Monday, March 26, 2007

Final Fo[bleaaaaaaaaarrrgh]

This weekend, my NCAA tournament bracket officially went tits-up when Oregon went down. Shows what I get for picking with my head -- 40 points, of a total possible 120. FORTY POINTS, y'all. My most pathetic showing ever. Next year I'm picking with my eyes closed.

In other news, have y'all ever read Gone With the Wind? The book, printed matter, not the overblown 1939 movie, which is a trip in and of itself. I recently read a book set in the Civil War, but from the Northern POV, and for contrast, I decided to re-read (for probably the 30th time since age 12) good old GWTW. Now, I had a real Thing for this book back in the day -- I cannot begin to do justice to the level of my obsession at the time. I just thank dog I discovered the Beatles at age 13 to take over some of that vast, writhing obsessionscape.

But on this re-read, my first in probably 10 years, I am struck by a couple of things that it is remarkable I never noticed before:

1) It's really pretty well-written. The cover is so pulpy-Harlequiny that it's embarrassing to be seen with it, but the writing is solid.

2) It's really complex, and multi-layered. Most people's idea of Scarlett begins and ends with "fiddle-dee-dee," and that's a damn shame. She's a fully three-dimensional character, as are nearly all the characters in the book, and while there might be a smidge of historical inaccuracy (Melanie's 13-month pregnancy, if you time it by the actual Civil War battles referenced in the narrative), it's really educational and engaging throughout.

3) It is INCREDIBLY, THOROUGHLY AND IRREDEEMABLY RACIST. Just AMAZING in its total, unconscious commitment to bone-deep racism. Free use of the n-word is the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I'm talking about the frequent delineation between "quality black folk" (former house and yard niggers, who willingly choose to stay with their former owners after the war) and "trashy free-issue niggers," those restless, loutish, brutish former field hands who laze about, drinking, not working, and being "uppity" to white women, thinking themselves every bit as good as white folk; constant references to their basic stupidity and need for white guidance and rule; genuine feeling that killing an "uppity nigger" is no murder at all -- just justice; howling about blacks getting the vote; total sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan; etc., ad infinitum. My GOD. How I missed, or glossed over all that the first 29 or so times, I cannot imagine -- I guess I was just inured to it somehow. But on this go-round, it's like getting slapped in the face with nearly every page.

In that way, I have come to think this is a book that should be taught in colleges everywhere; high schoolers are probably too young and immature to handle it. But a slightly more mature student could really benefit from a close reading, thinking about the ways in which this book illustrates the deeply, deeply entrenched racism of the former Confederate states (one of which I am FROM, so don't flame me, GOSH!, and also I know the rest of the country is plenty racist in its own way but that is not the topic of this post), and beginning to understand the roots of racial politics as they stand today. It's a real eye-opener.

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Anonymous Aoife said...

Love this book.ww

The narrative voice is racist, definately. I don't think the book is racist though, and I think that references to uppity blacks, quality blacks, the n-word, etc. are all meant to illustrate the default attitude of the wartime Southerner. I think there's a difference, just as there's a difference between Huckleberry Finn (the character) being racist and Huckleberry Finn (the book) being racist.

9:33 PM  
Blogger bgirl said...

My husband will sometimes tell me I'm being all "Scarlett O'Hara." And I usually thank him, because even though he means I'm demanding, spoiled, superficial, etc., I think of her as this incredibly strong, compassionate figure (with a little of that other stuff thrown in to keep her interesting).

6:40 AM  
Blogger Gleemonex said...

aoife, it's very apt to say that the narrative voice is racist -- that comes closer to what I meant. It's amazing just to absorb that total, pervasive fact of racism as a given in that society -- and they don't think they're being racist or that there's anything wrong with that -- it's just their default mode, and it would never occur to them that there's any other way of thinking. Just seems so bizarre from a 2007 liberal/California post-multi-culti perspective, you know?

bgirl, Scarlett is also internally honest to a fault, fiercely loyal to family and home, rational, unconquerable ... I'll take a comparison to her, anyday. ;-)

8:57 AM  

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