Edna Ferber | Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review

This literature criticism consists of approximately 4 pages of analysis & critique of Edna Ferber.
This section contains 947 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review

SOURCE: A review of Gigolo, in The New York Times Book Review, November 5, 1922, p. 10.

In the following mixed review of Gigolo, the critic contends that while the plots and characters of the stories are realistic, Ferber at times undercuts this quality with excessive melodrama or lack of narrative pacing.

Every one who is at all conversant with the current magazines has by this time become well acquainted with the typical Edna Ferber short story. Eight of these short stories have been collected in the present volume, to which the least worthwhile of them gives its title, "Gigolo." Of the eight "Old Man Minick" is perhaps the best, with "Home Girl" and "The Sudden Sixties" as formidable contestants for the honor of first place. The scenes are laid in various places—Chicago, of course, New York, Hollywood, Paris, Winnebago, Wisconsin and Okoochee, Oklahoma—but the characters invariably belong to what we know as "the plain people." Some of them have a good deal of money, and others very little, but, rich or poor, they always, or almost always, are members of the same general order—that vast order of the commonplace.

"The Afternoon of a Faun," which has the place of honor in the forefront of the book, is the not very credible tale of a young mechanic, working in a garage, adored by all the girls of his acquaintance, and very much bored thereby. "Fella don't like to have no girl chasing him all the time. Say, he likes to do the chasing himself," he presently avers. "Old Man Minick," which comes next, is an admirably realistic study of an old man of seventy, who, after losing the wife who had "spoiled him outrageously" during the forty-odd years of their married life, went to live with his son and his entirely well meaning daughter-in-law. The humor and pathos, the deft characterization and perfect verisimilitude of this tale are admirable, representative, though on a smaller scale, of the best work done by the author of The Girls. The story, which is to some extent a companion tale to "Old Man Minick"—"The Sudden Sixties"—is not quite so good. One cannot help feeling that Hannah Winter's unselfishness is just a little overdone, yet there is much truth in the analysis of her mental attitude, and of her daughter's. There are young matrons innumerable who, like those in Marcia's set, lean heavily on their own mothers, and cannot understand why these older women who "haven't a thing to do" should not be willing and glad to take care of their grandchildren, rendering first aid at any moment without the least regard for plans or preferences of their own. There are plenty of married daughters who would do well to read "The Sudden Sixties" carefully and to think over it deliberately, thereby perhaps saving other women from the fate of Hannah Winter.

"Home Girl" is another excellent bit of realism, admirable in its pictures of character and of environment. There is no one of us who does not count at least one Cora in the list of her acquaintances—except the Coras themselves, who would not recognize their own type, mirrored in Miss Ferber's pages. And are there any among city dwellers who do not know such apartments as the one in which Ray and Cora lived, where "everything folded, or flapped, or doubled, or shot in, or shot out, or concealed something else, or pretended to be something it was not?" Wilson Avenue, too, is to be found in other cities besides Chicago, with its "one-room-and-kitchenette apartments" and delicatessen shops displaying "chromatic viands" at the fanciest of fancy prices. "Shylock, purchasing a paper-thin slice of pinky ham in Wilson Avenue, would know his own early Venetian transaction to have been pure philanthropy." It is an accurately detailed picture of one aspect of our modern city life, this story of "Home Girl."

No less modern, if not quite as good, is the story of the high-grade comedy actress, Harrietta Fuller, who went to Hollywood and found herself in what was to her a topsy-turvy world, where youth and prettiness were of utmost importance, and intelligence and craftsmanship of very little. Her experiences are amusing to read about, but at last they proved too trying to be endured, even with the aid of her highly cultivated sense of humor. "Ain't Nature Wonderful!" is an entertaining farce, with a good bit of truth tucked in amid the laughter. More people than a few have adopted the pose taken by Florian Sykes—and without having his various excuses for so doing. "Gigolo," though it gives a colorful picture of one effect of the war, is not convincing, besides being too long drawn out, a fault which in a lesser degree appears in several of these tales, especially the rather uninteresting "If I Should Ever Travel!" A gigolo, Miss Ferber explains, "generally speaking, is a man who lives off women's money. In the mad year 1922 A. D., a gigolo, definitely speaking, designated one of those incredible and pathetic creatures … who for 10 francs … would dance with any woman wishing to dance on the crowded floors of public tea rooms, dinner or supper rooms in the cafés, hotels and restaurants of France." How Gideon Gory of Winnebago, Wis., fell to these depths, lower than which "could no man fall," and how he was presently rescued therefrom, the story tells.

They are for the most part interesting tales, these of Miss Ferber's. She knows well the kind of people with whom the majority of her stories deal, knows their surroundings and the sort of lives they lead, and puts them before us vividly and well.

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This section contains 947 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review
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