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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/17/2007 Archived Entry: "Book review: Scarlett Rules"

Scarlett Rules: When Life gives you green velvet curtains, make a green velvet dress, and 23 other life lessons inspired by Scarlett O'Hara
By Lisa Bertagnoli
Published in 2006 by Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

You could say that Scarlett O'Hara left a lasting impression on Lisa Bertagnoli of Chicago. When she was sixteen years old, she borrowed a copy of Gone with the Wind from her high school library after her father pointed out a beautiful house on a car trip as the model for Tara, Scarlett's home. She intended to read it between bouts of homework. Three days and no homework later, she finally finished the thousand-plus pages of Margaret Mitchell's magnum opus. Several years later, she still has that copy of Gone with the Wind, never having returned it to the school library. (I hope she donated a new one at her last high school reunion!)

From this lifelong obsession came this little gem of a book, in which Ms. Bertagnoli lists the ways that you too can succeed in life using the lessons she learned from Scarlett. In her introduction, she also echoes my observation about judging a writer by the time in which she writes, not be so quick to judge because she portrays minorities in an unflattering way.

"…readers often make allowances for works of literature that are products of their times: The anti-Semitism in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and the casual use of the "n" word in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn come to mind. I ask readers of Scarlett Rules to make allowances for Gone with the Wind as the product of a Southern-born-and-bred author and her time and place, the Jim Crow South." Okay, now that we have that politically correct bullshit out of the way, let's get on with the review!

These little life lessons are intended to be amusing and informative, so enjoy Ms. Bertagnoli's observations on Scarlett's character and her comparisons to contemporary feminist heroines. She mentions Pamela Harriman, who, like Scarlett, worked her way up in the world by marrying three times, eventually becoming the U.S. ambassador to France and a Democratic party powerhouse. She also compares Scarlett to Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Would Scarlett have been content to hold White House soirees and bake cookies? Not the Scarlett I know. Like Senator Clinton, Scarlett would have made herself a valuable—and visible—advisor to her powerful husband and then gone on to forge her own political career." I'd say she considers Scarlett to be a valuable role model to today's young women, and frankly, my dear, so do I.

The rules are simple, starting with 1, 2, and 3:

1. Pretty Is as Pretty Does (Scarlett Lesson: Put Your Best Foot Forward); Bertagnoli proves that charm trumps looks in the long run.

2. Dress the Part (Scarlett Lesson: Look like a Movie Star!); you don't have to be an actress to dress like one. How to find affordable glamour and wrap yourself in it.

3. Rules Are Meant to Be Broken (Scarlett Lesson: Courtly Manners); proper conduct for the modern woman who wishes to be considered a lady.

And so on throughout the book as we are treated to quotes from GWTW and other relevant literary sources to point out how well Scarlett would have fit in today with her hard-headed determination and business sense, her loyalty and pragmatism toward family and friends. Each rule is explained with a reference to GWTW and how Scarlett would behave in such a situation.

By the way, there is a note on the bottom of the front cover warning that "This book has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by the estate of Margaret Mitchell". Hopefully that will keep the legal vultures at bay, since the Supreme Court ruling in 1984 that public figures do not enjoy protection from parody. As long as none of Ms. Mitchell's heirs takes this little book seriously, its' author should be safe from prosecution. But who would want to sue over a little book that's practically a love letter to Scarlett O'Hara? True, Ms. Bertagnoli does point out Scarlett's faults as well as her strengths: "She married three times and buried two husbands; she bore three children and lost one. She committed murder. She lied, stole, and cheated. She gained love and lost it." But "Through it all, she didn't do what many women would be sorely tempted to do: get drunk, retreat under the covers, jump off a high bridge. Not Scarlett. When life became too much for her to handle, and it often did, Scarlett trotted out the philosophy that has become as iconic as that green velvet dress." Which is, of course, "I'll think about it tomorrow." Which happens to be the final Scarlett Rule, number 24: "Tomorrow Is Another Day."

Don't wait another day to check out this charming book. It's perfect summer reading, something short and sweet to take with you to the beach or park that gives you some good laughs along with some good advice.

Replies: 1 Comment

Too much comment spam closed this entry early.

Posted by Editor @ 05/27/2007 11:37 PM PST

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