Monday, December 29, 2014

Rereading my love - Gone with the Wind

I am one of those people who like to add new books to their online to read shelf on good reads. I also enjoy (enjoy!!!) making lists of books to read, I like to pin (and I would also repin if Pinterest didn't warn me I'd already pinned it somewhere before) lists of books to read in a lifetime, the best of this year, the best of last year, the best yet to come, the must read before 25, or before 30, or before you die. Sometimes I see the same book on two, or three, or I lost track of how many lists, and I have a braggy moment where I get cocky thinking, yeah, I got this, it's already on my to read list. Sometimes I'm very much accomplished and have read it. Sometimes.
But I also get lost and off track due to shinny things. No matter what people say, not all shinny things are must haves in life. Exhibit A: I read Dork Diaries 1 on the day after Christmas. It's bad. It made me realise just how glad I am I am over my teen years, how annoying some books are, and how glad I am I have discovered better books. So I didn't like the book. I am ready to move over and consider this reading accident the yearly literary fail for me.
But sometimes, despite the hundreds of books to read, I go back to my loves. Maybe loves is too much, as I have one big literary love in life. Call me cheesy, call it cheesy, call our love whatever, but nothing is gonna separate us for as long as I shall have a library card.
On one winter day in 2014, I decided to reread my love, Gone with the Wind. 
This is my love, and I am not ashamed of this. 
I've read this a few times. I think I was in 7th grade, or maybe 8th grade when I first read it. My sister read it, too. She discovered that there's also a sequel, Scarlett by another author. We read that too. I devoured that because I always want a happy ending, despite my trying to look brave and go all literary and talk about the importance and significance of an open ending or whatever. I wanted closure, good closure, and Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley gave me that.
But back to Gone with the Wind. Since that first time a few years ago, I've reread it a few times, maybe 3-4 times. This year I started missing it, especially since I started thinking about my 2015 reading plans and about a word for 2015. This book kept coming back to me. I knew it will have to be over Christmas break, and since I missed the whole of it, as I like to call it, I also checked out Ripley's Scarlett as well. Oh, yeah, because I also have a tradition going on when reading Gone with the Wind, I had to check it out from the library. That's tradition. This silly tradition of mine also requested for the book to have a certain cover, and this goes for Scarlett as well (I remember the cover of the books I first read 10+ years ago). The first time I read Gone with the Wind I borrowed it from a class mate, but further rereadings were only by borrowing them from the library. However, this year this book cover tradition was a bit altered, as the coveted books with the coveted covers were not there. For a moment I was afraid I had come too late and the books were not available, at all! But my hart regained its rhythm soon when I they were all there, volume 1+2 of Gone with the Wind, and volume 1+2 of Scarlett. Different cover, same content.

As of today I've only read Gone with the Wind, but I needed a moment (or a day or two) to process my thoughts. So this will be a pretty much all over the place post. Beware! This is a spoiler-y post!
Spoilers ahead! Don't read further unless you've read the book. 

