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The Return of the Tesseract
October 18, 2012 3:04 PM   Subscribe

"People don't like their beloved childhood memories messed with, and when you adapt a classic like Wrinkle, that's what you're doing." An interview with Hope Larson, whose graphic novel adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s "A Wrinkle in Time" was released earlier this month. More: "How 'A Wrinkle in Time' Was Made Into a Graphic Novel." Even more (with lots of images): "‘A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel’: Hope Larson inks a classic."
posted by MonkeyToes (41 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Want.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:08 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love Hope Larson's work. Her Meg is so right. That's what Meg has looked like in my head for 20 years.
posted by Tesseractive at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This looks pretty darn cool:

and ...

People don't like their beloved childhood memories messed with

Has anyone told this to Tim Burton?
posted by edgeways at 3:19 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


The fact that I, without a pause, chanted "please be good please be good please be good" out loud after reading the words "How 'A Wrinkle in Time' Was Made Into a Graphic Novel" before clicking that link is proof that I don't mind my beloved childhood memories messed with as long as you do a good job.

After looking at images, also want.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:31 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was afraid to look, but the comments here made me look (I only had one eye open, though). I am not horrified or appalled! I might even like it a lot!

Whew.
posted by rtha at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2012


I just started reading it and it's great. Doesn't, of course, "improve" on the original, but complements it so very well.
posted by scratch at 3:56 PM on October 18, 2012


Someone uploaded the entire terrible Disney direct-to-video version to YouTube.

I've been ranting about this for years - where, oh WHERE is the good, fully-realized movie version of this book, one with built-in sequels and just about every great element you'd want - witches, space travel, aliens, an evil brain-on-a-dias, the works? Greatest untapped property of my lifetime, IMO.
posted by dbiedny at 4:01 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I pretty much just want a movie of Swiftly

Gaudior!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:08 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am delighted by this. My daughter is six. She has a strong sciency bent, but isn't quite old enough to sit through illustrationless chapter books yet. She does, however, adore comics- a trait she did not get from me, but that I can appreciate. I figured I'd have to wait at least another couple of years before laying A Wrinkle In Time down on her... but now I won't. Christmas stocking ahoy!
posted by Athene at 4:10 PM on October 18, 2012


Wait, I remember that book. Doesn't it have, near the end, the protagonist's little brother getting mind controlled by the creepy alien intelligence thing? There's a lot of nightmare fuel in that, isn't there?
posted by JHarris at 4:41 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...she asked me if I’d be interested in adapting “A Wrinkle in Time” — which is not an email I ever expected to receive, and I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I was actually understanding it, because it didn’t seem like it could be true."

Oh, I can just imagine, Hope.
posted by merelyglib at 4:57 PM on October 18, 2012


Wait, I remember that book. Doesn't it have, near the end, the protagonist's little brother getting mind controlled by the creepy alien intelligence thing?

It's a giant evil disembodied brain.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:58 PM on October 18, 2012


Wait, I remember that book. Doesn't it have, near the end, the protagonist's little brother getting mind controlled by the creepy alien intelligence thing?

The scenes in Camazotz are my favorite in the book. The children playing in sync, the repetition of the houses - the whole thing still gives me a wonderful shudder.

I can't wait to read the graphic novel.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:02 PM on October 18, 2012


Oh, I cannot wait to get my hands on this! It's one of my favorite books, and from the images I've seen, Hope Larson nailed it. (Dang, someone got to it at my library before me!! Curses!)
posted by sarcasticah at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2012


A tiny fun fact I cannot resist sharing: that original Wrinkle In Time cover - the one on the 50th anniversary edition on Madeline L'Engle's site - was designed by Ellen Raskin, who would later go on to write my favorite book of all time, The Westing Game.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:20 PM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I guess that's better than making a graphic novel out of A Tinkle in Rhyme.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:35 PM on October 18, 2012


I remember loving Wrinkle and I also remember being told there was some Xian allegory and not believing it or thinking it was, like, inoffensively hidden away (despite having the book read to me in a very strictly Xian school).

Then I read it as an adult. Yeah. It's...not so great anymore. I can't even imagine what Swiftly Tilting Planet and that other one would read like, given they were completely crazy pants even at the time. (Took me forEVER to even realize I was supposed to not realize that Mad Dog and Madog, or whatever their names were, were the same person.)
posted by DU at 5:37 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do have to admit that the It-controlled planet part is still pretty creepy and cool, but

a) the rest of the book is VERY teenage wish fulfillment (the cute boy at school likes books and me!)

b) It pretty transparently stands for some combination of science and socialism, which is defeated by the power of Jebus (in the form of the angel-witches)
posted by DU at 5:40 PM on October 18, 2012


Yeah, when they got to the IT planet I felt just as cheated when I read the first Narnia book at the age of 7 and realized "Oh, the lion's supposed to be Jesus. What a horrible thing to sneak religion into what's supposed to be an adventure story?".
posted by dunkadunc at 5:45 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember loving Wrinkle and I also remember being told there was some Xian allegory and not believing it or thinking it was, like, inoffensively hidden away (despite having the book read to me in a very strictly Xian school).

