Maybe it’s Because of Winn Dixie

I’m reading Gone with the Wind again for what is somewhere between the fourth or seventh time. It seems that anytime I am between books, unsure what to read next, or feeling unsettled, I turn (second to my Bible) to that enormous novel for no better reason than that it is a darn good story.

But my relationship with Gone with the Wind has grown to run deeper than just loving its tale of hard times, moral dilemma, and, of course, gumption. I first read Gone with the Wind as a stressed-out sophomore in high school. I saw its spine in the school’s library and, although my Kaplan AP study guide glared reproachfully at me, I could not resist cracking it open and reading its first page.

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Talk about an intriguing opening line! In it, Margaret Mitchell’s beautifully direct yet alluring voice is already clear and called me to continue deeper into the story of Miss O’Hara. And, though AP exams were looming, I rationed out a chapter each night in the copy that now is bedraggled and overread and never far from my bedside table.

My freshman year of college drove me back beneath the covers of Gone with the Wind. Once more, the story swept me away and restored my own sense of gumption. Like Scarlett, I was able to “square my small shoulders” and boldly face the world. Again and again, each spring semester I found myself returning to Tara and Atlanta and the fascinating courtship of Scarlett and Rhett Butler.

Once I began traveling internationally, I downloaded a Kindle edition so that I could continue my annual reread. The novel has been a constant as I’ve flown around Europe, studied in the UK, and hopped between Southern California and Arizona during long, uneventful summers. Now, it is keeping me company during a grueling layover in Amsterdam as I head to Scotland to begin my postgraduate studies.

In reflection, I’ve known and loved Gone with the Wind far longer than I even realized; in fact, you might say that I was introduced to it through a mutual friend. At a party a week ago, I was suddenly anxious. There were too many people, too many colors, too much noise. And I had too much to do, too many unfinished chores and unpacked cases waiting at home. I wanted to sink through the floor and cry. But then I found, nestled on a bookshelf, a copy of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie and felt the tension diffuse as if I’d sighted a dear friend with whom I could enjoy comfortable silence even amidst the chaos of the party.

So I sat down and, as I did many years ago, began to read. Opal and Winn Dixie and the Preacher greeted me with welcome arms and I felt companionship in their worries and homesickness. And as I read on, I remembered that in the pages of this children’s story, I was first introduced to the novel that has come to dominate my adult reading life.

Reading Because of Winn Dixie, now and as a child, brought a sense of calm when I needed it most and, I think, planted the seed that eventually led me to Gone with the Wind. So I suppose all this is really a thank-you letter of sorts— to Margaret Mitchell, for her epic novel, and to Kate DiCamillo, for introducing us. Dear authors, your words have been friends to me in so many places and stages; I only hope to inspire others to read them and, one day, to have my own stories shelved beside them.

 

Re-re-re-reading

I just finished reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind for the fourth(?) time, though, honestly, I’ve probably read parts of that book three times, parts of it six. I just can’t seem to stay away from it and end up rereading at least half of it every late spring/early summer. Whatever the exact number, I can say with certainty that there is deep and personal value to rereading a book with this regularity.

Reading #1: I read it mostly for the story and to escape what still was the most stressful semester of my life (though by now I have handled far worse).  Click the link below for my original reaction (minus some of the crying). I actually credit this book with inspiring me to start this blog in the first place!

https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/gone-with-the-wind/

Reading #2: Also read mostly for the story, but after my first year of college and living away from home, it felt good to return to something familiar. As soon as I moved back home for the summer, I baked muffins and had to make up some of the ingredients, so I decided I could rebrand them as “Melanie’s Muffins.” (recipe/post at link below)

https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/melanies-lemon-berry-muffins/

Reading #3: I was lazy and wrote nothing, but I folded the corners of one in every ten pages because I had a paper idea and was gathering evidence. (Please don’t berate me for abusing my book like this…sometimes an idea strikes and sticky notes are too far away to save the poor top corners.) After now two years of the honors institute at my university, I was reading on a new level and beginning to make connections I still find fascinating to ponder.

