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Monday, April 30, 2012

Hard to Choose

Pin It When I was a kid, I was invariably drawn to books that were "above my pay grade." The librarian would be offering a shelf of Apple paperbacks or Choose Your Own Adventure, while I'd be perusing Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. After a while, they gave up and let me have at it. The thing was, I truly loved those books, and for some odd reason, considering it was the nineteen-eighties and I was a little material girl, I identified with the heroines in them.

It's difficult to identify just one book to call my favorite. In looking back, I can see some trends in my literature preferences. They began at an early age, with Grimm's fairy tales, and tend to linger even now, with the occasional (I admit it--I'm a sap) romance. They all seemed to have that Heroine In the Tough Spot...an orphan, perhaps. She was in need of a hero, or at the very least, a happy family. She, while not conventionally beautiful, was possessed of an unconventional intellect that picked her up and carried her forward. She really didn't need that hero...he was just whipped cream, you know?

After Grimm's, I found these conventions in such wonders as the Anne of Green Gables series and Jane Eyre. I devoured Wuthering Heights, but didn't like that one as much as Jane Austen in general, which I would discover toward the end of middle school. And then there was that one book that was just a little different from all the rest, the one that captured my heart, somehow, to my family's unending amusement.

Gone With the Wind. Three inches thick. The cover: a torrid depiction of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler caught in a clinch, Scarlett's green curtain dress falling away. The back: words worn away by the rubbing of my fingers as I held the book to read, a hole literally worn through the paper cover by the placement of one finger in particular.

I read GWTW thirteen times in my thirteenth year. With distinct, deliberate intent. I could quote whole passages. I knew full family lineages, had all but been to Tara and Twelve Oaks. I wept when Melanie died, each and every time. I wept when Bonnie died and Rhett went a little crazy, each and every time. I cheered when Scarlett got herself together and grew up.

This book was my soap opera. It was a history lesson, however inaccurate. It was a lesson in Hollywood, as I was also inspired to watch the film several dozen times. (Poor Vivien Leigh.)

I guess GWTW fits the conventions of my other preferred childhood books--a heroine in need, a hero, a sharp intellect. The difference, and the thing that drew me more than the others, was the flaws. The characters in Mitchell's work were so human, and so beautifully, painfully flawed.

Bottom line--it's genuinely hard to choose, but I guess the book whose cover I wore a hole through would best qualify for favorite.


Gerb said...

Lori! I feel like I got to visit with an old friend I haven't seen for a while. So great to have you back!

Mel said...

GWTW...sooo tragic. I have to admit I felt very sophisticated when I read it...at about the same age you did I think. You're right, it is hard to pick a favorite, but this is a good one.

Mindy said...

I think perhaps you might be as Anne-with-an-E would say - a kindred spirit - at least literarily speaking. :-)

I found myself nodding throughout your entire post. It was almost as if you were writing about me... except for GWTW. I've never read the book though I have seen the movie several times. I found Anne in Jr. High and Austen and Bronte in H.S. Though I think I would probably have to add "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy to the list as well.

Thanks for sharing your favorites.

Lori said...

Ahhh. *big sigh* Soooo nice to be back!
I have such a huge smile on my face as I read your comments, and I have to wonder why I have allowed myself to get so darn busy. I just love our "conversations" and I have so missed you all.

Gerb--looking forward to your post this week. I think we would have been such great buddies all through middle and high school and college...who am I kidding? I just wish we had discovered each other earlier.

Mel--you put your finger on it. I did feel so grown up. It was the Hayugest.Book.Ever. I'm going to have to point my daughter toward it, get her moving out the Hunger Games phase...

Mindy--Oh, my Diana! :) I'm not sure there can be a more lovely compliment--thank you. I have never actually read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I will--thanks for the recommendation!

Teachinfourth said...

I've never read Gone with the Wind before, but I did read Anne of Green Gables after watching Megen Follows in the movie...I guess you could say that I had a crush on her.

I'm glad we're all back.

Lori said...

T4--just saw your comment...too funny.

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