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Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind:…
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Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey…

by Ellen F. Brown

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Excellent work about the life of the novel and author. ( )
  JeffreyMarks | Jul 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was amazing! I wished I wouldn't have waited so long to read it. This is the engrossing story of how a national bestseller was made. I adore Gone With the Wind, and I found the process of how it was created enthralling. I never would have guessed that a book about the publishing and management of a book's copyright could keep me up until 3 in the morning. Margaret Mitchell created an American classic in Gone With the Wind, a book that if not everyone has read, most nearly everyone knows the reference or has seen the film. Mitchell did not publish any other books, and after reading this I understand why.

Margaret Mitchell wanted desperately to remain a private person in the midst of a bestselling juggernaut. She and her husband went to great lengths to insure her privacy and the protection of her literary masterpiece. Having unwillingly been thrust into the public spotlight at one time myself, I felt a great empathy and kinship with the Margaret Mitchell of this book. She and her husband suffered poor health, yet were the subject of gossip, intellectual theft, and the machinations of greedy people through the wonderful story she created.

One of the aspects of the book I found particularly intriguing was the problems of international copyright - especially during World War II. I was troubled by how little an author's intellectual property is respected in other countries. Mitchell and her husband's efforts to protect her novel were fascinating, yet troubling. I've seen some foreign covers for famous books which appear to be poorly made and the cover having absolutely nothing to do with the novel, and it all makes sense after reading this book. She and her husband were definitely ahead of their time in trying to protect their property.

Mitchell also was ahead of her time when fighting for quality printing. She fought for better bindings and paper on several occasions. I find this admirable, being a book collector myself. Granted, she had the clout to do so, but this is a very pressing problem. I imagine many don't see it since we apparently are supposed to read only e-books, but I adore the paper book for many reasons and for a play on a famous Charlton Heston quote "you have to pry it from my cold, dead hands."

Having not heard of Mitchell's tragic end and the fallout from it, I found it particularly distressing after I felt so much a part of their world during the reading of this book. After Mitchell and her husband's deaths, the path of the rights of the novel was fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The quest for a sequel and commercialization were fairly recent additions to the Gone With the Wind story. I read Alexandra Ripley's Scarlett, which I found out of character with the original book and coarse. I couldn't bring myself to read Rhett's People, having been so disappointed with Scarlett. The rights were supposed to travel through the family, but Mitchell's brother gave them to his law partners. In the past 20 years or so, Gone With the Wind has been so highly commercialized, I find it sad. Mitchell clearly did not want sequels or film adaptations, yet that is clearly what the estate is doing today. They seem more interested in making money than protecting the story Margaret Mitchell and her husband fought so hard for so many years to protect.

I found this book a wonderful tale of a surprise bestseller as well as a tale about what happens to someone who becomes an unwitting celebrity. Brown and Wiley created a very readable book that was very well researched and plotted out to perfection. I was drawn into Mitchell's world and followed her along the path from relative unknown reporter to superstar author. This is the best book I've read in a while, and I never thought I would find such delight in a book about a book. This one is definitely staying in my library, for it is a fascinating tale of love, money, war, and intrigue. What more could you ask from a classic American success story? ( )
1 vote mandymarie20 | Feb 23, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One of my favorite books (and favorite movies) is Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. I’m not alone in my opinion, it seems - GWTW is thought to be one of the ten most widely read books in the world, right up there with The Bible and Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code.

It’s hard to believe that such a popular book was the author’s first and only novel, but as Ellen Brown and John Wiley Jr. explain in their new book – which is not so much a biography of Mitchell as of GWTW itself – the instant bestseller proved to be such a behemoth that it dominated Mitchell’s time and energy for decades. From the beginning, Mitchell was under pressure; her manuscript was in disarray and it very nearly missed its publication date. A brilliant marketing campaign by Macmillan, her American publisher, created an insatiable demand for GWTW. The book’s popularity was on a scale unprecedented in the industry, but with critical acclaim came voracious fans and never-ending requests for Mitchell’s time. Worse still, copyright protection laws for American authors in foreign countries were weak or nonexistent, and Mitchell and her family (first her husband and later her brother, too) constantly fought to protect the author’s work.

