Gone With The Wind: A Fuller Perspective

As many know, August is GWTW month for the Litwits.  We’re watching the movie and reading the book.  GWTW is a novel that has staunch supporters and avid haters.  Most of this division occurs over the obvious and rampant racism depicted by the Southern aristocracy of the Civil War South.  But I’m not here today to argue one way or the other.  I’m here to offer some suggestions of further reading to help all readers of GWTW gain a fuller perspective.  Below are some novels I’ve read during my life from the perspective of slaves or former slaves before, during, and after the Civil War.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs:  This autobiographical account by a former slave is one of the few extant narratives written by a woman. Written and published in 1861, it delivers a powerful portrayal of the brutality of slave life. Jacobs speaks frankly of her master’s abuse and her eventual escape, in a tale of dauntless spirit and faith (from Goodreads).

I read this beautifully written novel in college (in fact, I read all of these novels in college) and couldn’t give it a higher recommendation.  The Norton Critical edition is superb and this is a book that can only enhance your life, both in and out of books.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe:  The narrative drive of Stowe’s classic novel is often overlooked in the heat of the controversies surrounding its anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, it is a compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history (from Goodreads).

Not at all what I expected!  A real plot-drive, page-turning novel that entertains and educations simultaneously.  Has definitely earned its classic status in American literature.

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall: In this daring and provocative literary parody which has captured the interest and imagination of a nation, Alice Randall explores the world created in GONE WITH THE WIND, a work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Taking sharp aim at the romanticized, whitewashed mythology perpetrated by this southern classic, Randall has ingeniously conceived a multilayered, emotionally complex tale of her own – that of Cynara, the mulatto half-sister, who, beautiful and brown and born into slavery, manages to break away from the damaging world of the Old South to emerge into full life as a daughter, a lover, a mother, a victor. THE WIND DONE GONE is a passionate love story, a wrenching portrait of a tangled mother-daughter relationship, and a book that “celebrates a people’s emancipation not only from bondage but also from history and myth, custom and stereotype” (San Antonio Express-News).

A fairly controversial novel and a parody in the traditional sense of the word as it’s far from humorous.  Randall has received a lot of criticism for her depiction of GWTW‘s characters and many believe her novel poorly written.  But my class in college thoroughly enjoyed this very different perspective of the South depicted by GWTW.  It’s told in diary form and I’d sort of compare it to a more radical version of something like Lost in Austen without the humor.

While obviously not an exhaustive list, these books offer a good place to start and an alternative to the purely white perspective of Gone With the Wind.  I love the idea of books working with each other, not against!

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Since I don’t have any finished books I can blog about, I thought I’d just participate in this lovely meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I’ve been steadily reading around three books at a time for the past couple of weeks.  While I really enjoy this multi-book combination, it means I don’t finish books as quickly as when I read them one at a time.  Nonetheless, I’m enjoying what I’ve been reading immensely.

Currently, I’m a little over halfway through Gone With the Wind for the August book club discussion.  It’s my second time through the sweeping epic and I’m surprised how little of it I remember.  The history of the story is what seems to be drawing me the most this time through.  I’m constantly googling for images and such from the Civil War, especially in regards to Atlanta.  So much fun to read about my city 150+ years ago.

The second book I’ve got going is The Scarlet Letter, also a reread.  Haven’t read this one since junior year of high school, roughly 11-12 years ago.  Loving it so far and really think my reading pace of around a chapter a day is perfect to fully wrap my mind around the story and Hawthorne’s rich, layered writing.  I consider Hawthorne an early adopter of the genre novel with all his supernatural plot elements!

And finally, I’m about to start North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell as I prepare to participate in the Read-A-Long hosted by Andi and Heather.  Can’t wait to experience my second Gaskell novel!

That’s three classics at once!!  Plus, I’m juggling being a bit Olympics obsessed which is eating up a lot of my reading time.  Nothing to complain about though!  Looking forward to my week of reading and hope everyone else is reading amazing books that they love!

Books: Does Age Matter?

