Edna Ferber | Critical Review by Hildegarde Hawthorne

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Edna Ferber.
This section contains 856 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Hildegarde Hawthorne

Critical Review by Hildegarde Hawthorne

SOURCE: "Everyday Folk," in The New York Times Book Review, April 20, 1913, p. 232.

In the following favorable review of Roast Beef, Medium, Hawthorne praises Ferber's depiction of the modern American woman.

"Roast beef, medium." A sane sensible order, pretty certain to result in something wholesome and satisfying. Not a food only, as Miss Ferber tells us, but a philosophy. Not a philosophy only, but an art, an art she makes delightful in this volume of stories [Roast Beef, Medium: The Business Adventures of Emma McChesney and Her Son, Jock], telling not about the exceptional, the lurid, or the miraculous, but just about the everyday, regular, I've-met them-a-dozen-times sort of people.

First of all, the book is human, ever so human and ever so real. The heroine, Emma McChesney, is a living creature, some one we get to know well and can't afterward do without. Even if we've only met her once, we would know her the instant we set eyes on her, and though her name might have slipped our memory, we should feel sure we weren't making a mistake in going up and recalling ourself to her notice: "I never could remember a name," we should announce, "but I know I've met you somewhere around, and I'm not going to let you get away like this."

Really, it's hard to recall that it's a book I'm writing about. And yet, with what enjoyment one returns to it, grinning a bit as one turns home, saying cheerily, "Thank goodness, I've not quite finished with Emma's adventures," and hurrying over the chores so as to settle down comfortably with the volume for the evening.

Emma is a traveling woman for the Featherloom Skirt Company, sweet, fresh, and direct as a west wind, and as feminine as her "line." Indeed, the essential woman of these stories is one of their greatest charms. They couldn't have been written by any one but a woman; what's more, they couldn't have been written by any one but a woman of to-day. For their outlook on life and the world is that of the woman who has measured both, who has met them first and not second hand. Emma knows how to take care of herself and how to rely on herself, without being a whit less the woman, without being looked upon as queer or advanced or any of those things she would have seemed to herself and others a generation ago. And that makes much of her charm, her balance, and naturalness.

The book is written in the vernacular. It's for us, right here and now! We know what is meant when Emma declares:

I've seen matinée idols and tailors' supplies salesmen, and Julian Eltinge, but this boy had any male professional beauty I ever saw beaten, looking as handsome and dashing as a bowl of cold oatmeal.

Emma has the up-to-date way of putting things. "A woman's as old as she looks with her hair on the dresser and the bed only a few minutes away," she remarks, and that is only one out of many.

Emma has been a wife and is a mother. She has a boy of 17, only no one will believe her when she tells about him. But how she manages that lad! Read "Chickens" for one, and admire. And how she manages the fat man, and T. A. Buck, too, for that matter, for there is a love story, though, as Miss Ferber assures us, it's a logical one, and doesn't leave any one in any one's arms in the last paragraph.

There is nothing slipshod nor shoddy about this work of Miss Ferber's. For all its seeming slangy ease, there is good hard work behind it, close observation, untiring study. It's as American as pumpkin pie, and there isn't a character in it who is not thoroughly alive, various as these characters are. A woman doesn't knock about over the continent, living in sleepers and small town hotels week in and week out, without running into some pretty odd persons and queer happenings. And things were not always pleasant on the road. Emma McChesney has a tough time of it now and then; even the boy isn't always as considerate as he might be. She is not the cryey sort, but there are moments when the tears must have their way for a minute—tears the reader, if she is a woman, will thoroughly sympathize with; may possibly share. But her friend, Mary Cutting, who mustn't be missed either, in a world where her like are too rare, has a formula for times like these:

It's a glorious, good old world; it's a glorious, good old world; it's a glorious, good old world. And I daren't stop a minute for fear of forgetting my lesson.

Well, it's a brave, fun-loving, human book, the best Miss Ferber has yet given us, and it arouses a distinct longing for more. And, happily, the illustrations by Mr. Flagg are more than acceptable, fitting delightfully into the stories, inspired with the same just appreciation of the American type and the American sense of humor that is so strong in the author.

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This section contains 856 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Hildegarde Hawthorne
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