She was the daughter of Charles Camp and Madeleine Barnett. L’Engle was eccentric and strange-looking—she often compared herself to a “giraffe”—but she also had a loving husband, adorable children, legions of fans, an idyllic farmhouse in Connecticut, and a grand apartment on the Upper West Side.
A Wrinkle in Time
Her novel A Wrinkle in Time, won the Newberry Award in 1963,(the highest honor for children’s literature in the United States) it became a surprise bestseller. Synopsis: ::Along with three angels, the eccentric and strange looking Meg travels with her younger brother Charles Wallace to the planet Camazotz, to save their scientist father from the forces of IT, a malevolent disembodied brain. Meg/Madeleine was an inspiration for bookish girls everywhere. It was semi-autobiographical.
The Crosswicks Journals
The Crosswicks Journals painted a picture of a real-life version of Meg: stubborn, loving, fiercely intelligent, and moody.
Articles and Books about L'Engle
New Yorker profile by Cynthia Zarin (2004)
This article attacked the public image of L’Engle that the Crosswicks Journals had honed. Zarin reported that L’Engle’s beloved son Bion (the inspiration for Charles Wallace, the golden child of Wrinkle) had died of late-stage alcoholism, which L’Engle would not acknowledge; that her absent father had died of the same illness (she said he had aggravated a war wound); and that her husband, actor Hugh Franklin, had engaged in multiple affairs, one of which continued until his death. Less dramatic, but nonetheless painful to fans, were the revelations that L’Engle’s children called her autobiographical work “pure fiction” and resented her willingness to cannibalize their lives for public consumption. “It’s hard to be the magic child,” Maria Rooney, L’Engle’s adopted daughter, says of Bion, who wouldn’t read his mother’s books.
Zarin’s article, which also revealed L’Engle’s increasingly fragile mental state, did not square with what readers wanted to believe. Meg marries her childhood sweetheart (and Wrinkle co-protagonist) Calvin O’Keefe, who is a loving and devoted father to their seven children as the series progresses. He doesn’t cheat on her, and her kids aren’t bitter about her career. (If such a quotidian fate had met Meg, what would it mean for the rest of us poor schlubs?) For devotees of her non-fiction, the half-truths were a betrayal; for fans of her fiction, the profile served as a reminder that her creation was, ultimately, just a character.
Book: Listening for Madeleine by Leonard S. Marcus
This was to be timed for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Wrinkle, but it is responding more directly to Zarin’s profile, which, coming just a few years before L’Engle’s death, seemed to have the last word. Rather than writing a straightforward biography, Marcus has woven together a collection of interviews with friends, students, editors, and family members—fans and minor figures in her life, as well as the people who were closest to her. (L’Engle’s adopted daughter Maria refused to be interviewed for the book, but her other daughter and two grandchildren gave long interviews.)