Then I read it as an adult. Yeah. It's...not so great anymore. I can't even imagine what Swiftly Tilting Planet and that other one would read like, given they were completely crazy pants even at the time. (Took me forEVER to even realize I was supposed to not realize that Mad Dog and Madog, or whatever their names were, were the same person.)


I am an agnostic Jew and have read Swiftly ever five years or so since I was twelve and it holds up fine.

Honestly, I think the Christian messages in the Time Quartet are okay. Like, love is pretty good! The racial messages are more troubling but seem to be well-intentioned in a dated sort of way. Like, meh, noble savages. Who ride giant birds and fishes. Alrighty then. Also, Mad Dog and Madoc weren't the same person. Mad Dog was descended from Madoc. The whole book is about altering timelines and family trees, which is pretty sophisticated for a novel for twelve year olds.

Plus unicorns

I can't say the same for the religious messages of the later books, by the way. One of the central conflicts of An Acceptable Time is if it's okay to pray to Jesus in a time before Jesus was born. It was pretty Jesusy, as opposed to the "because love!" of the earlier books. Also, there was that evil, evil atheist Zachary Grey to contend with. Bleh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:58 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


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.
posted by jscott at 6:15 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


b) It pretty transparently stands for some combination of science and socialism, which is defeated by the power of Jebus (in the form of the angel-witches)

I kinda have to disagree with this. The fact is that the Murrys themselves also "stand for science." L'engle seems to argue consistently that a love of science and religious belief are compatible. Mr. Murry doesn't give up his evil science ways at the end of the journeys of the first book; in fact, every character is, in some way, a scientist, the women among them. Sure, the Murrys are shown as a "good Christian family", and those values inform the novels, but I'd say that the overall message is pro-curiosity, pro-empathy, pro-exploration. Camazotz itself seems like it could just as easily be a critique of American suburbia--Levittown and the like. And IT might be a brain, but it's a brain that's fought by recitations of the periodic table and square roots. Seeing the book as one that pits science against religion seems overly reductive to me (though I might agree that it argues for science with empathy and creativity, sure. But that's not a bad argument at all).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:17 PM on October 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


"People don't like their beloved childhood memories messed with, and when you adapt a classic like Wrinkle, that's what you're doing."

I figured I'd have to wait at least another couple of years before laying A Wrinkle In Time down on her...


One generations beloved childhood memories are not necessarily the next.

My BCM of the Tolkien trilogy and the Hobbit, complete with the long boring parts, has nothing to do with my grandkid's memories of the DVD version of the trilogy. I enjoyed the DVDs, but I'm certainly glad I read the books, and really felt like having read the books enhanced the movies, although I did have a couple bones to pick. Oldest grandkid, having read the books for school, told me the books weren't near as good as the movies. Punk. Whatdoyouknowgetoffmylawn!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:18 PM on October 18, 2012


If it conveys a sense of helplessness in the face of an overwhelming Abstract, and desperate existential struggle whose stakes are life and death for the people you hold most dear... I'll be satisfied.
posted by clarknova at 6:33 PM on October 18, 2012


a) the rest of the book is VERY teenage wish fulfillment (the cute boy at school likes books and me!)

Yes and no. Calvin is shown to be pretty much a poser in terms of popularity; he hides his smarts and acts acceptably in order to get away from his horrible abusive family. Part of Wrinkle is about him accepting that he is smart and at no point does he win the day (as far as I can remember) by heroically saving a fainting Meg. Her dad kind of does, but the whole point of the last part was that her dad actually lets her down too, and she has to accept that and do for herself. No one else will be the hero if she is not.

Which is some pretty radical-ass feminism for a book written in the 60s.
posted by emjaybee at 6:35 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


My 10-year-old son just read it (a birthday present from me); we're about halfway through reading the book together and he wasn't supposed to read the graphic novel until we'd finished the book but he snuck it out of my room, grrr. Anyway. He says it's good but that the pictures in the comic book don't match the pictures he imagined. Which is reasonable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:48 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, the day I start parsing children's literature based on the religious persuasion of the author rather than the merits of the story is the day I dig a hole, pitch a tent over it, and start living out of my grave.
posted by Athene at 7:06 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


b) It pretty transparently stands for some combination of science and socialism, which is defeated by the power of Jebus (in the form of the angel-witches)

Seems much more squarely aimed at totalitarianism to me (socialist or not), though as PhoB points out, the implicit criticisms could as well apply to other social phenomena of systemic conformity.

