I went to see Interstellar the other night, in need of three hours of sci-fi escapism from the terrestrial horrors of the last week, and while, frankly, it’s sort of an incomprehensible film, it not only served its purpose, it got me thinking about fathers and daughters. Specifically, about another braniac father-daughter team that travels through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and saves the world: Meg Murry and Mr. Murry in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
Wrinkle and the other books in L’Engle’s Time Quintet series were my first introduction to mind-bending concepts of quantum mechanics and relativity (in fact, Interstellar’s explanation of a tesseract is almost a direct rip-off of Mrs. Whatsit folding her skirt to explain the phenomenon to Meg and Charles Wallace … ). And in brave-yet-terrified-and-awkward Meg, L’Engle provided a strong early role model, even though I was nowhere near as good at math.
With Wrinkle, published in 1962 after being rejected by something like 50 publishing houses, L’Engle demonstrated that children’s literature could handle imperfect heroines; that a scary, tentacled monster could be an agent of unconditional love; that a science-fiction fantasy could be both Christian allegory and anti-totalitarian manifesto; and that, to crib from L’Engle, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book is too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.”
So, I was excited to come across this smart and chatty roundtable on A Wrinkle In Time on The Toast earlier this month, and even more unreasonably excited to discover that Jennifer Lee, director of Frozen, has been signed to direct the forthcoming feature-film adaptation of the novel. Seriously, Disney: don’t fuck this up.
Here’s Madeline L’Engle speaking eloquently on the power of fantasy and science-fiction in 1998, accepting an award for lifetime achievement in young adult literature. And, while we’re on the subject, here’s a taste of Ursula Le Guin’s ferocious speech from the National Book Awards last week:
“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality. … We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable, but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, in the art of words.”