i coyly asked my mom in early december what her favorite book was and she answered, completely unaware of my plan, gone with the wind. now, i knew this was amongst my mother's favorite movies, along with romancing the stone ("that was the end of grogan...the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog and stole my bible"), jewel of the nile, and north and south (god, i should have know i was gay in 1985...i mean, seriously, lesley-anne down? M,MoG.), but i had no idea it was her favorite book. being a georgia peach myself, i have heard about margaret mitchell my whole life. i mean, she is sort of the unofficial first lady of the south. but i had never read the book. so i ordered them from amazon. i mean, how bad could it be, right?
ok. do you see how thick this book is? i mean, the last time i read something this long was in high school (i do love me some joseph heller). 959 pages? really mom? if we were going for sheer weight, i would have gone with the history of art. but i got myself into this mess, i suppose i must soldier on.
actually, i found ms. mitchell's prose enthralling. her use of color is amazing. seriously. it seems like every time she describes the scenery of north georgia it is saturated in reds and yellows and greens and blues. the book seems to be flying by. so kudos mom, i get it.
but ms. mitchell had even more up her sleeve than just imagery producing words ala mr. james fenimore cooper. in just the first part of this book, i learned many things about gone with the wind and-- in particular-- miss scarlett o'hara that i never knew from watching the movie. what follows is the top five. read. be enlightened. enjoy.
- scarlett o'hara was the original regina george from mean girls. first of all, she was only 16 when the book (and the movie) starts and she is so hung up on this boy (ashley wilkes)-- who was never really hers-- that she decides to ruin lives. the quintessential bitch. honestly, i think there is a little bit of scarlett in every mean-spirited character in modern cinema, including regina and the other plastics from mean girls, winona ryder's arch nemesis from heathers, and the "a" group from never been kissed.
- hell hath no fury like a child scorned. in retaliation for ashley getting engaged to melanie hamilton-- his cousin (insert southern joke here), scarlett marries a poor lovelorn man whom she cares nothing about, makes him feel inferior for the two months they are together before he leaves to fight for the south in the civil war, bears his child-- whom she foists off on her slaves-- and then bitches and moans about having to act like a widow after he is killed in battle. what a self-centered little tart! frankly, i don't think i would give a damn either, rhett.
- twenty years ain't a thing when it comes to picking your bride to be. scarlett's mother was only 15 when she left savannah with scarlett's father, a man she barely knew. as a role model for the future actions of her unborn daughter, ellen roubillard left everything she knew to punish her family for running off the man she truly wanted to marry and moved to fayetteville with gerald o'hara, a 43 year old man of no family and swindled property. so spitefulness seems to run in the family. hell, it practically gallops.
- pink may be the new black, but violet will always be the new green. scarlett o'hara is described in the opening line of the book as "not beautiful", but having alabaster skin, thick black eyebrows (and black hair i would assume) and eyes that were "pale green without a touch of hazel". now, vivien leigh, who played scarlett in the classic 1936 film version of gone with the wind was known for her violet eyes, that would change from blue to green depending on the scenery, costuming or lens used for filming. vivien leigh was hot and most likely entirely too pretty to play scarlett as mitchell imagined her. who knew?
- schoolin' ain't needed. as still holds true in much of the south, education was frowned upon in mitchell's north georgia, often presented as a cause for concern as to a gentleman's place in society. while scarlett claimed to love ashley, mr. o'hara never really cared for the boy because he liked books and opera and traveling. all things a good man need not do. scarlett o'hara did attend fayetteville female academy, an only slightly fictionalized institution based on the seminary attended by margaret mitchell's grandmother. but only to teach her how to be a good wife. and apparently she skipped the core classes of the day: how to be demure, the importance of obeying your husband, and how to be agreeable.
hopefully, this new thing will continue. at least for 800 more pages. i enjoy having something to talk to mom about, other than politics and my sister. then mom and i are on to my favorite book. i can't decide if i will make her read the scarlet letter, letters to a young poet or the odyssey. but i can guarantee one thing, it won't be 959 pages long.
