Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death — fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant. –Edna Ferber
I came across this quote and fell in love with it, but I have to confess I have no idea who this writer was, or indeed what her writing was about. It turns out that the author of this quote was none other than the Pulitzer Prize winner, Edna Ferber. She was born 1885 in Kalamazoo Michigan, the daughter of Julia and Jacob Ferber, Hungarian Immigrants. Edna in her autobiography wrote of her pride in being Jewish and of the terrible anti-Semitism so common during her time. She writes of being invited to a High Society dinner party in New York. The women she was with didn’t know Ferber and apparently two of the other guests were Jewish. A woman boasted that whenever she discovered a book was written by a Jewish Writer, she threw it away into the garbage. Ferber and the two other Jewish Women, walked out. I like that…just from reading that little bit, I knew I liked this woman and had to find out more about her.
She started out her writing career working for various newspapers, but it was when she was recovering from an illness that fiction captured her. She quickly sold her first short story, and by 1912, her short stories were collected in volumes. It’s said that reviewers thought she was a man, pretending to be a woman, to cover up the fact that it was really a man writing…what a mindset in those days…only a proper man could write! Thankfully we have evolved somewhat since then. Ferber apparently was really proud of this accusation, as she believed, as I do, that writers should be judged by the work, not their sex, and I would add fame. Their writing should always stand on its own merits.
Ferber was quite the writer, a playwright whose plays were turned into films. Two of which I have seen, Stage Door, and Show Boat. But still I hadn’t read any of her actual writing. She won her Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for her novel, SO BIG. It sold a massive 300,000 thousand copies! This in the day when the internet and social media wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eyes! Not to be content with all that, she wrote two biographies, thirteen novels, endless short stories, and eight of her novels were made into films.
Edna died in April of 1968 of cancer. She was a strong woman, a woman ahead of her time, she’s been noted as saying, marriage was not part of her game plan. She gifted her writing to her country as she believed her writing encouraged women to become assertive so that they could have freedom and enjoy success in any part of their lives. Women were not destined to be housewives with no other options. She was an extraordinary woman, and I will have to hunt down one of her books and have a read.
Reviews : SO BIG
“A masterpiece. . . . It has the completeness, [the] finality, that grips and exalts and convinces.” — Literary Review
Widely regarded as the master work of celebrated author and Algonquin Round Table mainstay Edna Ferber—who also penned other classics including Show Boat, Giant, Ice Palace, Saratoga Trunk, and Cimarron—So Big is a rollicking panorama of Chicago’s high and low life at the turn of the 20th Century. Following the travails of gambler’s daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges, this is the stunning and unforgettable “novel to read and to remember” by an author who “critics of the 1920s and 1930s did not hesitate to call… the greatest American woman novelist of her day” (New York Times).
“Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never! ”
“Many earnest young writers with a flow of adjectives and a passion for detail have attempted to describe the quiet of a great city at night, when a few million people within it are sleeping, or ought to be. They work in the clang of a distant owl car, and the roar of an occasional “L” train, and the hollow echo of the footsteps of the late passer-by. They go elaborately into description, and are strong on the brooding hush, but the thing has never been done satisfactorily.”
Have you read her novels? If so I would love to hear your comments about her writing style, and topics.