A Wrinkle In Revising, Or Why I Haven’t Read The New Pages of A Wrinkle In Time

As you know if you’ve hung around here for any length of time, the single most formative book of my youth was Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” Originally published in 1962, it is a Newbery Medal winner and a classic of children’s literature. Simply put, it tells the story of Margaret (Meg) Murry and her quest to find her father who has been mysteriously missing for years. She is aided in this fantastic journey across space and time by her precocious little brother Charles Wallace, a jock named Calvin who has surprising hidden depths, and three odd women who are a fascinating spin on every trio of wise/weird/wyrd women that literature and mythology have ever created. And her dog is named for a character in Hamlet, so, there you go.

I was this close to naming my daughter some version of Meg. This close.

Thus, I was intrigued to find out that the Wall Street Journal had printed some “new” pages of the book. Apparently, Ms. L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte had discovered about three pages of writing in an unpublished, typewritten draft and those pages are now out there for fans like me to devour.

The Journal article discusses the political aspect of these pages – how they talk about the seductiveness of security and the danger that it poses to a democracy; highly relevant to our times, no? – but my reaction was much more that of a writer than of a reader.

Oh, God, what if someone found some of my crappy writing – or even some of my GOOD writing – that I had decided to cut from a published novel, and then decided to publish it anyway? After I was long gone and had no say in it?

This is a world of “special extended edition” DVDs (because nine+ hours of The Lord of the Rings was not nearly enough) and outside-the-covers apocrypha (J.K. Rowling says Dumbledore is gay!) and Stephen King’s add-backs to “The Stand” special edition so that the novel now tops 1,000 pages (I’ll admit, I own it but haven’t read it). I do understand the desire to devour more author content, to “know” what the author was thinking about every little thing in the stories that we love. Believe me, I have watched my LOTR special edition DVDs over and over and I always wish there was more. But let’s not lose sight of the creative process either. A big part of writing is knowing what not to say.

Interestingly, the Journal article says “cutting [the pages] was the right decision, one that strengthened the narrative.”

No kidding. You’re making my point here.

She and her editor would have weighed and considered the impact of those cut pages. They would have thought about the blatantly political terms of the section and the heavy-handed message it conveyed to her audience, and they made the decision not to include it, just for that reason. That’s why you edit and revise, not once but several times: to streamline and strengthen your work. To make it the best it can possibly be.

While these pages are interesting as far as they give insight into Ms. L’Engle’s political views, and while they may tell us something about her process as a writer, we need to understand and respect her decision as a writer not to include them in her final work.

I’m glad to see that her publisher, Macmillan, has “no plans to include the deleted passage in new editions.” That is as it should be.

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