MMM – Please Welcome Eleanor Brown!

Can you believe that Margaret Mitchell Month is coming to an end?  Thank you so much to all who participated…and to all who inspired me to declare Summer 2011 the Summer of Gone With the Wind!  That’s right, you guys have inspired me to host a read-along of an all-time favorite.  Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, welcome the fabulous Eleanor Brown, bestselling author of The Weird Sisters, force of nature, and amazing friend.  When I saw this post on her blog a while back, it made me cry and shiver…and I knew I had to ask her for permission to share it with you.  Luckily, she agreed…and is throwing in a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore of one lucky commenter’s choice to sweeten the deal!  Remember, one lucky commenter this week will also win a copy of Molly Haskell’s Frankly My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited. I’ll keep the contest open until Sunday evening, so remember to tell a friend. It’s an embarrassment of Windy riches!

Goosebumps…and Gone With the Wind

For a long time, I considered myself a Gone With the Wind fan, only slightly more interested than normal.

Yes, I re-read the book every year, but that’s as much of a writerly task as it is a readerly one. Yes, I have been to Oaklands Cemetery and the Margaret Mitchell House, but only because I was in Atlanta anyway. I believe still have enough fingers to count the number of times I have seen the movie (not that the number of my fingers is in question, but the number of times I have seen the movie is), and I own no Vivien Leigh collectible plates.

I don’t think I can make that slightly-more-interested-than normal claim anymore.

Not because I bought a collectible plate, but because I had the good luck recently to be at the Arkansas Literary Festival with Ellen F. Brown, author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Journey From Atlanta to Hollywood. After Ellen’s presentation at the Historic Arkansas Museum, two of the Museum’s director whisked me, Ellen, and Kyran Pittman up to a storage room where they opened three boxes that had arrived in preparation for their upcoming “Reel to Real: Gone With the Wind and the Civil War in Arkansas” exhibit.

There are no adjectives to describe how awesome this is.

The first contained the hat Vivien Leigh wore as Scarlett O’Hara in the Twelve Oaks barbecue scene (and later on when working the farm at Tara).

The second contained Bonnie Blue Butler’s beautiful blue velvet riding habit.

And the last contained Vivien Leigh’s Oscar for Gone With the Wind.

I have been to a lot of museums in my time, but I don’t think I have ever had the reaction to an exhibit the way I did to those items. I had goosebumps. I cried. I squealed (okay, maybe shrieked) with delight each time they opened a new box.

I don’t know if I realized until that moment, as Ellen, Kyran, and I, stood in collective wonder in that museum storeroom, how very much Gone With the Wind means to me. The book and the movie have been my companion for a good twenty years now, and each time I re-read or re-watch them, I see something new, I learn something else, I am inspired to write something wonderful.

And because the book has been with me for so very long, I can add to that list of the pleasures of re-reading it my own memories – of watching the movie when I had my wisdom teeth out in high school, of reading it curled in a chair in my college library’s “Classics” room, of the lines that ran through my head as I stood in Oaklands Cemetery, looking at the endless rows of Confederate dead.

Happy birthday, Gone With the Wind.  It’s been my pleasure to have you by my side for twenty of your seventy-five years. I hope to travel with you for many more.


Tags: , , , , , ,
  • Linda Brower

    Thanks so much for this interesting post. I clicked on the link to the Arkansas museum, since I live in a neighboring state (Oklahoma) I think a visit to the museum is a real possibility. The GWTW exhibit lasts for a year and I plan to call my daughter and schedule a road trip. Thanks again.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Oh, I hope you do go! Not only were the people at the museum lovely, but I couldn’t believe the wonderful artifacts – real and reel – they’d brought in.

      And as a bonus, Little Rock is a wonderful town!

  • DarcyO

    I love the still photo from the movie. The colors are so vivid. Just lovely!

    • Eleanor Brown

      Sadly, the costume is now quite faded, but it didn’t matter. I could picture the original gorgeous blue in my head, and the fact that it was faded reminded me of how very real it was!

  • Katie

    Lovely. So fun to have all these memories surrounding a beloved book – I also often remember where and when I read (and reread) the books I love.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Yes! I really am not a big re-reader, but there are a few – and GWTW is on the shortlist – that I just LOVE reading again and again. Erin’s book did such a wonderful job of explaining why to me.

  • Melissa Maday

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been reminded this week about the power and magic of re-reading — especially as it pertains to this novel. It might be about time to open my (err — formerly, the Smith College library’s) copy of GWTW and see how my memories have evolved in the last decade.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Ha! I love that it came from the library. And Erin said something about doing a GWTW read-along this summer – that would be so fun to re-read it together!

  • Shellie Anne

    Finally moving to the south I have a total new perspective on GWTW. I saw an old man today at the grocery store who asked for a “push buggy” and it made me smile. Genteel Southuhners are still alive and well, we visit Savannah GA end of July and I will take it all in…from the grits to the low country sweet grasses waving in the morning breeze…changing directions as the wind takes them…

    • Eleanor Brown

      Gorgeous! I was reminded of the same thing when I was at the South Carolina Book Festival recently. Everyone I met was so warm and gracious – it was lovely!

  • Nicole C.