As for science... if you're going to read something into the fact the enemy is a giant brain, don't forget to note that it's a disembodied brain, a being divorced from natural concerns and feelings of other living embodied things.
posted by weston at 7:20 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A tiny fun fact I cannot resist sharing: that original Wrinkle In Time cover - the one on the 50th anniversary edition on Madeline L'Engle's site - was designed by Ellen Raskin, who would later go on to write my favorite book of all time, The Westing Game.

This is awesome, and also--if you take the jacket off the graphic novel, this image is actually embossed on the cover.
posted by leesh at 7:41 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think a little wish fulfillment (the cute boy at school reads and likes me!) is a terrible thing in a teen lit novel. It isn't what the book is about. It's a B plot at best.
posted by maryr at 8:31 PM on October 18, 2012


(By which I guess I'm saying... still a better love story than Twilight.)
posted by maryr at 8:31 PM on October 18, 2012


This may sound strange, but as someone without much religious sentiment, I embraced the spiritual elements in children's adventure books like A Wrinkle in Time, the Chronicles of Narnia, and even more obscure and overt Christian allegories like The Sword Bearer by John White. And as long as the story doesn't spend too much time on condemning things the author dislikes, I still have a weakness for these.

I find contemporary fantasy overtly materialistic, and the characters that populate fantasy books are just regular mundane people in funny clothes. A lot of fantasy is about the pursuit and display of wealth: castles, expensive dress, everyone is an aristocrat, the story highlights opulence and luxury.

Mainstream fantasy also feels materialistic on a deeper level. It answers the question of whether the world is knowable with a big "yes." There is always a map of the whole world. Magic is often a regular and knowable system. Especially in quest fantasy, the characters are almost always in command of what happens to them, they go where they please with a reasonable expectation of getting there. A lot of it is reminiscent of mid-career adults taking a driving trip up to Vermont to buy some good maple syrup.

In contrast, a lot of these mundane beliefs about the nature and structure of the world go right out the window in Christian allegories. They normally have an internal rational structure, but to me it's unexpected and startling and, yes, fantastical. Recall how in one of George MacDonald's novels for children the character of the North Wind explains to the child protagonist that even though a boat is traveling against the wind, the wind is still crucially helping it move forward. A nuanced and unintuitive argument is made. MacDonald's later novel Lilith is (for lack of more accurate terms) surreal.

These are novels with an underlying dimension of moral mysticism. Sometimes the morality might be completely alien to me, but that's what makes it so exciting and interesting. There are lots of books in which authors set up social structures and belief systems for which they have no intuition or feeling, holding their creations at arm's length as obvious tinker-toys. And then there are books which their authors feel and inhabit through and through, even though as readers we might find them questionable. Look at modern Conan knock-offs, which are either goofy pastiches or mawkish, contemptible jeremiads. Now look back to Howard's actual Conan stories, with their outrageous, over-the-top farrago: repellent, but somehow also extraordinary.

Or even take Narnia. I struggle to name a modern fantasy book where there is a land beyond the horizon that cannot be visited by common man (but thinking back to older books, Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter comes immediately to mind). Or a book in which a world is metaphorically created through song (and no, not systematized "song magic," but the pure power of song). Or a book where celestial bodies are personified and come down to earth. Or a book where deep magic is superseded by deeper magic, magic that isn't "based" in self-sacrifice, but that rather is self-sacrifice.

If you pause for a moment, you might realize how unusual and divergent these elements are, when considered apart from their real-world belief system analogs. Yes, Aslan "is" Jesus in the real world. But in Narnia he's a magical talking lion that makes unexpected supernatural appearances, turns the tide of battles, returns people to life, and passes magisterial moral judgment. That's a bizarre character! And those books are teeming with them!

Maybe it's useful to consider Christian allegorical fantasy as a kind of parallel to Lovecraft. They are set in worlds that are shifting and fickle. Our protagonists can never fully grasp their logic in its entirety, either by virtue of being actual children or being like unto children. These are worlds in which deep and mysterious forces operate, but which the protagonists do not or cannot control. They are not worlds in which humans are triumphant: there is usually something better, higher, wiser, more powerful. And, unlike in Lovecraft, whatever it is isn't going to immediately kill you or drive you insane.

