Book Review: Margaret Mitchell Reporter

Margaret Mitchell Reporter

Margaret Mitchell Reporter, edited by Patrick Allen

The blurb from the dust jacket:

Captivating journalism from the pioneering author of Gone With the Wind, including:

  • Mitchell’s first professional writing assignment – an interview with an Atlanta socialite whose couture-buying trip to Italy was interrupted by the Fascist takeover.
  • conversations of the flapper-era famous and infamous, including matinee idol Rudolph Valentino and Harry K. Thaw, convicted murderer of high-society architect Stanford White.
  • a jailhouse interview with a DeKalb County, Georgia, convict who made artificial flowers from scraps and sold them from his cell to support his family.
  • the concerns of the Jazz Age beauty: can bobbed-hair girls be good? will Atlanta women ever go for the knickerbocker? which Atlanta men have mastered the newest dance steps and slang?
  • a rollicking account of Georgia debutantes afoot in Egypt as King Tutankhamen’s tomb is explored.
  • a sketch of a ten-year-old’s poignant visit to the governor of Georgia appealing for a pardon for her mother, a “lifer” at the state prison farm.
  • profiles of prominent Georgia Civil War generals, the research for which, scholars believe, led her to her work on Gone With the Wind.
  • chronicles of the youth rebellion of the 1920’s which resulted in the end of debutante culture and the advent of the New Woman.

The sixty-four columns in Margaret Mitchell Reporter present a never-before-seen portrait of a lively, far-ranging mind and an insightful observer well on the way to her full literary power long before the world even knew her name.

I snagged a copy of this book because I love Gone With the Wind and wanted to read anything else Margaret Mitchell had written, and I’m glad I did. Ms. Mitchell was a very talented writer and it was a pleasure to read this book.

Some of my favorite articles included an interview with two young women who were diagnosed with tuberculosis, and so they set off on foot to Texas to cure their disease, selling magazine subscriptions along the way to fund their adventure. In another she interviewed a woman who raised canaries, and the stories the woman told about bird behavior were more eerie than any Hitchcock movie.

Ms. Mitchell wrote these articles in the early 1920’s, and she was an incredibly skilled, professional journalist. When I compare these thoughtful, unbiased, interesting articles with the news stories I read today in local, national, and international publications, I shake my head at how pathetic the state of journalism has become.

If you have an interest in history, this book offers a fascinating glimpse into the 20’s and even the 19th century as Ms. Mitchell interviewed many Civil War survivors. She chatted with high society folks, college students, drifters, inmates, and celebrities. Her meeting with Valentino was hysterical.

Mitchell Valentino

Trying to sum this book up, I think of words like graceful, dignified, insightful, eloquent, satisfying. They all fit. If you’re interested at all, I highly recommend checking it out.

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