Against the Wind

Rohan Maitzen in Open Letters Monthly:

Gwtw1 When I took Gone with the Wind off the shelf this summer, I hadn’t read it at all since 1994. That was my thirty-first reading; I know this for certain because I used to note each reading on the inside cover. I’ve been reading my current battered paperback, which starts up at reading twenty-four, since around 1982. It’s in pretty good shape, considering. The edges are worn and the cover has been reinforced with packing tape. Towards the back there are some pages that weren’t bound properly to begin with – one more reading might pull them out altogether. Most of the pages near the end are wrinkled from the tears I shed over them in fits of self-conscious pathos. This is the kind of metadata an e-book can never accumulate—but then, an e-book would also not leave me with quite the dilemma I now face, whether to keep the book on my shelf or to hide it away, to own or disown it.

My reading of Gone with the Wind this summer, my thirty-second, was my first really honest one, the first one during which I unequivocally named what I had always seen. Even at ten, after all, I didn’t imagine that slavery was OK, and as a teenager I certainly knew better than to wish the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Back then, however, the novel’s own politics seemed as remote as its setting—weren’t the 1930s also ancient history, after all?—and thus it was easy to read past them and focus on the elements that still make Gone with the Wind compelling: the brazen, unflagging momentum of Margaret Mitchell’s storytelling, the richness of her descriptive details, the historical context and characterization, and above all, Scarlett.

More here.