I love this book. The more I think about it, the more I realise just how much I like it. It appeared in my life at a moment when I wasn't very much into reading and a thick book gave me the shivers. But in Romanian the title's translation appealed to my adolescent taste and I wanted very much to read this book. Thank goodness for that class mate of mine and her willingness to lend them to me. (Also, I must say that I, too, went to see if there was a copy at the library, but unfortunately, back in the day, I only had a library slip for the children's department, and when I asked about the book, the ladies smiled understandingly or maybe rather amused and told me that it was available only at the adult's department. I was too chicken to inquire further so that was that.) Also, did I mention that the tradition I created requests that the reading should be done in Romanian only? I am positive I will read them in English some day, but for now I am content with that one. Also, although it is my favourite book, I do not own a copy of the book, in any language. Remember, library tradition!
I've also seen the movie a few times, and now some of the scenes in the book are forever and ever replaced or altered by scenes from the movie. This makes me a bit sad. At one point I was waiting for a certain episode to come up in the book and I realised it was only in the movie. Also, the characters' faces now have the face of the movie characters. One character for whom it's difficult to put a face for is Ellen O'Hara. She has so many personality traits I want to have, but I still can't see her face in my mind. Probably this is because the book insists more on her personality than on her appearance. I also used one of her quotes in my BA paper. That's my little dirty secret, as I wrote a paper on English novels, and this is very much not English. But I am proud of my little escapade.
I used to love, love, loooove Scarlett O'Hara. When I was a silly goose, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to be so kick butt, to be able to rise from the ashes, to reinvent myself, to make a name for myself. I was in awe. This was the first time I read the book, but this las time I read it I was no longer in awe. Yes, I still like how she managed to rise above her harsh conditions, but I wouldn't have wanted her to lose sight of the important things like honor, honesty, femininity and such. You know, all the things that were demanded of a lady back then. Scarlett removed them as inconvenient and planned on picking them up again when she was rich and was safe in her cocoon. That moment, of course, never came.
Every time I read the book it's different, but this time Ashley annoyed the bazzigoo out of me! So annoying. I have little patience for such people like him. I sometimes become like him, but it's annoying. Unable to do anything, lacking a practical spirit, unable to create something. No need to go to the Scarlett extreme, where better was not enought, she always wanted more, but the Elsings and friends like them who managed to create a good life for them despite the harsh conditions are a good example of what Ashley never was. So ashley is annoying. I always liked the part where Scarlett realises she didn't really, actually loved him. Too bad she carried us through her drama for two volumes.
And this brings me to Rhett Butler.! I adoreRhett. I think he and Melanie are my favourites. My heart broke for him a few times while reading the books. When he proposed to Scarlett and realised that some of the things he told her were coming back against him now; how he asked Scarlett if she ever thought possible that wives fall in love with their husbands after marriage; how he told her that he'd never tell her, Scarlett, that he loved her because Scarlett destroys those who love her; how in the end he confesses his love only to tell her that it's too late and it is over; how he told her that he wanted to care for her and love her, but she mindlessly dismissed his love. My heart broke time and time again for him. He was the surprise this time.
And it was a real treat to see, again, how of all people, Rhett was best understood by Melanie. Melanie! How I like her, her gentleness, her love for all, her understanding, her quiet spirit, but so fierce when need rises. I am so glad a Melanie existed in this book as a constant opposite of Scarlett, and Rhett as a happy popping out every now and then, before he married Scarlett. Every time I read the book I am so glad to see passages where Rhett is in the scene. I liked his wisdom, his sarcasm, his wit, his ability to see things in perspective. I also liked that he had that Southern soul all good characters have. 
Scarlett annoyed me this time around. After the chapter where Rhett tells Scarlett that Frank is dead, I couldn't help but notice that the next chapter didn't say a word about Scarlett. From what I remember, every chapter is about Scarlett or at least mentions something about Scarlett (except, maybe, for the one where it tells about Gerald's and Ellen's lives). I so much loved this! It was as if the author, too, was a bit tired of Scarlett, as if she considered her guilty of Frank's death. I, too, feel this way. After this episode, I felt as if the author also didn't defend Scarlett so much. Oh, sure, there were the exquisite explanations the author gave about Scarlett who changed so much, I think, throughout the book. Also, but maybe this is just me and my silly sarcasm, but it felt as it toward the end the author, too, was a bit impatient and sarcastic with her main character. If this is the case, can you blame her? She's selfish, mean, and overall not a good person. I want to be Melanie when i grow up. Okay, truth be told, I want to be Melanie, but also to have a touch of Scarlett's practical views and her ability to care for herself.
What drew my attention while reading the novel this time was the author's ability to help the reader so much by offering the info about the character's eyes. She told us how they looked, how the eyes were full of wonder, hate, surprise, irony, or any other kind of feeling. 
The peaceful reminders of Tara and the county made me remember my desire from a few years ago to read a pastoral novel. Haven't done it yet, maybe I won't, but to my surprise (because I like books with a lot of action, action, action!), I enjoyed this one with its descriptive passage, its recounting of the life before the war. Even the very first time I read it. And the glimpses in the characters' past, as was the case with Gerald and Ellen? Delicious. The paragraphs about the life before the war, the war preparations, the fund raisings for the war, the war and its consequences, the implications for the South, the implications for slavery, every historical aspect was so well written and I enjoyed reading it so much! While Gone with the Wind offered a more rounded view on the whole conflict, offered a deeper understanding of the characters, this is not something to expect in Scarlett. There is so much action and things change so much that I only remember the big events of the novel. But no one is looking for Mitchell's penmanship in Scarlett. We're looking for a happy ending and closure, as I mentioned.
It's no secret that Scarlett's motto in life was "Oh, well, tomorrow is another day, I'll think about this tomorrow." This, suitably, is also how the books ends. But why? I am tormented by this! I want to see the tomorrow. I want to see her. I want to see Rhett. I want to see them together, although it's so difficult to imagine them together and normal. Since this was a rereading, I knew what came next. Blasphemously, as I was reading it I felt like a little god knowing how everything will unfold. But this superiority hit the wall of "The End" with Scarlett's motto. Again, what tomorrow? I don't know what tomorrow holds! Did I mention I need closure? Despite me knowing what comes next, I was so drawn to the author's writing. It is so good! She so beautifully creates the context without it seeming too much and too boring, and the characters are so well created, each with his or her distinct personality. A few times I kept saying to myself, in awe, what a talented writer and what a close attention to detail, to the way events will unfold. But while struggling with such deep thoughts, I was trying to come to terms with the fact that, really, this is fiction. Oh, sure, the characters seem real, the historic context is absolutely true, but still, fiction. In a way I find solace in knowing that these fictional characters are just that and she who created them could very well stop writing about them and that was that. This helps only a little, because I am still thinking of Scarlett's tomorrow, and because I have been too involved in the book to just give up with this simplistic thought. Emotional roller coaster, I tell you!
Since I liked the historical aspect of the book, an appetite for Civil War literature was opened with this book. I have watched 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained and I completely understood the Yankee's curiosity about the plantation owners' treatment of slaves. You know, the beatings and the dog chasings you see in the movies. As a Southerner says, the Yankees know of two major works, The Bible and Uncle Tom's Cabin. Of course, this is a nice view on the owner-slave relationship portrayed in the book, and more than once the idea that the slave, the black man, is inferior to the white is exposed, ex: the blacks are like kids, you need to be patient with then, to give them what they need, not necessarily what they want, etc. Of course, I plan to read Uncle Tom's Cabin after I'm done with Scarlett. That book was something I abandoned back in my primary school years.
I have gone through so many emotional stages while rereading this novel. I already look forward to reading it again in a few years. I am curious how will I like it then and if there will be other things that impress me. I also look forward to reading a book or two on The Civil War. 
On Christmas break of 2014 I reread my literary love.

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