Feb 13, 11
I finally did it - I embraced my Southern sensibilities - I read "Gone with the Wind." Okay, so I didn't particularly enjoy it. I guess I just like my Southern fiction to be dark and gothic, words I would not quickly apply to Margaret Mitchell's opus. None of this is to say that "Gone with the Wind" was bad, it's just that it wasn't my cup of tea, or my brand of Whiskey (should Scarlett prefer). Now, you are wondering why I chose to read this book so obviously out of step with my usual literary tastes, right? Well, the first reason has got to be that I viewed "Gone with the Wind" as a novel to be conquered, much in the same way I will one day conquer "Moby-Dick" or "War and Peace." It is a culturally relevant work that I wanted my own piece of, with this year being 75th anniversary of its publication I felt that now was the time to tackle this beast.
The second reason, perhaps the greater reason, why I chose to read "Gone with the Wind" now was my interest in Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr.'s new book "Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood." I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this one at the Southern Independent Bookseller's Alliance tradeshow back in September, but I felt it would be unfair to both myself and Mrs. Mitchell to read it before cracking the spine of Scarlett and Rhett's tale. I'm glad I guilted myself into waiting because reading the two together was a great experience.
Fans of GWTW will surely enjoy this new book, but anyone with an interest in writing, publishing, or bookselling will find something to appreciate in this look inside the industry. Mitchell's book had quite a life of its own and reading about it from conception to publishing phenomenon to international copyright horror is endlessly fascinating. Margaret Mitchell alone imbues the book with such a charming and vivacious spirit I felt I couldn't get enough of her.
One would assume that a book about contracts, agents, and copyright laws of the 1930s would be both uninteresting and irrelevant to a modern audience, but Brown and Wiley's narrative not only maintains interest it keeps the pages turning. Who knew the life of a novel could make for such engrossing literature? I would love to know the stories behind a few other megablockbusters, i.e. JK Rowling's Harry Potter Series: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Edinburgh to Orlando. I've heard that a film version of Rowling's life is in the works and I can only hope that the screenplay is written with as much attention and care as that offered by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. to Margaret Mitchell and her classic.