I bought A Wrinkle in Time many years ago, but never read it until last year after my friend Erica kept urging me to do so. The first sentence of the book, "It was a dark and stormy night", drew me into the adventures of Meg Murry, Christopher Wallace Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe. I was moved by the Christian elements within the book, especially L'Engle's quotation of Isaiah 42.10-12; Romans 8.28,30; and 1 Corinthians 1.25-28. Consequently Wrinkle has drawn the ire of many Christians because of the character Mrs. Which (sounds like "witch") and the appearance of a crystal ball. This and other concerns over L'Engle's liberal Christianity earned Wrinkle a spot on the ALA's list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. L'Engle spoke on the controversy by saying:
It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.
I am reminded of the past controversies surrounding the Harry Potter series and the author, J.K. Rowling. In a May 2003 interview with Newsweek, L'Engle was asked if she read the Harry Potter books:
I read one of them. It’s a nice story but there’s nothing underneath it. I don’t want to be bothered with stuff where there’s nothing underneath. Some people say, “Why do you read the Bible?’’ I say, "Because there’s a lot of stuff underneath."
I'm assuming that she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone since that is the first novel. I wonder if she would have changed her thoughts on Harry Potter if she continued to read the entire series until its conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling also quotes from scripture in the final book (Matthew 6.21 & 1 Corinthians 15.26) and expounds on the Christian principles of sacrifice and love's power over evil. Contrary to L'Engle's first impressions of a "nice story", there is a lot underneath. I'm not sure if she decided to read the entire series before her death, but I'm hoping she did.
In the same interview Melinda Henneberger asks L'Engle, "I ask about the Potter books because, like “Wrinkle,” they have Christian themes yet have been criticized by some Christians, for similar reasons" (emphasis mine) to which L'Engle responded:
Well, the Fundalets [fundamentalist Christians] want a closed system, and I want an open system.
L'Engle was known for her unique perspective on scripture and myth, but there was no question that she was a Christian, devoted to her faith and her craft. She poured her heart into her various works and her readers are better for it. She wrote in Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life:
All art, good, bad, indifferent, reflects its culture. Great art transcends its culture and touches on that which is eternal. . .True art has a mythic quality in that it speaks of that which was true, is true, and will be true.
L'Engle spoke profoundly on what true art is because she was a literary artist. Reflecting on her work makes me want to find out more about this extraordinary woman, who stands up there with other Christian mythmakers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. And though she will be missed by all her readers, including myself, she is with her Saviour now.