. (Her grandchildren, Léna Roy and Charlotte and Edward Jones, now handle most of her correspondence.) One evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where L’Engle has been the librarian for forty years, an Evensong service was held to celebrate her contribution to literature for children. Scores of strangers waited to greet her—mainly middle-aged women, some with children in tow, but men, too. What they said was “Thank you. You changed my life.”
Link to the rest at The New Yorker