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.
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