In this case, the imitation of ''Gone With the Wind'' does not flatter

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated May 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Gone With the Wind: Selznick/MGM/Kobal Collection

The meteorological conditions may be similar, but there’s a world of atmospheric difference between the words ”gone with the wind” and ”the wind done gone.” The former, appropriated as a book title by author Margaret Mitchell, suggests evanescence, mourning, and loss. The latter, appropriated as a title by author Alice Randall, suggests good riddance to stormy weather in a forthright African American patois.

Mitchell’s novel, first published in 1936, is one of the most popular American books ever written. Randall’s novel, taken to court by heirs to the Mitchell estate, was recently blocked on grounds of copyright infringement: In the words of Atlanta U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, ”The Wind Done Gone” ”constitutes unabated piracy” — rather than the parody Randall and her publisher claim it is, protected under the First Amendment.

It’s likely the satiric aspects of the work will become visible on appeal; ”TWDG” is about as subtle as General Sherman’s torching of Atlanta. But a legally neutral reading reveals a small scale experimental artistic creation far less scorching than the hot air around it. To justify her appropriation of one of the best known English language novels of the 20th century as the base of her artistic guerrilla operation, Randall ought to be able to say more than that the Georgia bred Mitchell’s 1930s style romanticized view of the antebellum South was sadly blinkered. That part we knew.

”The Wind Done Gone” retells and advances the events in ”Gone With the Wind” through the diaries of Cynara, known as Cinnamon or Cindy, whose father is Scarlett’s white plantation owning father and whose mother is Scarlett’s black mammy. The narrator calls her half sister ”Other,” and her ancestral home isn’t Tara but ”Tata.” Rhett Butler, called ”R”, is Cynara’s lover, having left Scarlett. In all, Randall reconfigures 15 characters and several famous scenes. Without knowledge of the original, though, a reader would be pretty well lost, or uninvolved, since the characters have no lives without their ”GWTW” back stories.

Advertisement

Comments