01 May 2015

Gone with the Wind Readalong

AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!  I am sooooo excited to be rereading this novel again.  It has been far too long.  But it truly comes at a perfect time because I've been gradually returning to a version of myself that I actually liked, which oddly enough happens to most closely resemble a high school version of myself, older and wiser of course.  I didn't totally dislike college me, but high school me read a whole lot more because I wasn't an English major.  I feel like I am in a good place again and returning to this favorite novel of mine feels like an excellent decision.

And in high school I read Gone with the Wind twice a year.  Seriously.  I read the novel ten times between my first read the spring of 7th grade and the time I graduated.  That averages to twice a year.

The person who first came up with the idea of a group read of this classic suggested using today to write a post gushing about all of the GWTW love that we felt.  Done.

I've written about my love for this novel before on an old blog.  I went on an excavation and found the post and am going to put up excerpts of it and add some new thoughts at the end...

So I started rereading it last night in bed.  I turned on the fan so that I'd have to pull up my quilt.  I read the preface written by Pat Conroy.  Then I savored the words of the first chapter before deciding to call it a night.  As soon as I started reading the preface, I felt a compulsion that I hadn't felt before.  I was happier reading than I have been in a long time.  I knew I had to read this book every chance I get.  I knew that my new motto would become "If I get this (homework, errands, sleep) out of the way, then I *get* to read Gone With the Wind!"  I actually bragged to one of my friends about it.  Because *I* get to read this amazing novel right now.
My first experience with Gone With the Wind was in the 7th grade.  It was Christmas.  I saw that Gone With the Wind, this movie that I had heard about from somewhere (I honestly don't know where because I hadn't gotten into old movies yet, but somehow I *knew* it was *The* movie to watch), was on TCM.  We had already opened presents.  My dad and I began watching the movie in the den while everyone else was in the sunroom.  For whatever reason, I decided to read the screenplay as we watched the movie.  And my papa was clueless about why I'd have the screenplay up while the movie was on because he was wanting to get his brand new wireless keyboard working.  I couldn't really explain why I wanted to read the screenplay as I watched the movie, but it was like I knew how much this story would affect me.  So that's what happened.  We watched the movie, I read the screenplay, and I was hooked.
Maybe that same day, maybe another visit to my grandparents', I found a copy of the novel upstairs.  This amazing movie was also a novel?!  I took it.  It wasn't my first classic--I'd already read Huck Finn and that abridged copy of Pride and Prejudice by then (and maybe, but possibly not, To Kill a Mockingbird  and The Great Gatsby).  I didn't know what a classic was either at that point.  I didn't know how famous this book was.  In my 13 year-old mind, it was a lost book that nobody paid much attention to.  I felt like I was discovering something amazing that people had forgotten.  I remember feeling a little bewildered when I realized how many people knew and loved my book because Gone With the Wind had become my book.  It wasn't that I was selfishly trying to hold onto it.  I was willing to share.  But I wanted to share it with people, to turn them onto this amazing little secret that I had.
I read the book.  I inhaled the book.  I absorbed the book.  I probably even displayed poor manners and outright devoured the book.
But I read it again and again.
It's one of those books that resonates more with some people than others.  I believe that it resonates more with Southerners because it's telling our story.  Your heart swells with pride, hope, and acceptance as you turn the pages.  You nod your head in complete understanding as the plot progresses.  You laugh and cry as the passages dictate. [Note--I feel like I need to step in here and say that the racial stuff is not included in this pride and understanding.]
From the time that I was 13 years-old, I adopted Scarlett as my role model.  She may not have always done the most upright thing.  But she did what she had to do to survive.  She was strong.  She was beautiful.  She was pretty smart.  She had the personality that I always wanted.  She had Rhett Butler, that symbol of earthy manliness that my exes never really lived up to, but against whom they were always measured.
And for the last 11 years, she has been there.  Sometimes at the back of my mind.  Sometimes at the front.  I've said ever since that first time that this is my favorite novel.  Then why haven't I read it in six years?  I really can't explain that.  Maybe I took all I could take from it as a teenager and had to change enough to be able to take more from it.
I am ready to again devour Gone With the Wind.  I want to will myself into reading it more slowly this time, to let it soak in again, to get lost in the beauty of Mitchell's magic and not just get lost in Scarlett (although, I know that I will do this too).  Some of the lessons I still remember and follow (sometimes you have to be a little bold to get by), others I remember and quietly ignore (not leaning on my elbows because it makes them ugly), and others I've downright forgotten.  But this, this is the book that I want living in me.  Pat Conroy describes in his preface how his mother lived this book.  I used to live it too, but I lost it somewhere along the way.
I'm ready to pick it back up now and carry it with me.