Reading #4: Very little reading was done, but I skimmed some of my favorite parts and carried the now-worn paperback around with me for a couple weeks as a shield against end-of-term stress. I did bring it to a pool party, though, where a friend borrowed it and left me to grouchily wish I had not been so generous (below).

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Reading #4.5: I actually read all of it this time. I even caved and bought a Kindle copy so I could read it on the plane to Ireland, justifying the purchase by telling myself that the O’Haras were Irish so it was only fitting. This time, I could not stop thinking of paper ideas… Grad school, I’m coming for you!

Beyond the intriguing literary ideas I unearthed through several re-readings, though, I was interested to see my growth as both a reader and a person reflected in my reading. The first time I read for fun, the second for comfort, the third for insight, the fourth(ish) for development of these ideas. Similarly, as a person I have stepped out of my comfort zone, have found the joy of investigating new ideas and places, and now have the joy of looking back and seeing the development I underwent along the way.

I do not reread many novels, though I know in my literary heart that I should. However, having this one novel to return to over and over again has been wonderful and I know this will not be my last rereading. Just as Scarlet returns to Tara to reconnect with her past and plan for her future, I have been comforted and inspired by this fourth(ish) rereading.

To those of you out there who have never read this book, GO READ IT. And to those of you who have never reread a book, either choose one or find one worth reading once and then again. (Shoot me a message and I’d be happy to help you out!)

Melanie’s Lemon-Berry Muffins

It seems that every year around the beginning of summer I reread or at least skim parts of Gone with the Wind. I even venture to take the 959-page tome into the pool, to the horror of bookworm friends who doubt my ability to keep from dropping it into the water. (Seriously, people, I am an expert. Any girl who can ride a bike or swim laps while reading can easily sit still on a floaty without turning Gone with the Wind into Drowned in the Water.)

Anyways, because of this annual revisit to Georgia through the words of Margaret Mitchell, I have come to associate GWtW with the start of summer. You know what else I associate with summer? Baking. Having been away at college where the closest thing to baking was microwaving a cookie in the caf, I have a lot of recipes to catch up on. That said, upon finishing GWtW, it seemed fitting to mourn Scarlett’s fate and to celebrate the beginning of summer with a yummy treat. Plus, I had a ginormous carton of strawberries that were going to go bad. So, I found a recipe and – as usual- did not follow it,  instead creating a delicious and actually rather healthy summer snack. In the interest of relating this recipe to literature, I shall call them “Melanie’s Lemon-Berry Muffins.” They are as sweet as Melanie with their strawberry savor and as sassy as Scarlett with their lemon twang, making them perfect for afternoon tea or a neighborhood barbecue. (Boom. I can relate anything to a book if I try hard enough. Convincing, right? 😉 )

So here’s the recipe! Enjoy!

Melanie’s Lemon-Berry Muffins

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  1. Gather your ingredients: 
    • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup cane sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 egg
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1 cup pureed bananas (about 2 bananas)
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp. lemon zest (I just guessed- I have no idea how much made it into the bowl but it does not matter that much)
    • 5-7 drops lemon essential oil (I use Young Living, but any is fine)
    • 2 cups chopped strawberries
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line cupcake pans
  3. Combine flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and mix.
  4. Whisk egg, milk, bananas, lemon juice, and vanilla together in a smaller bowl.
  5. Pour liquid ingredients into flour mix and stir thoroughly
  6. Fold in lemon zest and strawberries
  7. Spoon into baking cups and bake for 19-21 minutes
  8. Enjoy while reading Gone with the Wind 😉

*This yields approximately 20-24 muffins depending on how full you want them.

A Bookish take on New Years Resolutions

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As with every new year, we find ourselves drafting lists of resolutions. Eat healthier. Wake up early. Finish that novel. Run. Get to know that person. Keep your room clean. Practice daily. We all know these resolutions and, more likely than not, we’ve all broken them. Every year it seems we make the same sort of resolutions and the disappointing pattern becomes- well- dull. Perhaps it is time we made some different resolutions and, since, coming up with them can be a struggle, I’ve managed to poll our favorite literary characters for input. (How, you ask? Well I have all of these characters on speed-dial, clearly.) Maybe this year is the year to make a resolution inspired by the wisdom of literary legends, and- who knows?- maybe this will be the year where you’ll finally keep your resolution to the end!

