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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr.

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.

Advanced Reading Copy reviewed from Taylor Trade Publishing


  1. I read GWTW when I was 16, 1960. I'd like to know more specifics in your opinion of it. I thought the story was good, but I'd never dream of re-reading it, whereas Jane Eyre or any of the Austins I can re-read any time.

    In high school I was also reading Hemingway, Ayn Rand, Wilkie Collins, C. Bronte, Dickens. In college: (English major), read all the American Classics. In my twenties discovered frivolous gothics, Mary Stewart, etc, and Agatha Christie, D. Sayers. Elizabeth Goudge, George MacDonald, CS Lewis, but those are in a class by themselves.

    Recently, at last, read War and Peace on my ipod Touch, being unable to skip to the end, and having only that to read at times of waiting. (I find that "having nothing else to read" is a big help in getting involved in an otherwise daunting novel.) I got very involved in WaP, and then got the 1950s movie which was EXCELLENT. (Audrey Hepburn). But do read the book first. Like Moby Dick, or Brothers Karamazov, it is entirely worth the time.

    Thanks for your review of Little Bee. I'm with you: if there is (1) poor writing and/or (2) no character development or change -- I'm out.

    Will be watching your blog with interest!

    J Ashton, Denham Springs

  2. J, glad you like the blog!

    As far as Gone with the Wind is concerned, I'm not really sure what about it I didn't like (that's probably why I didn't feel comfortable giving a straightforward review of it). I thought the writing was very good and I was interested in the the characters (some of them anyway). I was definitely surprised by it, which happens with anything you've heard a lot about but never experienced for yourself. GWTW definitely was not as offensive as I thought it was going to be, that was the biggest surprise. While it does glorify the Old South I think Mitchell allowed for its failings to be shown as well.

    I guess the reason I didn't enjoy GWTW is not specific at all, it's merely that I didn't come home anxious to pick it back up. However, that my have been an effect of me projecting ideas onto the book (looking at it as "homework" because of it's cultural significance rather than just enjoying the novel) instead of the book itself.

    You were a much more high brow student than I was! In high school I was reading Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut (who I still love and find much merit in). I am not sure how I got out of high school with so few classics under my belt, but I did read a lot in college and I prefer to read the classics now (which is bad news for a bookseller) so I'm finally experiencing the greatness of Dickens and company. Haven't touched the Russians yet though... I'll get there!




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