A Wrinkle in Time… “the worst book I have ever read”

Have you seen this article on A Wrinkle in Time? I hadn’t realized how much loathing the manuscript generated when Madeline L’Engle’s agent sent it to publishers.

Publishers hated it. Every firm her agent turned to rejected the manuscript. One advised to “do a cutting job on it—by half.” Another complained “it’s something between an adult and juvenile novel.” Finally, a friend advised L’Engle to send it to one of the most prestigious houses of all, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. John Farrar liked the manuscript. A test reader he gave it to, though, was unimpressed: “I think this is the worst book I have ever read, it reminds me of The Wizard of Oz.” Yet FSG acquired it, and Hal Vursell, the book’s editor, talked it up in letters he sent to reviewers: “It’s distinctly odd, extremely well written,” he wrote to one, “and is going to make greater intellectual and emotional demands on 12 to 16 year olds than most formula fiction for this age group.”

It’s been a long while since I read it, but the book left a strong impression on me. I was so young that I didn’t grasp that the opening line was a cliché, but I appreciated Meg not fitting in at school and I liked the way Meg’s mother was able to be a practicing scientist who still had a strong faith.

I’m not quite confident about the movie that’s coming out. The “witches” don’t look anything like the characters in the book. Even as a child, I knew that they weren’t really witches, and while they might be intimidating they weren’t scary. So I’m not sure why Oprah’s had that makeover.

On the other hand, maybe the movie is like the book in that you have to take a chance and trust it to lead you in the direction it wants to go. I think so many publishers turned the book down because it didn’t conform with their expectations of what a children’s book should be. So I’m thinking I’ll watch this move even if it doesn’t conform with my expectations of what it should be.


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