 

 “What is your top New Year’s Resolution?” as answered by our favorite literary characters: 

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” –Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley: Cherish dear friends and make new ones.

 

“There is a stubbornness in me that can never bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises above any attempt to intimidate me.” –Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet: Be less concerned with the opinions of others.

 

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. I must tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” –Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Share feelings honestly and respectfully.

 

“My mind…rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis…I crave for mental exaltation.” –Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four

Sherlock Holmes: Be ever curious and value opportunities to learn.

 

“Courage is knowing you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” –To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch: Persevere despite all challenges.

 

“Tomorrow is another day.” –Gone with the Wind

Scarlett O’Hara: Don’t dwell on the failures of the day; tomorrow brings another chance.

 

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” –Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre: Appreciate freedom and enjoy independence.

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea- any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!” –The Hobbit

Bilbo Baggins: Be more open to adventures.

“My principal sin is doubt. I doubt everything, and am in doubt most of the time.” –Anna Karenina

Konstantin Levin: Let go of self-doubt.

 

What’s my resolution? My answer is “all of the above.” Happy New Year everyone! Let’s make this an exciting chapter in our lives!

Romeo is not Romance

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I was perusing Pinterest this afternoon and came across this nifty picture. Seeing that it included classic books, I stopped my mindless scrolling, looked through it, and nearly shouted aloud.

No.

No.

No!!! No. No. NO. N.O. No.

What was so frustrating about this pin? Well, first of all is the fact that it lists Nicholas Sparks alongside Shakespeare, which is like creating a playlist of music that includes Miley Cyrus and Beethoven; it is not okay. (Nobody wants to be interrupted by “Wrecking Ball” between movements of “Sonata Pathetique”!)

Secondly, many of these books are not love stories! Aside from Nicholas Sparks and several others which I have not read, these books, although they center on romantic relationships, were not written to be advertised as “The Greatest Love Stories of All Time”! Rather, their authors used romantic relationships, usually FAILED romantic relationships at that, to communicate other concepts. I have serious doubts as to whether the creator of this pin read anything beyond the synopsis paragraphs, and if he/she did, I am begging him/her to reread them with a little more mental effort. Please, for the sake of literature nerds everywhere and for the authors who are turning over in their graves as I write. Sure, these novels may appear to be love stories, but…

(warning, spoilers)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Failed loved triangle, lust wins over love, the only true love comes from a dying woman whose husband is nearly unfaithful to her. Also romantic gold.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Anna commits adultery, abandons her husband and child, and ultimately throws herself under a train in a realization of her guilt. Practically flowers and chocolate.

Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare: Two angsty teenagers kill themselves after a forbidden

Pretty sure this is what Shakespeare was thinking... :P
Pretty sure this is what Shakespeare was thinking… 😛

marriage. I don’t even have a snarky comment. This is tragedy, pure and simple.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby’s love for Daisy is a representation of his desire for acceptance by the “Old Money” of society, so if wealth and envy are synonymous with love, then certainly this is a love story. Who cares if the lovers actually end up together, right?

Okay, so now that I have relieved myself through sarcasm, I will admit that this list is not completely wrong. Some of these books are quite adorable and “loverly.” Jane Eyre had a warm, fuzzy resolution, The Princess Bride is a romantic romp, and I can’t deny that Pride and Prejudice is delightful. (Who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy?) However, I wish that readers would exercise more discernment; a pair (or triangle) of lovers does not imply a romance, just as a death does not mean a tragedy. Books are much more than an “adventure” or “mystery” or, in this case, a “love story” and we have a duty as readers to study the masterpieces of these authors with a mind that can see beyond the surface and ponder the deeper implications of the seemingly straight-forward plots.

Granted, even if it isn’t a love story, I’d venture to say that it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

Apologies if you liked Twilight. I haven’t read it, but it was such a fitting end to this post! 😉