Recently – an hour ago actually – I had a member of my in-person book club leave the group.  Her reasons sort of offended my reading sensibilities.  She claimed that our group read nothing that interested her and she felt she’s perhaps too old to be a Litwit.  Okay…

What does too old to be a Litwit even mean?  Do book clubs have age limits – should they?  Am I supposed to be looking at books and deciding whether or not I’m too old or too young to read it?

The Litwits aren’t a bunch of teenagers.  Our average age range is somewhere between 35-45.  This particular member (who had never even attended a meeting) was probably at the high end of that range, maybe a bit older.  Does she have a point?  Or is she just insecure about her age?

I’m a bit flabbergasted because she signed up knowing what books we read.  Has she aged so significantly in the past couple of months that she’s outgrown us already?  Our next two books – Gone With the Wind and Their Eyes Were Watching God – don’t feel particularly ‘young’.  They are also both considered classics.  What does she want us to read? A steady diet of philosophical literature or Senior Citizens Monthly?  I am so confused.  Especially when her profile indicated she adored the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

So, does age matter when selecting books?  I know a ton of older readers who greatly enjoy young adult fiction.  And to be honest, the couple of young adult novels the Litwits have read really generated some of our best discussions.  The former member wanted to read ‘quality fiction’.  What does that term mean?

I used to run a second book club that focused only on 20th century classics.  I’d call those heavier, ‘quality’ reads.  And you now what?  It died after 2 or 3 meetings because no one ever finished the books because they were too ‘difficult’.  Interestingly, the average age of that group was significantly higher.  Do older women feel the need to only read ‘high brow’ literature for fear of feeling too silly, immature, and young?  Should readers feel obligated to their age?

I’m totally with C.S. Lewis.  Here’s what I know:  I hope to be reading anything and everything for the rest of my life.  I want the silly with the serious – the good with the bad – the long with the short.  I want to be challenged by books that seem ridiculous and argue with books that are supposedly perfect.  I hope I never feel too old to read something be it picture book or historical tome.

What do you think?  I need to hear your thoughts!

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 5 (SPOILERS)

Pages 235-293

Jaime:

Continuing on their journey to Kings Landing, Brienne, Jaime, and Cleros run into some trouble in what appears to be a deserted town.  An archer sends arrows their way killing Cleros and injuring Brienne…not that she shows any sign of pain.  Jaime takes Cleros’s sword and begins a half-assed swordfight with Brienne.  Both hold their own for a long while, but Jaime quickly tires.  Eventually, they are pretty much wrestling in the stream.  Brienne is winning when they hear laughter from the shore.

The Brave Companions or some such nonsense – those randy bandits now serving under Roose Bolton and declared for House Stark – take them hostage back to Vargo (I think that’s his name).  Brienne has lots of raping to look forward to and Jaime will see pain.  Jaime determinedly tries to convince the men to take him to his father in return for gold unharmed.  He also helps Brienne by saying her homeland has many riches as well.  This promises to keep them alive, but Brienne is dragged off to endure gods know what and Jaime ends the chapter with a scream.  I can only assume the ‘message’ Vargo wants to send Tywin is a severed portion of the Kingslayer’s body.

Another interesting chapter tidbit – Jaime wants to marry Cersei and even considers marrying Joff to his sister, Myrcella.  Um…yuck for the thousandth time.

Arya:

Not much happens here.  The group of travelers are still searching for Ser Beric and visit many people.  One of them includes a woman who lives in the trees – literally.  They eventually wind up at Lady Smallwood’s small castle and are treated quite kindly.  Lady Smallwood bathes Arya and makes her don a dress again.  Gendry laughs at her, but then they wrestle outside and Arya rips her dress and dirties it all up.  She’s still a little wild one.

What I took away from this chapter was a sense of safety for Arya.  I can finally believe no one among this group means her any harm – just want to use her for ransom.  They could have sold her off or killed her a thousand times over again.  I’m glad she’s okay.

Not a lot happening, but a fun scene I hope they add to the show.

Danaerys:

Dany has convinced her ship to take her to Ghis where she meets with the head slaver of the Unsullied army.  I’m guessing he’s the head, not really sure.  He’s disgusting, though.  He tells Dany about the Unsullied and insults her a great deal in a tongue he believes she doesn’t understand while the interpreter says nicer things.  Dany hears all and is pretty much appalled at how the Unsullied have been trained.  They kill babes and pups to prove loyalty!  Oh my.  She leaves the slaver with a bad taste in her mouth.

