LIANE HANSEN, host:
Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the publication of Gone With The Wind. There were celebrations in Atlanta to mark the event. Lisa Bertagnoli was introduced to Margaret Mitchell's classic when she was 16 years old and since then the belle of Tara, Scarlett O'Hara, has been her muse. Bertagnoli has just published Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress, and 23 Other Life Lessons Inspired by Scarlett O'Hara. We reached her in Atlanta. Welcome to the program.
Ms. LISA BERTAGNOLI (Author): Thank you, it's great to be here.
HANSEN: The Scarlett O'Hara who inspires you is the Scarlett of Margaret Mitchell's book and not the movie. What's the difference?
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Oh, there's a huge difference, and the biggest difference is pointed out in the first line of the book: Scarlett O'Hara wasn't beautiful. Whereas Vivian Leigh, who portrayed Scarlett in the movie, was drop-dead gorgeous. So, there are legions of people who associate Scarlett with Vivian Leigh when in fact Scarlett wasn't beautiful and that was one of the key figures of her personality. She wasn't beautiful, but she was charming and she was stubborn and she had a lot of other qualities that made up for her not being beautiful.
HANSEN: Let's start with those velvet curtains. What wisdom is there for the contemporary woman?
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Resourcefulness. If you have a problem, use what you have on hand to solve it. That scene in the book is really a little textbook example of problem solving. Scarlett identified her problem. She needed one dress. When she decided that she needed that one dress, she was sitting in a chair in the parlor at Tara, which had been turned into a sick room for the soldiers. She got up and she moved to the windows, so she changed her perspective on the problem. Then she saw the drapes, realized they were fabric. Fabric can be made into a dress, there's her solution. And then when Mammie said, oh no, you can't do that, Scarlett said, oh yes I can, and down came the drapes. She didn't let anybody deter her from finding the solution to her problem, and I think that in a nutshell is a perfect lesson for men and women on how to solve problems.
HANSEN: What do you mean for men?
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Oh, Scarlett Rules, you know, it's a very pink book and I think you might call it chick lit and it's certainly based on a female character, but I think there are a lot of lessons in this book that can apply to men as well, and that's one of them, solve problems, be resourceful.
HANSEN: Give us some other ones.
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Live in the moment. I think for both men and women we have to-do lists that are a mile long, and even if the sun is shining and it's the first nice spring day, we think, oh no, I have to clean out the garage, I have to cut the grass, I have to do this, I have to do that. What Scarlett is saying, live in the moment, forget it. Go out and enjoy the day. The grass will still be long, the garage will still be messy tomorrow. Do it tomorrow.
HANSEN: Scarlett O'Hara was an imperfect character. I mean, much of the book is taken up with her lust for Ashley Wilkes, even when it was no longer appropriate. She let it get in the way of her own life. She manipulated people to get what she wanted. She stole her sister's fiancé and married him herself. She was very, very self-involved. So she was a person of both strengths and weaknesses. What was some of the weaknesses that we can then learn from?
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Her biggest weakness was that she persisted in thinking that Ashley, who's actually kind of a jerk, was some knight in shining armor, who if she could only get with him, her life would be perfect. For that love of Ashley, she sacrificed her friendship with Melanie, the only woman in the book who really liked her. She sacrificed her relationship with Rhett Butler, her soulmate, she sacrificed so much for this illusion of Ashley, and if she could've just stepped back and really thought about the things that Ashley said to her, really thought about what he did, he married Melanie, he had a child with her, her life would've been so much different. Yet she stuck to this illusion and I think that's something a lot of people do today. They hang onto the idea of a person or a thing, not willing to face the reality of that person or thing.
Scarlett, she wasn't perfect. She's like a lot of people. She was a multi-faceted character. We can learn so much from what she did right and what she did wrong. And I think that's why she resonates with people today.
HANSEN: Lisa Bertagnoli is the author of Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress. We reached her in Atlanta, where celebrations are held this weekend to mark the 70th anniversary publication of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel, Gone With The Wind. Lisa, thank you very much.
Ms. BERTAGNOLI: Oh, thank you.
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