Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell

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9780195052763: Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind is an American phenomenon. Arguably the most popular American novel of all time, it sold over a million copies in its first six months (in the heart of the Depression), won a Pulitzer Prize for its author, and more remarkable still, returned to the New York Times Best Seller list fifty years after its first appearance. Crowning its glory, David O. Selznick transformed the novel into one of the great films of all time, lifting its characters--especially the unforgettable Scarlett O'Hara and her lover-antagonist Rhett Butler--to the pinnacle of American popular culture.
Now, in Southern Daughter, Darden Pyron provides an absorbing biography of Margaret Mitchell, the author of this American classic. In a solidly researched, sprightly narrative informed by a deep knowledge of Southern culture, Pyron reveals a woman of unconventional beauty, born into one of Atlanta's most prominent families, and imbued from childhood with tales of the Civil War. Mitchell was a rebellious child, an independent woman who wanted a career and not a family (children made her wince), and a Catholic who defiantly left the Church, divorced her first husband, Red Upshaw (a ne'er-do-well and sometime bootlegger), and married John Marsh (who had been Upshaw's best man). Fans of Gone With the Wind will find several chapters in Southern Daughter that trace how these elements in Mitchell's biography made their way into her fiction, including the most surprising identity for the fictional Rhett Butler. As a further surprise to most Americans who know only the film version of Gone With the Wind, Pyron reveals how Mitchell intended her book as a repudiation of the then popular "moonlight on the magnolias" genre of Civil War romance. Equally interesting is his portrait of Mitchell after the novel's success: the incredible flood of letters (in the 13 years before her death, Mitchell wrote at least ten thousand letters, an astonishing number of which ran pages and pages); the filming of Gone With the Wind, whose script ultimately required seventeen writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ben Hecht; and the lavish film premier in Atlanta.
Whether describing Mitchell's earliest writing (such as The Cow Puncher and Phil Kelley, Detective, in which she played Zara the female crook), or discussing her final years, which were marred by constant pain and illness, wrangles with agents and publisher, and her increasing affection for litigation, this perceptive, sympathetic, and engagingly written biography illuminates the life of a major writer and the book she created, a work peopled with characters who still loom large in the American imagination.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
Darden Asbury Pyron is Professor of History at Florida International University.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Pyron (History/Florida International Univ.) offers a compelling portrait of the spirited, complex author of Gone With the Wind, a perceptive psychological analysis of the novel, and an examination of the work's changing critical fortunes as the South has become transformed during the past half century. Pyron takes a while to gain momentum as she details Mitchell's aristocratic Atlantan heritage, her forebears, and her early childhood. But once Mitchell takes the spotlight as a wild, beautiful, talented, and witty young woman, the reader is swept right along through the ensuing hundreds of pages. There emerges a fascinating portrait of a woman who contained, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, contradictory multitudes. She was repelled by sex but relished pornography. She was a gentleborn Atlanta deb, yet in her job for the Atlanta Journal she loved drinking the boys under the table and fearlessly entered the worst prisons and neighborhoods in the town. She was intensely private (Gone With the Wind was written in furiously guarded secrecy), and yet after the book's publication she answered every fan letter herself, a monumental outpouring of correspondence that prevented her from ever having the time or energy for fiction again. The Cinderella transformation of an obscure fledgling novelist into a superstar of a magnitude incredible even in this day of hype makes riveting reading. The scope of Pyron's book is enormous, ranging from the intimate- -Mitchell's deeply ambivalent relationship with her feminist mother that lay at the heart of Gone With the Wind--to the global--the intense responses to the book from people all over the world who saw in Mitchell's depiction of the throes of the Confederacy an image of their own struggles in WW II and its aftermath. Cyclonic--and it couldn't be more timely, with the publication of the sequel to Mitchell's classic just around the corner. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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