Friday, March 18, 2011

Gone with the Wind, Revisited

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.

When I was about ten, I got my hands on a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I fell completely and hopelessly in love with a book for the first time in my life. What amazed me was that the author of this brilliant work, Harper Lee, wrote only this one masterpiece, which has affected millions of people all over the world. To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into movie that was nominated for Best Picture in 1962--one of the few movie adaptations of a novel I've ever seen that stays pretty true to the original work. I am almost always disappointed in movies adapted from books that I've read and loved; but I think this movie is wonderful. (And though the picture didn't win the Oscar, Gregory Peck won Best Actor for his excellent portrayal of Atticus Finch, one of the great characters in all of fiction, in my opinion.)

The summer after seventh grade, I went to the library and checked out a novel by a woman who, like Harper Lee, had written only one masterpiece, won a Pulitzer Prize for it, and saw her magnus opus made into an acclaimed Hollywood film: that book, of course, was Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. I had already seen the movie at our local Strand Theater when I checked out the book, planning to spend a good chunk of my summer vacation lying on a blanket in the back yard, killing two birds with one stone by reading and sunbathing simultaneously (and this being the 70's, before skin cancer awareness and SPF 30 sunscreen, I planned to be slathered with baby oil, working on my tropical tan). Even if you never get around to making your way through the 1000-plus page book, the movie is a must-see, winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture for 1939. Having watched the movie first, I must admit that when I read the book, Rhett Butler could only be Clark Gable, and Scarlett O'Hara was Vivien Leigh--those were the faces I envisioned. But in spite of having already seen the movie and knowing exactly what was going to happen, I was completely entranced by the book and read like a fiend, stopping only for bathroom and meal breaks during my waking hours. It was utterly engrossing and satisfying, and a real page-turner that ended too soon, in spite of its length.

It has been many, many years since I've re-read Gone with the Wind. This is strange for me, because I've read all of the books I've loved best--and some that I've enjoyed, but wouldn't even rate in my top ten--over and over (and over!). I can't even count how many times I've read To Kill a Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights, or Pride and Prejudice, to name a few. If the book is wonderful enough, I want to experience that joy all over again. And yet, I think I've only re-read Gone with the Wind once since that first time in junior high. I'm not sure why. It's an extremely long book, but I actually like that feature. I suppose when my kids were younger and I had only limited amounts of free time, I was drawn to shorter works of fiction.

Anyway, long story short (too late!): I've just bought a paperback copy of Gone with the Wind. I'm going on a trip by plane next month, and whenever I do that, I like to have a good book with me--to take my mind off the terrifying fact that I am flying!--so I'm saving it for the plane ride. I am so excited to start; I think it will be like visiting an old friend that I haven't seen in years.

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