“A Wrinkle In Time” Is Not a Very Good Book

Walt Disney Pictures

As long as we’re on the subject of art this morning, let’s just go ahead and say it: One of our most beloved classics of literature isn’t really very good. I’m talking about A Wrinkle in Time.

Now, before hordes of baby boomers rush to @ me on Twitter, let me acknowledge a couple of things. First, it’s a children’s book. I get that. And second, if you loved it as a child and still retain warm memories of it, that’s fine. We all do that.

But. It so happens that I never read it when I was a kid. I don’t know why. So I read it last year, and even by kid standards it didn’t seem very good. I had a feeling I knew why I felt that way, but I wasn’t sure. So I read it again yesterday, and now I’m sure.

The book’s big problem is that we never really know why anything is happening. How did Mr. Murry end up on Camazotz? By accident, I suppose. Fine. But why do the Mrs. W’s care so much about a single person from a remote world? We never know. Why did they wait a year to mount a rescue? We never know. Why couldn’t they rescue him themselves? We never know. Why did it have to be Mr. Murry’s family? We never know. What was the point of taking Charles Wallace to Camazotz, other than to create a hostage? We never know.

I could go on and on. Even as an adult, I couldn’t really make sense of the book. A lot of stuff happened, but none of it seemed to follow from what had gone before. It just happened. I suppose kids might not care so much about that as long as there’s plenty of colorful action, but even most kids’ books are a little more motivated than Wrinkle in Time.

Anyway, it struck me as something of a precursor to the modern sf-ish movie spectacle: lots of action, but a story that either makes no sense and no one cares about or, at best, is motivated by a transparently pointless MacGuffin. You’d think that would make Wrinkle in Time a perfect movie for our era, but apparently not. Perhaps the filmmakers never quite understood what kind of property they had on their hands.