Tag: Literary gossip

The Death of Ross Lockridge, Jr.: Fear and Loathing in Raintree County

Seldom has a book been published to more frenzied anticipation than Raintree County, a story of a man remembering his life, one touched by a troubled marriage, insanity, and the Civil War. Told through flashbacks, utilizing a kind of personal mythology, philosophy, poetry, and incandescent prose, it has been an unofficial contender for the Great American Novel ever since. (It is also remembered for the movie version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.) When it hit the stands in January 1948, it had already outsold its first printing, garnered stellar reviews, and won a prize from MGM for $150,000 (over a million in today’s money). Eight weeks later it was declared a number one bestseller. The day after, its author, thirty-three year old Ross Lockridge, Jr., killed himself.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1914, Lockridge grew up with a strong belief in his own destiny. In high school he was good looking, charismatic, and driven. He studied the classics in France for two years before graduating from the University of Indiana with the highest grade point average the school had ever seen.

He was about to join the university’s English department when his life changed after a badly misjudged show of bravado. [read more]

Vintage Gossip: Margaret Mitchell, One-Hit Wonder Publishes Gone With the Wind This Week in 1936

This week, in 1936, the novel Gone With the Wind was published. Love it or hate it, the book boasts an impressive 1,383,000 copies sold in its first year and over 30 million copies since, more than any other book besides the Bible. It won its author, Margaret Mitchell, a Pulitzer Prize in 1937, and made her very, very wealthy. Also very miserable. When she wailed that she regretted ever having published, she meant it and she never wrote again, not so much as a grocery list.

She was a Georgia belle of the old school, an ardent flirt adhering to an inflexible set of manners that would have made Ellen O’Hara proud. It was only when Mitchell’s abusive first husband refused to work that she, to the dismay of her neighbors, walked into the offices of the Atlanta Constitution and demanded a job. She covered the city’s society page for years until she became bedridden with a rheumatic ankle. Out of boredom she began a novel that she would work on for the next ten years.

Its contents were a secret to everyone, even her second husband, but rumors got out and when a publisher came to Atlanta looking for [read more]