Back on ship, she slaps Jorah.  She’s still reeling from his kiss.  She thinks it was terrible behavior, but it awoken her desire for sex again and makes her miss Drogo.  There’s even a masturbation flashback in which her handmaid, Irri, helps her out.  The boys will love that scene.  Dany knows she must hire an army despite how much she despises these people.

Her dragons hate being trapped beneath the deck.  Not much else to say.  Dany’s story is really boring me these days.  I miss Drogo almost as much as her.

Bran:

Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera are still traveling through the wilds towards the Wall.  They spend the night in a cave with a man who warms them the Wall isn’t such a great place since word reached about the attack beyond the Wall.  Everyone is tired, hungry, and bored.  Bran misses his old life and the people in it.  Meera tells a story about a would-be knight who beat all the odds to seek revenge.  I’m sure I was supposed to learn something here, but not sure what.  Honestly, a boring chapter.  Nothing happens and the plot was not furthered.  Do we really need to check in with Bran to learn nothing?  I guess we can take away the fact that none of the rural Northern men are bothering them.  They seem like a nice, civil, slightly wild bunch.

Davos:

Davos is locked in the dungeon, but he’s warm and has been nursed back to health.  Melisandre comes to visit him, assuring him that no one betrayed him – she just saw his intentions to kill her in the fire.  They have a long, rather boring discussion about fire, light, and the one god.  Blah, blah, blah.

Next, the Florent who was serving as Stannis’s Hand is brought down to the dungeon to join Davos as a traitor.  Apparently, he was secretly trying to broker a deal with Tywin to marry Stannis’ daughter to Tommen Lannister, make Stannis Lord of Dragonstone and Storms End – as long as Stannis would stop the king nonsense and pledge fealty to Joff.  They didn’t like that so well.  As Davos explained, Stannis is no quitter and wouldn’t marry his daughter off to a product of incest.  The Florent sobbed.

I hate Melisandre and wish she would die in her fire.

October Voting!

Here’s what the Litwits are voting on for their October read:

Arcadia by Lauren Groff:  In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. The story is told from the point of view of Bit, a fascinating character and the first child born in Arcadia.

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje:  In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship crosses the Indian Ocean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: they are first exposed to the magical worlds of jazz, women, and literature by their eccentric fellow travelers, and together they spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. By turns poignant and electrifying, The Cat’s Table is a spellbinding story about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood, and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver:  In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson:  It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva’s motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure.

In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and a pillow, and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into one other. Beautifully written, and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters, the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them and the ways in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard-won way toward home. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar marks the debut of a wonderfully talented new writer.

July’s Meetup: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Sunday afternoon was another pleasant day spent with the Litwits.  Our July selection was a debut mystery novel by Graham Moore and really the epitome of fun, summer read.  The turnout to the discussion was great and members definitely had opinions.  So what did the Litwits think?

First, The Sherlockian is a dual narrative tale of Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes.  The present day story line follows, Harold, the newest member of the most elite Sherlockian society.  The Sherlockians have gathered at the request of one of the group’s scholar’s who claims to have finally found Doyle’s long, lost diary.  Before he can unveil this much sought after treasure, Harold and friends find his dead body locked away in his hotel room.  Harold sets off to uncover the mystery of the murder and the diary.

The second narrative follows Arthur Conan Doyle himself as he deals with the aftermath of killing off England’s beloved Sherlock Holmes, a murder mystery of his own, and the eventual return of Sherlock Holmes when Doyle is finally convinced to raise his nemesis from the grave.  Doyle is assisted by his lovable best pal, Bram Stoker, as a sort of Watson to his Holmes.

Most of the ladies thoroughly enjoyed their time spent with The Sherlockian as sort of a fun mystery summertime read that didn’t require too much brain activity.  Without a doubt, the Doyle narrative was the hands down favorite and far more interesting than the present day tale.  We also really enjoyed getting to know Doyle a bit better as well as his friendship with Stoker (which is all true facts).  Throw in the additional discussion of Oscar Wilde and the book-loving Litwits were pleased.  I think everyone also really enjoyed their time spent in Victorian England and felt that Moore does a superb job of fleshing out the England of yesteryear.

