Books · Diversions · documents analyses · Fiction · literacy · Migrants · observations · racism · research · white nationalism · white supremacy

How to Watch Gone With The Wind

Been wracking my brain for the past few days for a way to tell folks how to watch one of my favorite movies of all time. Everything would be much simpler if everyone would read the book. It is long, but extremely readable and will pull you along as it sweeps through one of the most turbulent times in our history. Reading Mitchell’s work did more to encourage my study of the American Civil War than any other work I’ve read.

Reading just the first two lines of the book will alert you to the fact that the movie is strictly a production based upon the book. Much of Scarlett’s life is not depicted in the movie. The war provides a backdrop to the foregrounded “romance” but GWTW is not a romance, but an historical novel that records many of the significant battles that took place from 1862 forward. People tearing down the statue of US Grant don’t know their history. Hell, his affiliation is in his initials. It is true that he owned one slave, but he came through when it really counted.

Line one: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Vivien Leigh was pixie cute, white folks think of her as beautiful. She definitely did not look like Scarlett as she is described in line one. Hence, the movie is a production designed to bring folks to the theaters. Remember, too, this movie was released in 1939; America was in the grip of Jim Crow segregation and the Great Depression, in need of diversion. The film is beautiful, the costumes are beautiful, the players are beautiful. The film was supposed to divert and make everyone feel better as they struggled to live.

Line two: “In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.” For me, this line tells me that Scarlett’s parents are not white because whites of the time were Anglo-Saxon Protestants. French descent and florid Irish say immigrant past to me, and if one was an immigrant or emanated from immigrant stock, one was not white. Gerald O’Hara married up when he wed Ellen of the aristocracy. His ownership and management of a successful plantation was his entreé to acceptance as a white man. People were suspicious of the O’Hara’s because they did not brutalize their slaves. They were Catholics, Papists. You can’t come to this interpretation unless you read the book and know some history.

Some folks are dredging up the old nonsense about the portrayal of stereotypes when it comes to the Black characters, particulary Hattie McDaniel’s portrayal of Mammy. I still quote her and I first saw this movie when I was ten. “It just ain’t fittin’.” Mammy spoke her mind, she called white trash white trash and wasn’t reprimanded for it. In fact, Mammy was the disciplinarian in the house, firmer than Scarlett’s mother or father. All deferred to Mammy. I don’t believe this was the stereotyped behavior of house slaves, particularly in the houses of true whites. Butterfly McQueen’s portrayal of Prissy paid her royalties until her death in 1995. She said she took the role so she could pay for her furniture. Two hundred dollars a week in 1939 was a queenly sum. She thought no one would come to see a movie “about slavery.” McDaniel said she’d rather play a maid or slave than actually be one when subjected to criticism by the Black critics of then and now.

If you won’t read the book, which is great, second in popularity to the Bible, and I don’t believe that many people have actually read the Bible, at least read something that gives some context about the war. I’d recommend My Vicksburg by Ann Rinaldi. It is a young adult novel and won’t take a lot of your time to read. You’ll learn about the conflicts within white families when one brother fights for the Union and the other brother fights for the Confederacy. The Civil War was all about white boys killing the hell out of other white boys over the institution of slavery.

Watch GWTW with the understanding that it is portrayed as a romance, but the book is a Bildungsroman and a story about survival once all you’ve known of stable society is destroyed. GWTW is more rightly classified as an historical novel. The film is a romance with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. That’s how they got the box office. Remember it is a production meant to distract people from their economic despair. In 1957, Gable would portray a slaver in love with one of his purchases. Sidney Poitier was a major player in this film with Yvonne DeCarlo and Gable. I have never heard Poitier mention his role as Rau Ru in this movie based on a book, A Band of Angels, by Robert Penn Warren, who was a civil rights activist, journalist, and novelist. If you can find it, read the book, then see the movie. All about miscegenation, slavery, passing. Just think, in 1957 movies were still being made about slavery and related topics.

All this pandering by corporations to remove Uncle Ben (never liked that plastic rice), Aunt Jemima (I can make my own damn pancakes), and the gentleman on the Cream of Wheat box (he always reminded me of a Pullman Porter and I like remembering those working men of the past). Why are white people trying to erase history now? They just discovered racist iconography? Sumbitch.

