So what about the New Yorker article was so distressing? It portrayed L’Engle in a way I desperately didn’t want her to be: human. Raised by parents who were more concerned about each other rather than their children, Madeleine grew up to be a less-than-giving adult, using the experiences of people around her (especially her children) as fodder for her work, hurting them immensely. To top it off, the article states she sugar-coated her life, preferring to downplay the less-than-pleasant aspects of her life and the pain she caused to those around her.
In the scope of existence, there are worse sins in this world: she certainly didn’t kill anyone, nor did intentionally set out in life to hurt people. But for all those decades, she did hold out a promise to the little girls out there who idolized her, a promise of understanding, a promise it seems she couldn’t even keep for her own children. I can’t help but feel betrayed.
I should have known better; I mean–aren’t bios about our favorite writers being less than we imagined a hoary publishing cliché these days? We’re used to reading about poets being Nazi sympathizers, or writers using someone else’s work and representing it as their own. Our idols are routinely unmasked for entertainment’s sake. But in that little corner of my heart where the chubby, hopeless ten-year old still lives, Madeleine was different.
So what do I do with this knowledge? Nothing, I guess. I will still read A Wrinkle in Time and will still see myself as Meg. I will rejoice when they all return home after their harrowing trip across time and space. And I will gain solace from the fact that like Meg, I managed to grow up just fine. But I will always be saddened by the fact that unlike Mrs. Whatsit, Madeleine L’Engle couldn’t keep the promise, not even to herself.