When Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind that the Margaret Mitchell Estate authorized, was published in 1991, the world of books was abuzz.
Nobody had heard of Alexandra Ripley, but everybody wanted to know what happened to Scarlett.
Somehow I missed news of the publication of Alice Randall’s parody of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel ten years later.
But my horror at my re-reading of Gone with the Wind, which I had loved when I read it in my sixteenth summer, was countered with great excitement at the idea of the story being retold from a perspective which infuriated the Mitchell Estate.
I was so curious that I immediately travelled to a branch library in the city to snag a copy. Even the title made me smirk.
I was willing to forgive the cheezy cover because the “Unauthorized Parody” sticker suggested that the designers were taking a good poke at Southern-Belle-ish-ness. And, in short, I was curious.
But even though I fetched a copy of the book in short order, I took some time in getting down to reading it. My response to GWTW was overwhelming. I needed time to decompress. I”m glad that I waited; it’s hard to imagine a book more different in style and scope.
The premise of The Wind Done Gone is that it was discovered, as a document, in the early 1990s.
“It was among the effects of an elderly colored lady who had been in an assisted-living center just outside Atlanta.”
The resident’s name was Prissy Cynara Brown, and what the reader is holding is the transcript of her leather-bound diary, of which a transcript was later prepared.
She was born May 25, 1845 “into slavery” on a cotton farm.
This woman is said to have collapsed in July 1936, after an emotional collapse, and hospitalized for three months at that time and again, for a month, in 1940.
These events coincided with the publication and premiere of Gone with the Wind. Well, see, I was hooked; someone whose reaction to GWTW was even more extreme than mine of late.
Prissy Cynara Brown tried to get her diary published but could not (which, of course, draws comparisons with the battle that Alice Randall had to get The Wind Done Gone published, in the face of the fierce litigation undertaken by the Margaret Mitchell Estate).
She could not get her voice heard. Her father is “Planter”, her mother was the “Mammy”, and she calls her half-sister Other. Other is the “belle of five counties”.
Nobody wants to hear that story. Even though millions have read Other’s story and a handful bestowed upon it a Pulitzer Prize.
Nonetheless, Cynara writes down her story, and here is how it begins:
“Today is the anniversary of my birth. I have twenty-eight years. This diary and the pen I am writing with are the best gifts I got — except maybe my cake. R. gave me the diary, the pen, and the white frosted tiers. He also gave me…
The most appealing aspect of reading The Wind Done Gone is to recognize the points of revision that Alice Randall creates, so detailing those would take the fun out of discovered them for yourself.
Cynara is not a sympathetic character; she actually shares many of
Scarlett’s (oops!) Other’s qualities. The plot picks up from the end of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, but it also offers another perspective on earlier events, too, as the pages turn.
Both women are shown to be selfish, greedy and cruel in various situations; one is no “better” than the other.
Perhaps a true parody would have gone to the extent that Margaret Mitchell’s novel did, consistently depicting black characters in a blatantly negative and sub-human way, but certainly the white characters in The Wind Done Gone are weak, one-dimensional, and deeply flawed.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see where the elements of parody take hold, even if the extremes demonstrated in Gone with the Wind are not exactly matched.
At times I actually erupted with a “HA!” because what Alice Randall had created was so shocking, with Margaret Mitchell’s “masterpiece” so fresh in my mind.
I can certainly understand why the Mitchell Estate was so opposed to this work’s publication. And I can imagine many GWTW fans physically recoiling from certain aspects of this alternative-Tara universe.
Sure, it’s short. And the use of language is remarkably different as you’ll see from even that brief quote. And the idea of Scarlett having a mixed-race “sister” is, perhaps, surprising. But that’s nothing.
If Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind has put your petticoats in a twist, you’ll have a laugh at Alice Randall’s rebuttal. The kind of laugh that stings a little, but reminds us all just how narrow Scarlett’s view of the world really was.
Have you read this rebuttal? Or have you enjoyed other works which took a second look at another novelist’s creative work?