Alice Randall, author of 'The Wind Done Gone'
Alice Randall's latest book is "The Wind Done Gone," a parody of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind." It was scheduled for publication by Houghton Mifflin, but the Mitchell Trusts have petitioned the court to prevent publication, claiming that Randall's book is an infringement of copyright and that the parody would hinder efforts to license more sequels of "Gone With the Wind." Randall joined the CNN.com Chat Room on Friday to discuss her book.
CNN Moderator: What are the main differences between your book and "Gone With the Wind?"
Alice Randall: My book is a parody of "Gone With the Wind." "Gone With the Wind" in certain ways divides the nation into white and black. My book unites the nation. Ultimately, most of the characters in my book turn out to be black, which is a way to make that line invisible. So, my book is a critique of "Gone With the Wind" in the form of a parody.
Question from chat room: What sorts of reactions have you had from readers with respect to your book?
Alice Randall: I've had some wonderful reactions. I've received letters from Maine to Georgia, and phone calls from people in Chicago on a Sunday morning. I received a call from a woman who said she's been waiting all of her life to read this book. By that, I took her to mean that she had been waiting all her life to hear someone rebuke "Gone With the Wind" in printed prose.
CNN Moderator: What is the current status of the legal battle?
Alice Randall: The injunction has been lifted, but the case is still before a court, so I can't really discuss the legal issues.
Question from chat room: Why did you think it should be told through black eyes?
Alice Randall: One, I am a black woman, and I have read "Gone With the Wind" and had something to say about that book. I think it was the time has come for America to understand how an African-American woman, and many African-Americans, view the book that has influenced our country's culture and how we view ourselves as a country.
CNN Moderator: Are you aware of "Jubilee," a well-regarded book that also told the story of a plantation from the slaves' point of view? If so, what do you think of it?
Alice Randall: I haven't read the book, but its author was one of my daughter's great-grandmother's best friends. I remind readers and people that my subject isn't a plantation or slavery, but my subject is the novel "Gone With the Wind." It's not American slavery, it's slavery as it was depicted in "Gone With the Wind."
Question from chat room: All who have seen "Gone with the Wind" can remember the comic portrayal of the slaves. How do you treat that topic in your parody?
Alice Randall: Well, I think those portrayals are poisonous, and I've tried to create an antidote to the poison. Cynerae is the main character, and she's highly intelligent, refined, yet a passionate woman. Mammy and other house servants have complex minds and complex motivations in my novel. As I've said, this is an antidote to the poisonous portrayal of blacks in the first novel, as one-dimensional childlike or animal-like stereotypes.
Question from chat room: Did you or your publisher anticipate a legal battle?
Alice Randall: I can't really speak for them, but I know I didn't anticipate one. I don't think they did.
Question from chat room: How did you react when people thought this book shouldn't be published?
Alice Randall: Well, I don't know how many people didn't think the book should be published, I just know that the Mitchell Trust thought that. In fact, the support for publication of the book has been so extraordinary that I was more touched by that support. There have been people who are upset that I would criticize "Gone With the Wind," but in America, you are allowed to criticize a book.
CNN Moderator: Are you concerned that having "The Wind Done Gone" be a parody of a book detracts from it standing on its own?
Alice Randall: No, I'm not concerned. Parody is an old and honored literary genre. There are great examples in the 18th century. Fielding, one of our greatest writers, wrote a book called "Shamela," which was a parody of Richard Richardson's novel called "Pamela." That is the tradition in which I am working. I'm excited to think that I may be rejuvenating a tradition that some people seem to have forgotten, and think that parody is something that we may see in a comedy sketch on TV, but there were literary parodies long before the television was invented. I think it's obvious to all that have a chance to read my book that it is a serious literary and political work.
Question from chat room: How do you define parody?
