Monday, May 28, 2012

Confessions of a first time reader of Gone With the Wind

1. I didn't find the book's racism distractingly offensive. I know I'm supposed to be offended or at least mention how off-putting it is to have the book's white characters constantly talking shit about "the darkies" but, eh, the book's treatment of black people is so completely ridiculous to a 2012 reader that it sort of... didn't even register enough to be have an impact on my enjoyment on the book. I choose to believe that I'm not a secretly racist monster but was merely distracted because I did most of my reading on a plane, on which I also watched a few episodes of the sitcom 2 Broke Girls which, um, kind of really does seem quite racist. I'm just saying.

2. I skim-read most of the stuff about the civil war. This is supposed to be A War Book as much as it's A Romance Book but, eh, I really couldn't give two shits about the war when a) it's not really a secret how that ended and b) there are Scarlett schemes to be hatched, dresses to wear and parties to attend. Same thing happened when I read Lion of Macedon, the charming David Gemmell novel that got me into the fantasy genre as a teenager. That book contains a fair amount of ancient military strategy stuff that I suppose is really very interesting if you like that kind of thing but even on re-reads I breeze through all that crap in favour of the juicy 'will Parmenion ever be happy and when is Alexander the Great going to turn up?' gloop.

3. I... really liked Scarlett O'Hara. I mean I didn't even realise that was an even slightly contentious position until I read this most amusing article, which sums up her character thusly:
"Which leads us into this: are we supposed to like Scarlett?... What's to like, when you think about it? She's a terrible friend, she's borderline illiterate, she's racist, she's violent, she's ungrateful, she wallows in minor bouts of regret for being such a shitty person once she's achieved her next aim, and she accepts expensive gifts from gentlemen without thinking of the consequences. (Just candy and flowers, darlings! Keep your virtue with you at all times!) And, not to be all "I have a chiiiiiild now" about the whole thing, but WHAT ABOUT WADE AND ELLA? CHRIST ON A FUCKING CROSS. We all remember Bonnie, because she broke her neck, and had a bit of a personality (Margaret Mitchell did not seem like a kid-friendly individual, no?), but those sad, bland, dull children with dead fathers, dragged along behind her curtain-dresses and treated slightly less well than her ill-treated friends and acquaintances are far more tragic figures than smokin' hot twenty-eight year olds who went from being rich to very briefly poor to substantially richer over the course of a thousand pages. (I know, I know, her parents kicked it, which was very sad, and she had to wear black, which was uncomfortably hot, etc.)."

And, well, yes and no. Yes Scarlett is king of, um, a sociopath but she's also feisty and brave and honestly who among us can't identify a little with her 'I want what I don't have at least in part because I don't have it' mentality? Plus the bit about her being a terrible friend is true but, in fairness to Scarlett, the other girls in the book are all kind of twits, either dull and dumb like that stupid bitch who wanted to marry Charles or fucking Melanie The Martyr who is supposedly beloved by all for her goodness and generous nature but would be INSUFFERABLE if you actually had to put up with her shit for five minutes. I like to think the author, Margaret Mitchell, hated Melanie and based her character on someone in her own life because, really, the way Scarlett bitches about Melanie being Melanie is simply too funny.

4. If I had read this book 10 years ago I would seriously have considered writing some serious fanfic involving the Tartleton twins. Because, shit, those boys were sort of the business.

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