Thursday, June 12, 2008

That WIND is Back!!!

After an absence of two years or so, Gone With the Wind has made a reappearance in what is known as mass-market (or rack-sized) paperback format.

I’m a long-time GWTW fan and collector, and I hate to say this, but I don’t like it!

There have been many such paperback editions of Gone With the Wind published in the U.S. over the years, and I have most of them – several feature cover-art inspired by the famous film (the familiar “flaming love” motif depicting Rhett Butler/Clark Gable carrying an apparently-subdued Scarlett O’Hara/Vivien Leigh against the background of Atlanta in flames), others artists’ renderings of the characters bearing no resemblance to their film counterparts, and at least two which featured virtually no cover illustrations at all, just the book’s title and author.

The new one features an artists’ rendering of Rhett once again carrying Scarlett, but they’re full-figure this time, although half of Rhett’s head and one-third of Scarlett’s are off-cover – Pocket Books, once again GWTW’s publisher after more than 35 years, apparently wasn’t about to pay this time around to license the Gable/Leigh images from Turner Entertainment (although their 1960s paperbacks featured them). Previous paperback editions published by Pocket ran to 862 pages in length and were 7 ¼ high (the industry standard for paperback for decades) by about 1 ¼ inches thick – some of the editions reprinted by Avon Books from 1973 through 1993 were just shy of two inches thick, and the Warner Books reprint published in 1993 (which used the same 1,024-page pagination as the Avon edition) and recently phased-out was about 1 ¾-inches thick.. Pocket Books brand-new 2008 edition has been printed from newly-set type (well, do they still actually set type?) which expands the book’s pagination to a whopping 1,448 pages! And although at 6 ¾ inches in height it’s shorter than previous editions, it’s girth sets a record – 2 3 /4 inches – wider than any standard hardbound edition of the novel!

So what don’t I like about this new edition? Well, I’m not wild about that cover, for one thing – it’s more appropriate for a historical romance รก la Rosemary Rogers than Margaret Mitchell, and will blend right in with the hundreds of similar covers that still grace many a “bodice-ripper” on store shelves. And somehow the book’s thickness makes it look awkward, almost too short (and it is shorter than the average paperback is these days – height for mass-market paperbacks has become variable these days, depending on the publisher’s whim). And while the thickness of the spine should have made it practical to show the book’s title horizontally, as


with the


they instead turned it on its side so that customers have to twist their necks to read the title (could this be an accommodation to at least one of the major chain bookstores who seem to spine as many books as possible, regardless of thickness, thus discouraging many booklovers from browsing and necessitating a trip to the information desk?). The only plus: Pocket is attempting to depict the book’s title as Margaret Mitchell intended it, with a lower-case “w” for "wind".

There’s some biographical data about Margaret Mitchell inside the front and rear covers on the book which is placed too close to the inner spine of the book to be read comfortably. Worse than that, it contains misinformation! I don’t like sloppy jacket-copy – supposedly there are people whose job it is to make sure that facts are checked inside and outside of a book – we’re informed here that Margaret Mitchell “began work on what her friends called ‘the great American novel.’ She showed the finished manuscript, all 1,037 pages of it, to a visiting New York publisher, and on June 10, 1936, Gone with the Wind was published.” Any fan even casually acquainted with the novel’s history knows that when Mitchell unwillingly presented her novel to Macmillan’s Harold Latham in 1935, it was anything but a “finished manuscript” of "1,037 pages" (which was actually the final page tally of Macmillan’s hardcover edition published over a year later) - he had to buy a suitcase in which to transport the disorganized manuscript, which resided in several manila envelopes that had been known over the years to prop up furniture in the apartments in which Mitchell resided with her husband, John R. Marsh – Latham recalled Mitchell warning him: “You may take it, but it’s incomplete, unrevised, there are several versions of some of the chapters, there is no first chapter. . . I hadn’t any intention of letting you or any publisher see it. I only wrote it for my own entertainment.” And Gone With the Wind’s publication date was June 30th, 1936 – not June 10th.

All of these facts could have been easily verified.

But there’s one more thing that’s very disappointing about this new edition, something I’ve never encountered in any other edition of the book, and it’s perhaps the saddest thing of all: Margaret Mitchell’s simple dedication of Gone With the Wind



has been thoughtlessly omitted.

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