Gone With the Wind & the Books That Shaped America

Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War-era novel Gone With the Wind was published on this day in 1936. The only one of her works to be published in her lifetime, the book was an instant success, earning Mitchell critical recognition and remaining a national bestseller for two years.

Much to our delight, Gone With the Wind is also included in a new exhibition that opened on June 25 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is called “Books That Shaped America,” and it aims to

spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives . . . Some of the titles on display have been the source of great controversy, even derision, in U.S. history. Nevertheless, they shaped Americans’ views of the world and the world’s views of America.

Here’s what the Library of Congress has to say about Gone With the Wind:

The most popular romance novel of all time was the basis for the most popular movie of all time (in today’s dollars). Margaret Mitchell’s book, set in the South during the Civil War, won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and it remains popular, despite charges that its author had a blind eye regarding the horrors of slavery.

Looking more closely at the exhibition’s list of books, we are very pleased to see many whose authors have appeared on U.S. postage stamps, including three (!) authors from the 2012 stamp program: poets Gwendolyn Brooks and William Carlos Williams, and Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. From the exhibition website:

  • Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville (1945)

“A Street in Bronzeville” was Brooks’s first book of poetry. It details, in stark terms, the oppression of blacks in a Chicago neighborhood. Critics hailed the book, and in 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was also appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in 1985.

  • William Carlos Williams, Spring and All (1923)

A practicing physician for more than 40 years, William Carlos Williams became an experimenter, innovator and revolutionary figure in American poetry. In reaction against the rigid, rhyming format of 19th-century poets, Williams, his friend Ezra Pound and other early-20th-century poets formed the core of what became known as the “Imagist” movement. Their poetry focused on verbal pictures and moments of revealed truth, rather than a structure of consecutive events or thoughts and was expressed in free verse rather than rhyme.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914)

“Tarzan of the Apes” is the first in a series of books about the popular man who was raised by and lived among the apes. With its universal themes of honesty, heroism and bravery, the series has never lost popularity. Countless Tarzan adaptations have been filmed for television and the silver screen, including an animated version currently in production.

Mark Twain, whose stamp was issued in 2011, is also included in the exhibition. “Books That Shaped America” will be on view through September 29. The Gwendolyn Brooks and William Carlos Williams stamps were issued in April 2012 as part of the Twentieth-Century Poets stamps pane and are still available. The Edgar Rice Burroughs stamps will be issued on August 17, 2012, in Tarzana, California.

Anyone want to start a stamp subjects book club?!

Gone with the Wind TM, its characters and elements are trademarks of Turner Entertainment Company and the Stephens Mitchell Trusts.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.