Get with me after you read the book, see the movie, read Rinaldi, or you just want to talk history, slavery, and the living history we’re making and living through right now.

Peace, Beloved

aging · Authors · Books · Craft · Disaster · Diversions · Fiction · Literacy

La Peste and other readings

There are 25 minutes left until the end, but I am stuck on Fr Paneloux. He is now dead, but I think he was suffering a crisis of faith. He came out and told the people they deserved the plague because their faith was tepid, more letter than spirit, if you will.

The bugger goes and dies, refusing the care of Dr Rieux, throwing up something red before his passing. Wonder if it was his doubt…

This got me thinking about the crazy evangelical rapturists. If you so in love with Jesus, go to him. Don’t sit and wish evil upon the land that you might be among the preordained number of the saved to witness the horror before being taken…up. Good Lord, what a morning.

I have been distracting myself from finishing the reading by contemplating the development of my Southern Gothic writers in my virtual library. Completely forgot about Eudora, so acquired thirteen of her stories. Made a stab at Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as there has to be an antidote to Sanctuary. I may watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for a wonderful escape into Tennessee’s brand of SG. Have to see if any of Flannery’s stories are offered, maybe through the libraries. Some of her stories have been turned into film.

Also picked up Heavy by Kiese Laymon. It reads like SG, but isn’t fiction.

I will finish The Plague today.

aging · AS · Books · Craft · Diversions · Health and wellness · observations · social observation · Therapeutics

A Good Day

I found the new Phryne Fisher movie on AcornTV through Prime Video. I confess a great fondness for the adventures of Phryne and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. Phryne has a very healthy sexual appetite, uses a diaphragm, flies a plane, is polyglot, dances tango, has a diverse set of friends, and always looks like she just stepped out of a band box even after being pulled from quicksand! I adore Phryne. I can watch her for no additional charge for 30 days. I’m going to enjoy myself some more for my birthday.

Birthdays are to be celebrated for an entire month. They should be danced in and danced out, as with death. There must always be dancing.

Reading a most hideous book by Willie Faulkner, who was a dark and dirty guy! Jeez, Sanctuary is a wreck of a story. Good competition for reality.

Got some beautiful cotton yarn today. I imagined I’d make myself a blanket, but maybe a dress or skirt.

Actually had a really positive time on Twitter. Lots of fun watching people think Patrick of TX should fuck off or lead the way to the gas chambers because he thinks seniors, grandparents should be willing to die for the Dow. What a putz.

Then, there’s the Hate Yam and his ill-advised and ill-considered desire to get the economy rolling again. He cares not a whit for anyone, ya know it? He seems to be running scared. I want to see the showdown between him and the States if he tries to override the lockdowns to send people back to work, vulnerable to the virus.

Have you seen what has to be done to try and treat the pneumonia that results from the virus infiltrating the lungs? Haven’t worked in hospital in a long time, so I was fascinated with the gear that looks like a bubble, placed over the head of the patient, pumped with O2, to attempt to equalize the pressure in the lungs. I read something that said just before things really go south, patients bring up a pink froth or foam. That’s bubbling up from the infiltrated lungs. Next comes high fever, then unconsciousness. I couldn’t unsee that post, though I tried.

The day started off particularly well when I saw people proposing a general strike if the Hate Yam wanted to send people back to work against the advice of public health medical professionals. He must be unfamiliar with the 1918 Spanish Flu. That spread because people refused to follow admonitions from public health officials to not gather in crowds. The people had a parade to welcome the returning soldiers home. The rest is history.

I found I, Claudius on AcornTV. This is my last bit of advertising. I love I, Claudius as much, or more, than I do Phryne, but for different reasons. I don’t watch much television because I can’t stand the commercials. Always selling crazy sounding drugs for ailments they try to convince you you have. Ridiculous. But there are movies and documentaries, theatrical productions, and music that I can access through a tv, and I’m grateful for the entertainment and company sans commercials.

A little reading, a little social media, a little creative craft planning, new yarn, and I am well.

