Monday, September 18, 2023

Great links: "A Wrinkle in Time" mystery is solved

In May, Sarah Elizabeth asked a simple question on the Unquiet Things blog: "Why is it that in this current year of 2023, no one seems to know who the cover artist is for this iconic Dell Laurel-Leaf A Wrinkle in Time cover art?? In a time when we have so much information available to us at our literal fingertips, how could it possibly be that the above marvelously and terrifyingly iconic imagery is perpetually credited to 'unknown artist'?"

Solving this mystery was not straightforward, but it was solved.

I was one of the members of Generation X for whom this was, indeed, an iconic paperback (first printed in 1976). We were assigned to read it at C.E. McCall Middle School in Montoursville in fifth or sixth grade, circa 1981 to 1983, and I recall many worn copies of this exact paperback lining a shelf below the classroom window. The cover was an attention-grabber, even if the story itself wasn't the easiest entry point into science-fiction for this middle school student. But I'm so glad my teacher introduced us to thought-provoking, challenging books. That matters.

Elizabeth's post spurred a lot of speculation and work by book sleuths. And the mystery was finally solved: The illustrator was Richard Bober (1943-2022). It took nearly a half-century for him to get public credit.

Taking the handoff from Elizabeth and finding the answer was Amory Sivertson of the podcast WBUR podcast Endless Thread, which focuses on questions and stories related to Reddit posts (Elizabeth had set Reddit to the task of solving the mystery.)

You can listen to the 44-minute podcast or read the full transcript here. It's hugely entertaining, especially for book sleuths. (And, as an aside that I can agree with wholeheartedly, someone says, "15% of everything is destroyed by cats." Also, the mystery comes to a conclusion in a Pennsylvania basement.

As Elizabeth wrote triumphantly, "I am a bit overwhelmed, and I don’t know what more there is to say about it anymore, but the case is cracked, and the mystery is solved!"

The story even caught the attention of The New York Times, where staff writer Amanda Holpuch described Bober's cover artwork thusly: "The mystery cover art shows a strapping centaur with delicate wings flying above a menacing green face with bright red eyes. Craggy mountains and fluffy dark clouds surround the haunting figures. The website Book Riot called the art 'nightmare fuel.'"

Menacing green face? Yes.

Haunting figures? Yes.

Nightmare fuel? Yup.

But mystery cover art? No longer. That was Richard Bober who fueled our 1970s and 1980s imaginations with his cover artwork to accompany Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning novel. 

No comments:

Post a Comment