Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rediscovering Ferber

Ironically, as a novelist, I rarely read fiction any more. I'm not sure why. I know I find it hard to read fiction and write fiction at the same time. Perhaps I'm turning into my father, who has a voracious appetite for books on history, theology, psychology, sociology, and politics, but rarely samples fiction. When I was young, I read every story I could get my hands on. Now my bedside table has a history of the American Revolution, a book of essays on culture, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, and other nonfiction. But this summer, it now features the novels of Edna Ferber.

I came to Ferber late towards the end of my fiction-reading period, and I don't rightly know when I first read SoBig. Early in my marriage, I had a copy that looks exactly like this one pictured above: who knows where I found it? I have a taste for old books, regardless of their contents, and I started this one, and was hooked on Ferber's lush writing style and her portraits of humanity, nearly always compassionate ones. Alas, my copy was loaned to a friend and lost, and I quietly mourned it and stopped reading fiction.

Then, this past April, I had the fortune to visit Minnesota for a booksigning for fans of my Fairy Tale Novels, and stayed overnight with two girls who are biliophiles. The bedroom where we stayed was stocked with the most wonderful selection of books, and the next morning, I complimented our hostess on her collection. "I actually have had to thin out my collection, since I'm getting married," she replied, and added, "Would you like to see some books I'm getting rid of?"

Atop the pile was a copy of Sobig, together with Ferber's other noted novels, Cimarron and Big. I seized the first with a cry of joy, and my hostess was delighted to restore to me what had so long been lost, as well as giving me further Ferber treasures to enjoy.

So this past summer I have been partaking of Ferber again, with all the delight of eating fine chocolate. Big took me to the vast ranches of Texas, and in Cimarron I'm experiencing the Oklahoma Land Rush and the hardships of the first settlements. It's been a rare foray back into fiction for me, and, oddly enough, has not yet competed with the new novel I'm writing. Indeed, as I type my story of hotels and computer hackers in Northern Virginia, I can't help thinking that my hero is taking on some aspects of the debonair cowboy Yancey Cravat from Cimarron. But perhaps that's not so terrible after all.


elena maria vidal said...

I love Edna Ferber, especially Giant and Show Boat.

regina doman said...

I have to read Showboat! Now that I've finished Cimarron, I find myself in a profound disagreement with the author over the subject of Yancey's defense of the town prostitute. And the disintegration of his marriage was very sad: but Ferber's novels always have a tragic touch.

elena maria vidal said...

I don't care for Cimmaron as much; I don't even like the movie.....

M. Alexander said...

Have you read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows? As someone who has read all of your books I can confidently say- you will love it.