Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind
Monday, June 6, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind:
A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood
by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
I’ve never read a book about a book before. Instead of writing another biography of Mitchell or the making of the movie, the authors have created a nonfiction account of the making of a book. It discusses everything from the writing process to the publisher’s correspondence to selling the movie rights and defending the copyright.
I feel like this book should have been titled “Don’t Ever Write a Book If You’re An Introvert.” Poor Margaret Mitchell spent years crafting Gone With the Wind, only to discover that when it was finally finished her headaches had just begun. This book chronicles the decades of back and forth between the author and her publisher, literary agent, fans, movie producers, etc.
From the moment Mitchell handed the first scattered chapters over to the publisher, her privacy and free time seemed to be “gone with the wind” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Mitchell’s husband worked with her to manage all of the contracts/letters/lawsuits that went hand-in-hand with her success. It was amazing how one book, even a wonderful one like GWTW, could create such an avalanche of both money and stress.
The fact that the book’s success came in the midst of the Great Depression is a testament to its overwhelming popularity. People were willing to pay $3 for a copy, a huge sum at that time. The fact that America joined WWII only a few years after GWTW’s publication also had a big effect on foreign translations and distribution. Hitler even banned the book because his regime didn’t want people reading a story about strong characters surviving during a horrible war.
I had no idea that Mitchell was hit by a car and died only 13 years after her book was published. I was completely shocked by that. I wonder what other books she might have written if she’d had a longer life.
It is a fascinating read, but I don’t think it would be for anyone who doesn’t either love Gone With the Wind or have a deep desire to get a behind the scenes look at the publishing world. As someone who loved GWTW, I enjoyed the book, but I felt it was bogged down with too much minutia in the middle. But it definitely make me want to re-read the original story again and gave me a deeper appreciation of the phenomenon that was (and is) Gone With the Wind.