Every now and then I’m reminded that I haven’t read Gone With the Wind.
It’s certainly not the only classic I’ve missed. But when other women — my Southern sisters, especially — learn of this particular shortcoming, I typically hear a passionate gasp, delivered with the sort of drama I imagine honors Scarlett O’Hara herself.
Even worse to some: I haven’t seen the movie, either.
I know enough to get by. I know that Scarlett, out of desperation, fashions a gown from green drapes and that in the film Clark Gable delivers the ultimate break-up line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
The latest reminder of my literary and film omission came during a recent Twitter conversation with friends, some of whom were quoting the movie.
That late-night virtual exchange renewed my interest in the novel. This is the year, I’ve decided with conviction, that I will read Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, a copy of which I bought three years ago, when I was feeling similarly uneducated. I’ll reward myself after with the movie.
Gone With the Wind is one of my measurable goals for 2012.
Another also involves reading, and this one has a deadline.
I plan to reread as much of the Judy Blume anthology as possible before April 19, when the beloved children’s author will be in Dallas to speak. When I think of all the events I’ve got planned this year, Judy Blume’s engagement ranks near the top.
(Typical writing style would dictate that I call her “Blume” after the first reference, but I’ve called her “Judy Blume” in one breath almost my whole life, and I don’t plan to stop now.)
If you tell me you haven’t read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, prepare for a passionate, dramatic gasp. Same goes for Blubber and Deenie and Superfudge.
(I will spare you my exaggerated disdain if you haven’t read her more recent series, the Pain and the Great One. Neither have I, though they’re on my to-read list.)
Judy Blume was the hip, soulful, empathetic parent we all longed for. Her stories of childhood and adolescence answered our questions and gave us fodder for whispered conversations with friends. (None more so than Wifey, which we all knew was written for our moms but we stealthily read anyway.)
I learned about Adolf Hitler and the dangers of jellyfish off the coast of Miami in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.
Blubber spoke to my fears of the school bus and being bullied in general. In fact, I never was bullied — in part, I believe, because I was on guard after being warned by Judy Blume.
For months after reading It’s Not the End of the World, I would assign a grade to my day, always seeking the elusive A+, just like Karen.
And Margaret. Dear Margaret. The sixth-grader who introduced me to exercises that allegedly increase bust size and the horror of 1970s feminine hygiene products.
Beyond the puberty angle, which garners most of the attention, Judy Blume helped to shape my early thoughts on God and faith at a time when no adults around me were interested in going to church or even talking about religion.
In a twist that I could have never imagined 30 years ago — when I first read Are You There God? — I now follow Judy Blume on Twitter. I know, in real time, what movies she’s seen and likes, what she’s serving for holiday meals, when she’s buckling down to write.
When her updates pop into my Twitter feed, I’m reminded of the power of good words and good books. And I’m reminded to keep seeking stories that entertain and inspire and explain.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.
Arts & Letters Live hosts Judy Blume at 7 p.m. April 19 at First United Methodist Church of Dallas. $16. dallasmuseumofart.org. 214-922-1818.