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

AS · Community · friendship · literacy · time

Magic Is

Imagine wishing for someone to talk with who understands and remembers some of the places you’ve been, some of the thoughts you’ve thunk.

Imagine not having to explain the deep details of your memories because someone else organically understands because they’ve been there, in your memories.

Imagine making that connection through the impersonal web of digital communication.

Magic is.

art · Craft · Fiction · literacy · Music

Glen and Phoebe, Coda

The phone opened to the picture he’d requested of her feet. People had all sorts of fetishes, and she didn’t mind indulging this one of Glen’s. Phoebe was very familiar with the paraphilias, having been schooled through the Kinsey Institute. She searched the phone for any clues that might tell her where Glen had gone and why. She needed details.

There was much too much money for the sale of her father’s house. Glen knew she was struggling financially, but she hadn’t asked him for anything other than a fair price for the house. What was he thinking?

The phone search turned up next to nothing except for a number that was not hers listed under the Dialed Calls directory. It was an international number, to Germany, and she called it straight away. When the German Cancer Clinics answered, she knew what she had to do next.

Mattson was waiting for her when her train arrived in Oklahoma City. Glen had told her  a little about Mattson and their enduring friendship that had begun when they served together in the Navy. If anyone knew the details of Glen’s situation, it would be Mattson. What Phoebe didn’t know was that Glen had confided to Mattson his relationship with her; they both shared an interest in feet, and Glen had mentioned his curiosity about Phoebe’s small feet to Mattson. After that slip, he had told all, even though Phoebe had asked him not to. 

“Miss Williams,” Mattson greeted her, “I trust your journey was not too difficult?”

“No, Mr. Mattson, the trip was very pleasant, quite soothing in fact.”

“Very good. After we collect your bags, I will take you to the cottage and introduce the staff to you.”

“Staff?”

“Yes, Miss. There is just myself and my wife. She’s the cook and housekeeper.  I double as your driver and gardener.”

Phoebe sat stunned. She’d always longed for such a life, and here it was. But what of Glen?

“Mr. Mattson?”

“Just Mattson, Miss, if you please.”

“Mattson, is it far to the cottage?”

“No, Miss. We are about thirty minutes away.”

“What is your wife’s name?”

“Joyce, Miss.”

“If I am to call you Mattson, will you please call me Phoebe?”

“My pleasure, Phoebe.”

They drove the remainder of the short distance in silence, Phoebe wondering if she could get the information she wanted from Mattson and Mattson wondering what she was going to ask. She was everything Glen had told him and more. Direct, clear-eyed, poised. He understood his friend’s affection for this lovely woman. 

The “cottage”, designed by architect Robert Roloff, sat on a little more than four acres of land in a private setting that offered exquisite views of the outdoor living spaces, that included a pool. 

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Overwhelmed by the enormity of the gift she’d been given, Phoebe wept tears of gratitude, then turned her teary amber eyes on Mattson and asked him, beseeched him to tell her all he knew of Glen. Mattson happily obliged.

“Did…did his wife go with him?” Phoebe asked.

“No, Miss,” he answered, slipping back into formality. “In fact, Bernard and his wife were divorced about a year ago, shortly after he understood his condition.”

“Do you know where he is exactly, Mattson?”

“Yes, Miss.”

“Would you please make arrangements for me to go be with him?”

“At once, Phoebe, at once.”

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