*update* per my mother: charles, scarlett o'hara's husband, did not die in battle. he got sick while in south carolina waiting to join the fray. quote from page 142 paragraph 6 (thanks mom): "the unfortunate boy had been cheated not only of the love he thought he had won but also of his high hopes of honor and glory on the field of battle." ever the teacher.
*update part deux* per my cinemaphile friend mcpeak: gone with the wind was released as a major motion picture in 1939 not 1936. which i actually knew, but, alas, my dyslexia overtook my intellect and made me look foolish yet again. is it still dyslexia if you flip numbers instead of transposing them? my apologies. but, if you visit the link provided, it lists "the beginning" of the motion picture as 1936, not 1939. see, i can always find a technicality.
since moving to atlanta in may, i have met some fascinating new people-- many at the non-profit think tank where i work. matthew and i work together on the same initiative and have shared many a divergent theory on politics and pop culture over a nice cup of tea (i prefer the exotic and spicy chai and matthew normally sticks with something white and fruity-- the antithesis of our choice in women, i have discovered.) matthew, from upstate new york, met his lovely wife melody, who grew up (mostly) in dayton, ohio, while the pair were in college together at wesleyan in connecticut. now you might be saying to yourself, "dayton? when i think of dayton, i don't exactly think 'exotic and spicy'. in fact, i kinda think 'white and fruity'. did you mix up your metaphors there, collins?" well, let's just say matthew managed to find himself a little fireball in the rolling hills of middleton.
melody moezzi is an activist, author, and attorney who happens to be iranian and muslim. and she is damn proud of all those qualifiers. she spent more than four years of her life-- a true labor of love-- to research, write, harangue, beg and finally publish her non-fiction work "war on error: real stories of american muslims". the book itself is a collection of interviews with twelve americans who are all very different but share one common bond, they are all muslim. melody uses their stories to tackle the misconceptions of islam that have run rampant in america in a post-9/11 world, some extreme and others simply naive (luckily, i fall into the latter category). her prose is melodic (no pun intended) and mirrors the way she speaks in person, minus the usual expletives peppered throughout, of course. i liked melody from the first moment i met her; she kissed me on both cheeks and said "damn" in the first 30 seconds. my kind of woman.
so, the event. melody spoke at wordsmiths books in downtown decatur on a friday evening. she approached the makeshift stage in her knee high boots and various bits of gold jewlery (and just on a side note...kudos matthew. that wedding ring is bitchin'!), sipping on a fresca and exuding a demure timidity. and then she opened her mouth. the only word i can think of to describe the reaction from the 30 some odd people there was captivated. complete captivation. melody read a selection from the book about time she spent in montana, drawing connections between disparate experiences and injecting humor into even the most serious and solemn of assertions. it, and she, was wonderful.
the reading was followed by a q&a which melody handled splendidly. eventhough atlanta is a big, diverse city, some crackers still creep in at events. but even potentially offensive comments and questions were disarmed by the empowered yet gentle reaction they elicited from melody. i was impressed with her command of the subject of islam and the qur'an, her wit, and her verbal filter. after dealing with the masses for a good 30 minutes, melody took her leave-- to a heavy dose of sincere applause-- and perched herself behind a folding table with a green sharpie for the book signing that was to follow.
i waited in line with the rest, making plans with alan-- the director of communications at our non-profit-- to head to birdie's (a very gay place on the square in decatur)afterwards. when i approached melody with my recently purchased copy of her tome, she excitedly grabbed it from me to sign. she politely asked how to spell my name (thanks to all the crazies who have tried to ghetto-ize the one true spelling of my first name, everyone now has to ask how to spell it). i said it was the standard way, uniteresting-- just like me. we chatted for a minute or two and then alan and i headed out, leaving matthew to deal with melody's parents. the next morning, when i cracked open "war on error" to see if i could find any embarassing tid-bits from the chapter about matthew to mock him with on monday morning, i came upon the inscription written on the title page from the night before. she had written: "to the very not uninteresting" collins and i smiled with the realization that maybe i wasn't that uninteresting after all.