Alright, so this is the first post of what will become a monthly thing, based off my goal to read more Pulitzer Prize books, which you can read about here.
The winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Novel (later turned into the Fiction) category, Gone With The Wind was a book I read in late middle school/early high school. Probably early high school. Let’s stick with early high school. Prepare for a big tangent and very little book review.
I was going away for a week or so on a Christian camp outing. Yes, this is the part of my story where I confess to being a Christian in middle/high school. Then I realized I liked girls, and that I didn’t really care what happened after I died, and my beliefs settled into the apathetic and agnostic “meh” that they are today. But back then, I was gung-ho for Jesus and off to a getaway camp through the church.
It’s fairly well accepted that Christianity doesn’t solve a lot of things, but more specifically, it doesn’t solve any of the awkward teen dramas of being the new kid and not knowing anyone. I was the new kid and completely out of my element. This was largely because I think this was my first camp experience where I didn’t have my big sister as back up, but it was also because the kids that went to my church were a bunch of stuck up dickheads. It was awful and I knew it was going to be awful so I resorted to my classic standby measure–I brought a big book with me.
I spent that whole week reading Gone With The Wind, even when the camp counselors tried to get me engaged in more communal activities. I have absolutely no memory of that camp at all, but I do remember Scarlett. I remember being so baffled at the complexities of her personality. I was overwhelmed as I transitioned from pitying her to absolutely despising her. The characters shifted from villain to victim faster than I could turn the pages, and I loved the intrigue of it all. The whole book, even at its ugliest, was so glamorous. Reading about the South during the Civil War took me far away from my petty problems of not having a cool enough bible cover and knowing no one and feeling paranoid that the only reason they knew my name was due to the dorky name tag I didn’t even realize was still stuck to my jacket.
Gone With The Wind is an escapist book. You read it to go somewhere else entirely. Sure some people may say that it’s a somewhere you might actually recognize a bit because the premise has been reworked so often throughout our pop culture history, but for the lucky ones like me, it takes you somewhere entirely new. It was my first real introduction to the idea that characters in books can be as complex, baffling, and wrong as people in real life. And, bonus, it was wordy enough to last me the entire week of Christian camp.