Alice Randall: I think anyone who is involved in our chat now has access to many dictionaries and literary works. I won't even attempt to define it, but I'll say that an element of parody is absurdity. Also, an element of parody is exaggeration. Those are two of the elements of parody that are most evidenced in my work. One thing I'd like to note, which is harder to look up, is that the tradition of American parody is vital to the African-American experience. There's a dance called the cakewalk, and it's a dance I allude to in my parody, "The Wind Done Gone." It mocks the dancing of the white folks. It appears to be one thing, and it's another. Parody is very important in the African-American tradition. For those who are wondering about parody and my novel, they should be reminded that my original title was "The Wind Done Gone: A Meaningful Parody." I also use many symbols to alert the reader to different aspects of the parody, including the mention of cakewalks.
Question from chat room: Do you feel that you would have sold the same number of books without the media attention?
Alice Randall: I have no idea. I know that my intention was to write a serious literary novel, a parody that was a critique of "Gone With the Wind." I had no idea how large or small the audience for that work would be. My ambition was artistic, to create something, to make a statement. My ambition was not to sell books, it was to create something, and make a statement. I'm certainly glad that the book finds all the readers it can find.
Question from chat room: I hear you are speaking at the Margaret Mitchell House. How do you justify your appearance?
Alice Randall: I believe in free speech. I believe in cultural dialogue. I believe that we have to be brave, and not just speak to the converted and people who believe like we believe, but that we should make an effort to have a dialogue with as many people as possible. It won't be easy for me to do, but I'll do it. It's important to do the hard, right thing.
Question from chat room: Can you comment on the sequel aspects of "The Wind Done Gone," since you did take the actions of the characters beyond the story of "Gone With The Wind"?
Alice Randall: My book is not a sequel, and I have given no thought to any additional book with this novel right now. But my book is not a sequel.
Question from chat room: Where did you find the best resources for research for the book?
Alice Randall: The best resource was my own mind. I was dealing with my response to a text, portraying my response to a text. I'm a person who reads a great deal about the history and literature of the United States in general. We have floor to ceiling bookshelves in many rooms of our house.
Question from chat room: "Gone With the Wind" was written in the early part of the last century? How can it compare to modern times?
Alice Randall: It was written in the early part of the century, but many of the ideas that it puts forth influence us to this day. One of the ideas that troubles me most greatly is the notion of black intellectual inferiority. "Gone With the Wind" suggests that blacks are inherently intellectually inferior and different. In my book, "The Wind Done Gone," Cynerae's very words argue that blacks can be brilliant and insightful, and intellectually competent. I think all too unfortunately, the myth of black intellectual inferiority haunts us to this day. That is the myth perpetuated by "Gone With the Wind."
Question from chat room: To what degree do you think "Gone With the Wind" represents a revisionist version of the Civil War?
Alice Randall: I think "Gone With the Wind" represents a point of view. I think "Gone With the Wind" in fact is more significantly understood as propaganda for the perpetuation of Jim Crow segregation that existed in the 1930s. It's more about that than it is about the Civil War. It's as much about what the future should be, than what the past is. And that is why it's so important to take the novel on.
CNN Moderator: Are you working on any other projects?
Alice Randall: I have started a second novel. I've been profoundly distracted by it with all this hullabaloo, but I do plan to get back to it.
Question from chat room: Any chance that "The Wind Done Gone" will be made into its own sweeping movie?
Alice Randall: I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?
Alice Randall: My novel is about freedom. Cynerae's freedom to love and think. Writing it was an exercise of my freedom. I hope readers will enjoy reading it, as an exercise of their freedom. I hope it can keep a lot of people company in their celebration of Independence Day, the Fourth of July. I invite everybody to adopt Cynerae as a part of their family, white and black. She belongs to us all, and I hope she unifies us all.
CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Alice Randall
Alice Randall: Thank you. It was wonderful to be online with you all. Thank you for inviting me.
Alice Randall joined the chat room via telephone from New York and CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Friday, June 22, 2001 at 11:30 a.m. EDT.
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