Thanks for reading. Hope you had a good day, too.

Authors · Books · Language · literacy

20 Favorite Reads in no particular order

Anthem, Ayn Rand

The Group, Mary McCarthy

Blood Child, Octavia Butler

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

In Love & Trouble, Alice Walker

Five Smooth Stones, Ann Fairbairn

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

The Stand, Stephen King

The Mad Man, Samuel R. Delany

The Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta

Seven Japanese Tales, Junichiro Tanizaki

Band of Angels, Robert Penn Warren

Maus I and II, Art Spiegelman

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn

Midaq Alley, Naguib Mahfouz

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor

Collected Stories, Tennessee Williams

Why I am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell

Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin

Authors · Books · Sociology

What I’m reading: On Trembling Ground by AP Newell

I knew when I fell in love with Harley that something bad was going to happen to him. I hated Franklin from beginning to end.

A tough read about small town race relations at the beginning of what would become the Civil Rights Movement, and about intimate family relations, particularly those between siblings.

Character development is very good. Each of the major characters is fleshed out, multidimensional. The voices are clear, deliberate, insightful.

Some old dogs refuse to learn new tricks; that’s Franklin. The hold of tradition on some folks’ minds is frightening. Traditional thinking can lead people to do the most heinous things. Self-righteous traditional thinking seemingly goes on until the thinker dies. It saddens me to think that the only way to progress on some fronts is through the attrition process of death.

All in all, a very good read.

art · Authors · Books · Sociology

What I’m Reading: On Trembling Ground by AP Newell

This book is good. However, it is very difficult to read as I feel like I am living in the time period depicted (early ‘60s, Civil Rights era), being intimidated by the bullies of this era, gang members.

Then, as now, the innocent just had to bear with the injustices heaped upon them by good Christians that the law supported in their wrong doing.

The portrayals of the characters is complex and dense even though the style of writing is very easy, flowing oh so naturally. I can almost understand Franklin, who reluctantly becomes an active Klan member, in part to keep his job and partly because he thought he was doing the right thing for an upright, god-fearing Christian white man of the south.  I like his brother Harley, though, who is a music man trying to stay true to his art through hard times, who recognizes that Elvis stole his music from Black human beings.

I turn to this story for ideas of how to survive the current hostile climate in which I live and am persecuted by people who share a skin color similar to my own. I learned a long time ago, though, that all my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk.

I like the varied dimensionality of the characters most thus far.

More when I finish . . .

Authors · Books · Obituaries

Primo Levi, John Leonard and Me

  I was watching the Japanese channel when a documentary came on about a man making a pilgrimage to the gravesite of Primo Levi, the Italian chemist, author, and Auschwitz survivor. On his grave is his name, the years of  his birth and death, and a 6 digit number, 174517.  This number was tattooed on his arm by the Nazis in the concentration camp.

Primo Levi

I was mesmerized by the devotion to Levi demonstrated by the pilgrim, who had made the journey to Levi’s grave twice before, and decided to read some of his works. The library had a ready collection of his stories, essays, and recorded interviews as well as his writings about living in and surviving Auschwitz.  Such quiet horror resonates from the pages of his Auschwitz writings. 

As I was preparing to leave the library, I stopped by the new arrivals shelf and found a book by John Leonard, my favorite critic. He died in 2008. I picked up Lonesome Rangers: Homeless Minds, Promised Lands, Fugitive Cultures. I didn’t look at the table of contents. Didn’t need to. John Leonard always delivers.

Reading Levi was different. His stories are clearly written, lucid. Some of them are quite fanciful, fantastic. He included all his interests in his work.  He loved scientific topics, but he also had a flair for whimsy.  After reading as much of Levi as possible without having The Periodic Table at hand, I decided to have a look at Lonesome Rangers.

Know what the first essay was titled? Primo Levi Reads Franz Kafka. Coincidence?  I think not.  The essay explains the context of Levi’s suicide at age 67 and tells us that not only did he kill himself but also our wishful thinking.

I’m recommending any and all of Primo Levi’s writings to you and also the works of John Leonard.  The world is much poorer without their continued output, but at least they left behind plenty of thought provoking writings for us to reflect upon.