I’ve just reread A Wrinkle in Time, and it’s actually changed my thinking about the movie (which I have not seen yet). As important and fundamental as that book was to me as a child whose brain was built by books, and as heretical as it sounds, AWiT is about due for an update.

For one thing, the whole beginning of the book, where Meg and Charles meet Calvin, struck me as way too abrupt. This might be partly just because it’s written for who I was at 9 when I first read it rather than who I am at 51, but I think some of it is also because the slang and feel of its time would have made the relationship feel more real to its original readers. These days, “you’ve got dreamboat eyes” isn’t a line that would make a character feel more solid and trustworthy. Maybe I’m just old and cynical, but the whole bit where Calvin says “for the first time in my life I feel like I’m going home” just feels way too rushed – I need more time there for empathy to build. On the other hand, the relationship Charles Wallace has with the Mrs Ws feels more real to me – he’s only supposed to be about 5, after all, and he may not be much like a typical 5yo but he’s not emotionally mature either.

But what feels mosted dated to me is Camazotz as the instantiation of evil. The fight against the Dark is eternal and it’s in all the best children’s books, from Little Women to AWiT to The Dark is Rising to Harry Potter and on up, but the depiction of evil as onventionality feels very mid-century to me. It’s in The Screwtape Letters (published 1942) but I think it shows up most strongly
in the 1950s and early 1960s, when L’Engle was writing AWiT. It’s what Malvina Reylnolds excoriated in “Little Boxes”; it’s what the entire counterculture movement was rebelling against. In that period it shows even in writers as mainstream as Rosamund Du Jardin (I’m thinking of some passages in her Pam and Penny series). And thus we have Camazotz, where everyone is alike because they have surrendered their individuality. Lengle herself said, in her Newberry accenptance speech, “There are forces working in the world as never before in the history of mankind for standardization, for the regimentation of us all, or what I like to call making muffins of us, muffins all like every other mufifn in the muffin tin.”

I don’t believe that is the scariest shape of evil in the world today. Sure, they’d like to establish some kinds of people as the dafault, the main important type the world should revolve around, but they’re not trying to make everyone else fit in that mold; they’re just trying to ignore everyone else. But if you liten to what the spouters of hate are saying today, they aren’t preaching conventionality and the status quo even while claiming to want to MAGA; they’re more likely to proclaim themselves as rebels and brave fighters against the groopthink that keeps insisting with such (they claim) boring conventionality that all people are valuable and that our differences should be not only tolerated but celebrated.

The battle against the Dark is eternal, but its manifestations change over time. The one constant may be its use of Despair as a weapon: the idea that the world is so terrible that resistance is futile, change is impossible, and the battle not worth fighting. But it *is* worth fighting. In every age we can see it as a continuing battle or a new beginning, but we don’t have to win it; as Rabbi Tarfon said, we don’t have to finish the work of perfecting the world. We only have to keep the fight going (I am writing this as hundreds of thousands of American children are walking out of their schools, fighting their own part of the greater battle, and I am cheering them on in spirit.) In the light of a changing battle, an update of AWiT seems most appropriate. I’m sure Camazotz will still be a bastion of convention in keeping with the book, but after rereading the book, I am thinking that maybe a biracial Meg and more diverse Mrs Ws (whose outer forms were only ever a disguise anyway) is exactly what we need.