    What a wonderful tribute to Gone With the Wind! As someone who works in museums and archives, I totally understand the feeling you get when encountering pieces of history, like Eleanor talks about. As a more recent Gone With the Wind fan I’m so excited to start a journey with it and always enjoy hearing about the relationship others have with both the movie and the novel. Thanks Erin and Eleanor for sharing!

    • Eleanor Brown

      Oh, you lucky thing! I’d never had that experience that close-up before, though I am constantly amazed in museums to look at something and wonder whose hands held it over the years.

      I’m so glad you’ve discovered GWTW!

  • Anita

    Great post, thank you for sharing Eleanor’s perspective on GWTW. I read the book once, many many years ago, and I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times I imagine, a wonderful story.
    Maybe it’s time to go back for another read, and some of the other books that discuss it, fiddldy, dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow!!

    • Eleanor Brown

      Oh, I think this is definitely a re-read-worthy book! Erin mentioned something to me about doing a GWTW read-along; maybe you’ll join us?

      And Ellen F. Brown’s book is FABulous. Really, really an interesting look!

  • LSUReader

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing your GWTW memories with us. I’d have goosebumps, too, if I’d seen those museum exhibit pieces.

    • Eleanor Brown

      It was amazing! I kind of want to get a big bus trip together and take everyone to Little Rock to see them in person!

  • Trish

    I grew up in Georgia, and most of my friends during my teen years were obsessed with this book. I read it and enjoyed it, but truthfully loved the movie more. BTW seeing the movie of Gone With the Wind on the big old movie palace screen of The Fox Theater in Atlanta is a joy not to be missed! It appears there occasionally during Summer movie fests.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Wow – I would love to see it on the big screen! My sweetie just bought me the Blu-Ray and I can’t wait to see what detail that technology re-discovers.

  • jpetroroy

    What a lovely post. I would absolutely adore to see Leigh’s Oscar…would completely give me chills!

    • Eleanor Brown

      It was amazing! I don’t think I’ll ever be that lucky again in my entire life.

  • carla c

    I am one of those zthat have “those” collections- plates, movies, prints, copies of books upon books about MM and GWTW. I go to museums and the chills come each and every time. Even as I search second hand shops for another copy of GWTW the chill comes. Finding something rare, seeing it, exploring it… Well, the novel and the words are the same-rare and touching, poinant even now.

    • Eleanor Brown

      That’s wonderful – it’s kind of like curating your own museum!

  • Carey

    Oh…I wish I lived close enough for a roadtrip to this exhibit! But, NY is a little out of the way. How fabulously amazing that you got such an up close look at these items! Yes, I am twinging with envy. :)

    • Eleanor Brown

      I know – I’d really love to go back and see it all put together! I will say Little Rock is a wonderful city. Totally worth a trip, even if they didn’t have all those wonderful GWTW pieces there!

  • Denise Gibbs

    I first read GWTW at the age of 13. My aunt gave it to me. I read it numerous times thereafter at various stages of my life. I have also seen the movie too many times to count. I first saw it at an old St. Louis theater with my favorite aunt. I can still remember my younger brother asking my aunt “Where’s he taking her?” as Rhett carried Scarlett up the winding staircase to the boudoir! I think I would faint if I was actually able to touch such precious artifacts as the hat or Bonnie’s riding cape!

    • Eleanor Brown

      It’s a great re-reading book, isn’t it? I’m presuming now you’ve figured out where they were going up that staircase, which is a perfect example of how stories change as we do.

  • Elizabeth Stuckey-French

    Thanks for this, Eleanor! I love that movie too. I also love Little Rock, the city of my birth. All my mom’s family is from there. She grew up just a couple of blocks from Central High School. I’m dying to go back…this exhibit will give me one more reason to!

    • Eleanor Brown

      Hi, lovely! So fun to hear from you. And I had no idea you were from Little Rock – I just loved it there. Their literary festival is amazing.

  • Chazley

    Yes! Most people I know have never actually read Gone With the Wind — only seen the movie. But I remember discovering it in middle school and not leaving my room for three days straight. I missed meals and hardly slept until it was finished. Gosh, what an adventure!

    • Eleanor Brown

      I’m so jealous of folks like you who discovered it earlier in life than I did!

      The book and movie really are excellent companions – I am shocked when I hear people have read/seen one without the other.

  • poofbooks

    The experience you gals has one a once in a lifetime. You could not have planned it nor imagined it any better. Love that you shared it for the rest of us, gave me goose bump to read.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Oh, hi! Thank you for coming by!

      It really was once in a lifetime. We were all goosebumpy – I’m glad I was able to share that with you!

  • Gayle Trotter

    GWTW is my all time favorite fiction book and movie (ask my husband, who never made it through the first reel).
    The biggest disappointment and discovery of my life occurred when I sat down and watched the movie with my young daughters for the first time. I was so excited to share this experience with them. After they watched it, they shared with me their reaction. “Mom, Scarlett is not nice! I don’t like her at all!”. I was shocked and yet was forced to reexamine my entire view of the movie!

    • Eleanor Brown

      Hi, Gayle! How fun to see you. Sad your husband (and your girls!) didn’t like the movie. It’ll be interesting to see how they feel when they read it someday!

  • Gabi

    I loved the book until the end. Oh, why? Why, why, why? It could have been so perfect! But then, it wasn’t. Darn these classics.

    • Eleanor Brown

      Did you want it to end differently, or just more decisively?