It's been two and a half years since I wrote that post.  For one reason or another I didn't finish.  But my thoughts and feelings towards the book are the same.  Obviously, I didn't discuss the current political ramifications of liking the novel.  I don't have a lot to say about it because a lot has already been said.  I don't love this novel because of the presence of the Civil War.  (I actually kind of hate reading or talking about the Civil War)  What I like about the novel is that Scarlett made some really tough decisions for herself and a lot of other people who depended on her at a time when the rulebook had been thrown out the window, though women still weren't supposed to do certain things...even when they had no choice.  She made unpopular decisions and stuck by them, which is at least admirable because some of her decisions weren't really good decisions and she faced the consequences.  She and Rhett are complex, realistic characters and I love reading about them.  Their story could have been told at several points throughout history when other cultures have been utterly overturned.  The Civil War aspect is not integral to my reasons for liking the story.  Therefore the political aspects of the novel were never really a sticking point for me, though, yes, much was deplorable about the South at that time.

Anyway, I've been thinking about Scarlett lately.  I watched part of the movie as I fell asleep the other night when it was on TV.  I recently found a Scarlett Madame Alexander doll.  I organized my various copies of the novel together (except for the hardcover copy that sits on my desk along with my favorites).  I am so ready to reread this novel again.

The "schedule" for the readalong has us reading ten chapters for every check-in.  I almost see myself devouring the novel in a fever pitch immediately, then going back and reading the ten chapter segments.  We'll see what happens.

I own five physical copies of the novel and the ebook.  I don't know which edition I will read.  My old mass market copy is highlighted like crazy because I had to mark all of my favorite parts, naturally.  :)  I may switch back and forth depending on what I'm doing and what size purse I feel like carrying that day.

If you're joining the readalong too, happy reading!  I can't wait to check out your posts and thoughts as we go through this novel together.

3 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you that the novel is timeless. It could be set anywhere, in any era. I personally love all things American Civil War, however. :)

    Reading the screen play while watching the movie is such a good idea!! I never thought of that!

    I love (love, love) a gushing Gone with the Wind post. Love your memories with it -- the many, many times you read it in high school. The way you are pulled back to it now as you feel yourself settling into a new version of yourself.

    Those new/familiar versions of self are familiar to me. I have them too. When my Dad died I actually felt myself splinter into two mes at war with themselves. I couldn't understand which one was actual me: one was steel hard, the other absolute butter. I think the two parts are finally settling into something in between.

    I always felt like this book was my secret, too. But of course it has impacted people across the world. Strange to think about, isn't it? It feels so... MINE. :)

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  2. Love your post and especially your memories of this book! I also read it for the first time when I was 13. And I didn't think of the book as mine so much as I lived in the time and story described by Mitchell! I remember so clearly fantasizing about each and every one of the characters so many times and just placing myself there with them all! :)

    So exciting that someone else (not just me!) who has read it many times is now revisiting it!

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  3. Love your post and especially your memories of this book! I also read it for the first time when I was 13. And I didn't think of the book as mine so much as I lived in the time and story described by Mitchell! I remember so clearly fantasizing about each and every one of the characters so many times and just placing myself there with them all! :)

    So exciting that someone else (not just me!) who has read it many times is now revisiting it!

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