This book is fascinating. Although I knew that I liked GWTW, I never realized the huge impact the book had on how books are marketed and distributed. The Mitchell Estate has been a powerhouse in protecting the rights of authors both in America and overseas, whether they were chasing down rogue publishers printing pirated copies of the novel or stopping the production of unauthorized sequels and merchandise. GWTW is not just a novel, it’s an entire industry – and I had no idea.

Reading about Margaret Mitchell’s life after the novel was released really highlights the American obsession with celebrity. She disliked public speaking, and absolutely refused to go on speaking tours or make public speeches. (Can you imagine a first-time author refusing such publicity today?) She had great respect for her fans, and endeavored to answer each letter she received (sometimes dozens or hundreds each day) – if anyone wants to know why a second novel never appeared, I’d blame the mountain of correspondence. Although some of her choices might come across as ungrateful – at one point she decided that she would cease to sign books, and stuck to the decision for the rest of her life – the book also reveals just how detrimental the attention was to her health, and how completely her story took over both her life and her husband’s.

But I found the second half of the book even more interesting. It covers the history of GWTW after Mitchell’s death, when management of the Mitchell Estate passed to her husband, her brother, and ultimately to a group of lawyers who continue to defend the work today. The book has never gone out of print, largely to the careful management and marketing that continues today. I’m left wondering if the book would have experienced the same longevity and success if the movie hadn’t been such a hit. If the author hadn’t worked so vigilantly to protect the book in overseas market, would the copyright laws be in their present state or would they still be as weak as they were in the 1930s-50s?

It feels strange to call this the “biography of a book” but that’s essentially what Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is. If you’re a fan of the original novel, or if you’re interested in the publishing world, it’s a fascinating study of one book’s impact on an author’s life, on an industry, and on the world. ( )
1 vote makaiju | Dec 30, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have finally gotten back to this interesting biography of the book and the entire GWTW story from the very begining. It makes me want to watch the movie again and read the original novel. I didn't know much about Margaret Mitchell before reading this book, but I have gained insight into how writing a best seller impacted her life; somewhat sad, in this case. Margaret Mitchell was a contemporay of my mothers, the same age group. I still remember my mom telling me about going to see the movie when it first came to the screen. The reader will find the biography of GWTW to be very interesting and knowledgeable. ( )
  JaneAustenNut | Nov 20, 2012 |
I am a huge fan of Gone With the Wind (hereinafter referred to as "GWTW") and that is putting it lightly. Once I heard about this book I knew that I had to read it. I loved that this book wasn't merely a biography of Margaret Mitchell yet a biography of GWTW itself. From the beginning when Mitchell first started writing the book until now, it covers everything to do with the book. Some reviewers mentioned that they found some parts about the copyright laws a bit dry but I found it fascinating. Maybe that is just because I love reading about the law and different legal topics though.

This is definitely a quintessential book to read for fans of both the book and the movie. ( )
  dpappas | Oct 27, 2012 |
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Book description
Brown and co-author John Wiley, Jr., present the first comprehensive overview of how Mitchell’s iconic novel became an international phenomenon that has managed to sustain the public’s interest for 75 years. Various Mitchell biographies and several compilations of her letters tell part of the story, but, until now, no single source has revealed the full saga. This entertaining account of a literary and pop culture phenomenon tells how Gone With the Wind was developed, marketed, distributed, and otherwise groomed for success in the 1930s - and the savvy measures taken since then by the author, her publisher, and her estate to ensure its longevity.
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Documents the cultural importance of Margaret Mitchell's famous novel, discussing the writing process, reception by the publishing industry, numerous authorized and unauthorized translations, and the iconic film adaptation.

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