As mentioned earlier, the present day narrative left us a bit wanting.  Harold comes off as a kind of bumbling protagonist and hokey detective.  Everyone agreed that no one in the modern timeline was memorable – we didn’t care about any of the characters.  Complaints were also shared about the outcomes of the mysteries and the whodunits.  The ‘killers’ kind of came out of left field and lots of plot holes were left unplugged.  A couple of members expressed their ire over wonky historical facts, as well.

Overall, the Litwits are towing the middle road here.  This novel is not great literature, but a decent debut mystery novel.  We definitely left with the yearning to read some Holmes, some Stoker, and even a little Christie.  We enjoyed Doyle’s perspective and loved learning about his mystery writing rules.  Bram Stoker stole our hearts and we vowed to get to know him better.  We thought the Sherlockians were a little cooky which led us to discuss such modern day phenomena as Comic Con and Dragon Con.  And really, a great, lively discussion was had and everyone went home happy (at least, I think so!).

Next month is Gone with the Wind!  Some Litwits are excited, some not so much.  Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks and I’m super surprised at how many have never read this book!

Shadow Show edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle (A Ray Bradbury Celebration)

If you haven’t realized by now, I’m a huge Ray Bradbury fangirl.  For evidence, please see my reviews of Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man.  So when the lovely ladies of TLC Book Tours brought my attention to this must read, I snatched it up as quickly as possible.  And you should too!

Shadow Show was completed before Bradbury’s death and is a collection of 26 stories by some of today’s hottest authors – Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Audrey Niffenegger, Dave Eggers, and Alice Hoffman to name a few.  I know without a doubt that Bradbury lovers will find some amazing stories to treasure and take pleasure in the knowledge that Bradbury himself has been so amazingly loved and respected.  For those who haven’t acquainted themselves with the Master (and really, what is wrong with you?), these stories are so delightfully constructed by such talented authors that you really can’t afford not to read them!

I know many readers are often wary of the short story form, especially in large anthologies, but that’s where I think Shadow Show really shines.  First, each story feels fresh and new since they are penned by different authors.  If one author’s tale doesn’t float your boat, you have a new writer awaiting you just a few pages away.  I never felt bogged down or like I was reading the same thing over and over again.  Each story is influenced by Ray in different ways – some tales relate to a specific Bradbury story, some to a particular emotion, theme, or genre Bradbury perfected (yes, I think his writing is pretty darn close to perfect), and others act as love stories to the man himself.  I wanted to read Bradbury’s entire oeuvre all over again.

As for the individual stories themselves, they run the entire human emotional gamut from cheeky comedy to desolate sadness.  They are science fiction tales with fantastical twists or stories of bleak realism with creepy slants, but they are all very human stories.  I only encountered 2 or 3 that felt like duds – one was confusing and hard to follow, another a bit too long, and the final dud just felt a bit too self-indulgent and not in the spirit of a proper tribute.  Every other story impressed me and was super fun to read.  And at the end of each story, the author writes a little background information – how their story came to be, how Ray influenced them, or personal anecdotes about their relationship with Bradbury.  These blurbs were perhaps even better than the stories!

What I liked most about Shadow Show is that nothing felt morose or ‘in memoriam’ in light of Bradbury’s recent death.  The stories seemed more like a thank you to someone who has gotten these authors where they are today, filled with sincere gratitude to a father figure who over the decades never lost his hero shine.  He truly was an amazing gift to literature and humanity.

Some favorite moments more well-spoken than I could possibly manage:

“Because, perhaps, if this works, they will remember him.  All of them will remember him.  His name will once more become synonymous with small American towns at Halloween, when the leaves skitter across the sidewalk like frightened birds, or with Mars, or with love.” – From “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman

“If I’d been moved before, now I was undone.  Ray Bradbury’s writing is sentimental in the sense that Steinbeck’s is, but it’s never syrupy.  It’s simply the iteration of honest human emotions we can neither outrun or deny.” – Jacquelyn Mitchard

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Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the copy of Shadow Show in exchange for my honest review!  Check out the rest of the tour here!