I concede the possibility that my response may be a bit unorthodox. After all, one of my favorite books is A Voyage to Arcturus, a novel of such concentrated abstract mysticism and merciless pursuit of a higher truth that it ends up being simultaneously awesome and crushing in the end.
posted by Nomyte at 9:29 PM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


Oh, to just have a graphic novel segment of the creepy scene in A Swiftly Tilting Planet where Calvin's mother recites St. Patrick's Rune to the Murry family during a storm would be worth ruining shed loads of childhood memories for me.
posted by pineappleheart at 10:10 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nomyte, I agree with you that many of the Christian fantasy books have more going on simply because they're unashamedly operating at the level of metaphor. It's why I'm so glad the His Dark Materials trilogy exists for today's kids, because it's also rammed with important metaphor but the story it is telling is very different. (Although to be honest, although Pullman describes himself as an atheist, the view of human action and belief that it puts forward has a great deal more in common with some strands of contemporary neopaganism than standard secular atheism).
posted by Acheman at 11:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't have enough favorites for Nomyte's comment. He is incredibly right.
posted by JHarris at 12:23 AM on October 19, 2012


I have to say thanks to Nomyte, both for the excellent points and also for sending a warm glow through my heart by mentioning At the Back of the North Wind and The King of Elfland's Daughter. Nearly all of MacDonald's and Dunsany's work are must-reads, in my opinion.

For an often overlooked but absolutely brilliant modern take on the same themes, check out Little, Big, by John Crowley. I can't overstate how wonderful this book is.
posted by gilrain at 6:09 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I have read all the links up there and finished the book and now I'm dying to know if Larson's planning to draw the sequels. Probably FSG is waiting to see how this one sells. Everyone, buy three copies.
posted by scratch at 7:47 AM on October 19, 2012


This book was so huge for me as a teenager. I was geeky and loved math and wasn't pretty, so Meg really resonated with me. It was such a good message for me at the time: you can be a scientist, you can be a heroine, your parents are people with flaws, who make mistakes. You can be unpopular and awkward and still find people who "get" you and love you. Maybe all of that is wish fulfillment, but it was what I needed to hear.

Also, Camazotz was creepy as hell. I didn't really understand why when I first read it, but all of the people being in sync and the little boy being punished for dropping his ball are just terrifying, and that's not even talking about IT, who is probably one of the freakiest antagonists ever for me. Not only is the mental image of this huge, quivering brain kind of gross, but IT as a representation of logic and control utterly untempered by emotion or mercy is pretty scary too, even as someone who values logic and science. Not to mention Charles Wallace with his empty swirling eyes, brrrr.

I can't decide if I'm excited about this graphic novel or not, though. I'll probably give it a shot, at least, since you folks seem to think it's worthwhile.
posted by ashirys at 8:14 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was in 7th or 8th grade, Sister Miriam asked me to come up with a list of books I'd recommend our school library get. Top of my list was A Wrinkle in Time. This pleased Sister Miriam, because it turned out that Madeleine L'Engle was Sister Miriam's... aunt? Something like that.

(I just wanted to share that.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:22 AM on October 19, 2012


Nomyte, I think you nail something here. There's a Batman graphic novel called City of Crime, which is an attempt to bring a noir crime feel to the Batman universe. It's got the usual beating up of thugs and an unusually long sequence where Batman is undercover without his mask (and nobody recognizes him as Bruce Wayne, which is either convenient amnesia or an indication of how different a life people live in this beat down area).

The fundamental story of how the vast conspiracy from one dead girl becomes apparent is at the heart of the story arc, but what was kept the series haunting in my mind was that ultimately, they do not explain how the driving force came to be, or what it was trying to do or why, leaving that as a manifestation of the heart of a city. A very challenging risk to take in a comic book series, but this one did that.
posted by jscott at 8:28 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Overt religious messages have always bothered me, in generous measure because I grew up in a town split neatly between conservative Catholics, serious Mormons, and evangelical Christians. So when I realized--probably around the time of reading Many Waters, which is seriously fucking weird--that Madeline L'Engle was religious, I was quite disappointed.

So I sat down and read what L'Engle herself had written about her religion and her writing. Turns out, she's written quite a bit on both topics. Ultimately, I wrote up a paper on L'Engle and spirituality after doing some extensive research.

If you're interested, I'd suggest starting with Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. It's been years since I read it myself, but I remember the lyricism with which L'Engle described both her faith and her writing (it's incredibly humbling to read her turns of phrase) and it was enlightening discover her quiet brand of Christianity (she was definitely, as I remember, more on the 'spiritual' continuum and, as an old school Episcopalian, quite contemptuous of fundamentalists ). She wrote openly of the struggles and doubts that she had and her inability to conform neatly to the demands of organized Christianity.

L'Engle wrote prolifically, so if you'd like yet more on the topic you can also read A Circle of Quiet or Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life or the four or five other volumes of her writings out there. If you'd like to know more about L'Engle biographically as well as spiritually speaking, you should read Suncatcher: A Study of Madeleine L'Engle and Her Writing, which was done with some degree of cooperation from L'Engle but for all that is quite insightful. Turns out L'Engle was quite fond of creating fictive personas and events in her non-fiction, for a variety of reasons.

As for the graphic novel? I was always more of a fan of the Austin family--Troubling a Star still has a place on my bookshelf--but brava to the illustrator for doing a great job.
posted by librarylis at 10:18 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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