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Pat Conroy Marks 75 Years Of 'Gone With The Wind'

Scarlett O'Hara runs through the street in this image from a 1936 promotional poster for the book <em>Gone With The Wind.</em>
Scarlett O'Hara runs through the street in this image from a 1936 promotional poster for the book <em>Gone With The Wind.</em>

In the spring of 1936, when it was first published, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind was an instant success. Mitchell's book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and in 1939 the film adaptation won eight Academy Awards.

Now Pat Conroy, best-selling author of The Prince Of Tides,has written the introduction to a 75th anniversary commemorative reprinting of the epic American story. He tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly that he's had a lifelong connection with the book.

"When I was 5 years old, my mother read me Gone With The Windat night, before I went to bed," Conroy says. "I remember her reading almost all year."

Conroy also remembers her associating the book's characters with the people in his life, casting Conroy's fighter-pilot father as Rhett Butler and herself as Scarlett O'Hara. He recalls her saying to him, "That Scarlett was a sassy, pretty girl like your mama."

"It was the first time I ever realized there was a relationship ... between art and life," Conroy says.

Conroy's mother was born to a poor Southern family. Conroy says he believes his mother saw in Scarlett an example of "somebody who could be starving in one part of the book ... [but] excite the whole world if things went right and you were cunning enough; if you were clever enough; if you were witty enough and if you were pretty enough."

According to Conroy, his mother was so affected by Gone With The Wind,she changed her middle name to Margaret.

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