May 30th, 2020


gone with the wind

many weeks ago I was facing a furlough from work, global pandemic, and the public library closed. a terrible combination of blows. looking around my house, my eyes fell on Gone With The Wind, a classic that I might have taken in just because it was hardcover and the blue matched nicely with our living room. I figured what the heck, I like to pick up a classic I might have missed along the way, it's 800 pages, ought to keep me busy for a spell.

That's the book I just finished. I need to re-see the movie now, it's probably been decades since I saw it but I didn't remember much of anything about it.

Now that I've read the book, my biggest takeaway is that it is pure racism, 800 pages of happy slave bullshit and even calls out Uncle Tom's Cabin as being a false portrayal. In this book all the black people love being slaves and feel like taken care of parts of the family... except the ones who aren't, and their lives are glossed over. Even casual comments are a hand wave, like how everyone looks forward to slaughtering a pig because the white people will get nice pork and the black people will get some shitty leftovers, and they're all just thrilled. After the slaves are freed we get pages and pages of manifesto-level diatribes about how crazy it is to let them vote and work for money and have basic lives.

Scarlet O'Hara is a horrible person with zero empathy. I'm not even sure if she comes around much at the end. When tragic things happen to her, she gets help, and when she gets ahead she only insults everybody else. I will say that the author took extra steps to make sure we could laugh at not with Scarlet in a lot of places. She's mourning the loss of her mother, and and old neighbor lady tells her that she'll survive, because she herself saw her mother murdered as a child and has suffered great losses and lived to tell about it. Scarlet walks away thinking to herself what a pain it is to confide in old people because they'll just bring up some story nobody cares about that happened years before anybody was born.

In the beginning chapters I thought this might be a good book to read during a pandemic, because it's about of bunch of people living a very care-free life, gossiping about dates and parties and fashion, and then the civil war breaks out and their whole world goes to absolute hell. But as the book goes on they don't really take many lessons, except it pays to be an opportunist.

The book is a tribute to the old south, trying to tell you it could have been great except a bunch of damn yankees had to mess it up. Once I got the gist I scanned it to get the plot but didn't want to spend too much more time on it.

The public library is open again, thank heaven! We can reserve books and do curbside pickup! I owe it to myself to read some African American authors, and at least slightly more balanced accounts of American history. Open to suggestions. Gone With The Wind is going back into a little library, to take up space on somebody's front lawn.

*** 11:30 AM Edited ***

I wrote most of this entry a while back, and scheduled the post. Since then, the story of George Floyd's murder has shaken the nation and I feel the need to add a detail to my book review.

Rhett Butler, the romantic hero of the story, straight up admits to MURDERING a black man for being "uppity" to a white woman and he feels like it was totally justified. Ashley Wilkes, the other romantic hero, joins the KKK to raid a black shantytown where Scarlet was robbed/insulted/accosted, and a black man is killed in that raid. These are terrible people! So never let anybody tell you about the gorgeous love story of Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler, it is NOT gorgeous, the men she loves are murderers who get away with their crimes scott-free. The book casually glosses over these incidents, mainly talking about how inconvenient it is for this nice white men to have to explain themselves, and how potentially sad it is that they might not be able to keep doing it.

Well, flash forward 150 years, white men can no longer casually murder innocent black men and get away with it. Right? RIGHT?