While Chip is vacationing in Hawaii, look for posts from the rest of the MacGregor Literary staff. Not surprisingly, “Favorite Books” is the topic of choice for our crowd of book lovers. Don’t be afraid to chime in with your thoughts on these top picks.
Shannon Potelicki is the agency's International Rights Specialist. In this role, she handles MacGregor Literary's international deals and enables authors to maximize their income potential. She also serves as Chip's assistant and handles the ever-present slush pile.
I’ve long been convinced that Margaret Mitchell read my diary before she authored one of my favorite books, GONE WITH THE WIND. And yes, I realize this also means she discovered time travel and utilized it specifically to read MY diary. (Kudos to her, by the way, because even my brothers couldn’t find it under the... Nope, better keep that secret in case they’re still looking.) To understand my theory—as well as the reasons GWTW falls at the top of my list—you need only know the topics of my diary entries in junior high, when I first read the epic novel.
First, that sneaky Margaret Mitchell lured me in with my love for gigantic tomes. True confession: I was the weirdo who would go to the library specifically looking for the longest books. Mom’s rule was three books per trip (which didn’t happen nearly as often as I would have liked), and I wanted some bang for my library card. Margaret must have discovered this from the entry I wrote about an interaction with a librarian—I asked where they kept the “good stuff,” and she looked at me as if I was talking about drugs.
On one fateful trip, in the “good stuff” section, I spotted GWTW. The cover displayed Clark Gable and Vivienne Leigh on the brink of making out, just like the poster for the movie (which is fabulous in its own right). I thought Clark Gable’s mustache looked creepy, but at 1000+ pages it was sure to keep me busy for at least a week... so I read the first paragraph to break the tie. (Creepy mustaches are strong deterrents for 13-year-old girls.)
Once again, Margaret Mitchell (the sleuth!) won me over. “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” How did she know to write this? The numerous entries I wrote about my awkward adolescent phase, of course. Scarlett’s features were “too sharply blended” for her face and my head was too big for my body—a match made in heaven. Of course I wanted to live vicariously through Scarlett! I wanted to have the Tarleton twins begging for all the waltzes with me and scratching their heads when I didn’t invite them to dinner. I wanted that mealy-mouthed Charlie Hamilton to ditch Honey Wilkes just because I batted my lashes. I wanted all of the other girls—Suellen and Carreen included—to be jealous of the attention I received. I was too shy for anything like that to happen in real life, but Margaret helped me to feel powerful through Scarlett.
Not only did Margaret get me to check the book out, but she also got me to start reading GWTW on the way home. Despite its long length and thick paragraphs of description, I found it to be incredibly readable. This was, no doubt, because of the quick bonds I made with the characters—particularly Scarlett. I quickly found myself enveloped in the story. It’s not that difficult for a 13-year-old girl to understand being bored by boys who only talk about fighting, competing with siblings for attention, and crushing on a boy who likes someone else.
While I’m sure those topics (among many others) were passionately discussed in my diary and utilized by Ms. Mitchell accordingly, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the character she created to solidify my love of her novel: Rhett Butler. You see, my obsession with bad boys runs deep and started early. As a result, the vast majority of my diary entries were filled with dreamy thoughts of brooding, mysterious, and dangerous boys I had crushes on. From the moment Scarlett and I first saw this swarthy non-gentleman on the staircase at Twelve Oaks, I was hooked. He adds humor, tension, and power to nearly every scene, which makes it difficult for me to pick just one, but I’ll try. There’s a scene following the death of Scarlett’s second husband, Frank Kennedy. Rhett comes by, under the guise of paying his respects, to mock Scarlett... and to propose:
“Don’t frown. Name the day, Scarlett. I’m not urging instant matrimony because of your reputation. We’ll wait the decent interval. By the way, just how long is a ‘decent interval’?"
“I haven’t said I’d marry you. It isn’t decent to even talk of such things at such a time.”
“I’ve told you why I’m talking of them. I’m going away tomorrow and I’m too ardent a lover to restrain my passion any longer. But perhaps I’ve been too precipitate in my wooing.”
With suddenness that startled her, he slid off the sofa onto his knees and with one hand placed delicately over his heart, he recited rapidly:
“Forgive me for startling you with the impetuosity of my sentiments, my dear Scarlett—I mean, my dear Mrs. Kennedy. It cannot have escaped your notice that for some time past the friendship I have had in my heart for you has ripened into a deeper feeling, a feeling more beautiful, more pure, more sacred. Dare I name it for you? Ah! It is love which makes me so bold!” (p. 827-828).
Now that is a leading man I’d like to see more of! Why Scarlett even remembered Ashley Wilkes’ name after a proposal like that, I’ll never quite understand.
Time and experience have made me a different person than I was in junior high—I’ve come to appreciate smaller books, I’ve grown into my head, and... nope, I still have a thing for bad boys. But, like Scarlett, I always go back to Tara. It really is a place of comfort, a place to regroup and reconsider, and a place to call home. And each time I read, I find I appreciate something new and different than I did the last—perhaps because Scarlett and I have been growing up together. Since that first reading, we’ve spent too much time on the wrong guy, loved and lost a friend we didn’t deserve, dealt with financial struggles, overcame obstacles by sheer will power, and came to the right decision a day late and a dollar short.
As long as I leave diary entries for Margaret Mitchell to exploit, I’m sure Scarlett and I will continue to find parallels in our lives—though I hope to avoid shooting a Yankee raider in the face. But if I do, it won’t be hard to find me. Scarlett and I will be thinking about it together at Tara.
NOTE: In Sandra’s post yesterday, in reference to GWTW, she wrote “But that’s another blog post for another day...” Who would have thought that tomorrow really would be another day? Not any of us. We figured that (given the multitude of titles to pick from, differences in age and taste, etc.) there would be limited possibility for crossover and didn’t share our picks for favorite book with one another. Margaret Mitchell thought it, though. And apparently she’s added thought planting to her arsenal. We got the message— “Tomorrow is another day.”