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Alaskan Range: Krazy Kat

...Finally, Mitchell's husband brought home a typewriter and told her to write her own novel. She decided to write a romance set during the Civil War, and began with the ending. Mitchell drew upon her family's experiences during the War Between the States, but she also did primary research and fact-checking at the Atlanta Public Library...

And the result of Margaret Mitchell's industrious tappings on the typewriter keyboard was Gone With The Wind.

Ace columnist Greg Hill goes by way of one of the best-selling novels of all time to a leaky library roof.

"Krazy Kat," George Herriman's groundbreaking comic strip ran in all the Hearst Newspapers in the first half of the Twentieth Century, despite being markedly surreal. It's a long-time personal favorite, and that led me to read Don Marquis' "archie and mehitabel." Marquis was a popular columnist in the Twenties who often featured the musings of a cockroach, "archie." The bug supposedly communicated his musings by diving on typewriter keys and couldn't manage the shift key simultaneously.

The "archie" columns were collected in book form in 1927 and became a best-seller, partly because it was illustrated by Herriman, then at the height of his fame. I identify with one of archie's sayings: "Every cloud has its silver lining, but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint." On the one hand, Noel Wien Library's roof leaks, but it certainly heightens public awareness about the aging facility's structural issues.

Margaret Mitchell knew about silver linings. Born into Southern aristocracy in 1900, she was a flapper who scandalized society by becoming one of the first female reporters for the Atlanta Journal until badly injuring her ankle. Mitchell came from an old family and was steeped in local traditions, but she also married early and badly to an abusive alcoholic bootlegger, and then married her first husband's best man, with whom she found true love.

During her lengthy convalescence with her ankle, they had limited income, so her husband, a newspaperman, began bringing her armfuls of books from the Atlanta Public Library to keep her entertained. "Now that reading was her chief diversion," according to Marianne Walker's "Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh: the Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind," "Peggy (Mitchell's nickname) read two or three books in a day, and John had difficulty keeping her supplied with reading material. On his way home from work every evening, he would stop by the library and, trying to remember what she had already read, get more books to take home."

Finally, Mitchell's husband brought home a typewriter and told her to write her own novel. She decided to write a romance set during the Civil War, and began with the ending. Mitchell drew upon her family's experiences during the War Between the States, but she also did primary research and fact-checking at the Atlanta Public Library.

"Gone with the Wind," aka GWTW, was the result in 1936 and sold prodigiously. While not at the level of "Tale of Two Cities" (over 200 million copies sold) or "Lord of the Ring" (150 million), GWTW has reached the respectable 30 to 50 million plateau, behind "The Hite Report" (48 million) and "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (40 million). At 30 million GWTW is tied with "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Valley of the Dolls," and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

None of those mighty tomes, except possibly the latter one, commands the legions of devotees that GWTW possesses. Being the basis for one of the greatest movies ever made didn't hurt. Otherwise it might have ended up closer in popularity to her other book. That's right, Mitchell wrote another novel, titled "Lost Laysen," prior to GWTW. Written when she was sixteen, it was set in the South Pacific, and isn't great literature. It was forgotten when Mitchell gave the manuscript to an early suitor, the well-named Henry Love Angel, when both were enamored teenagers. Angel died in 1945, and his letters from Mitchell, several dozen photos of her, and the "Lost Laysen" manuscript wound up with his son. Mitchell's dying request in 1949 was that all her letters and papers be destroyed, so when the Angel cache of her letters and novel were discovered in a drawer in 1995, it was a major literary event.

Our library owns biographies, satires, spin-offs and critical reviews, and you'll also find the DVD movie, CD soundtrack, "The Making of," "The Art of," and many more. Libraries provide a depth of information unmatched online, except at exorbitant cost. Public libraries are being heavily used during the current economic hard times for job searches, do-it-yourself information, and affordable entertainment. Yet libraries are being closed and reduced all over the country. Sometimes, as Mary Kay Ash put it, "Every silver lining has a cloud."



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