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

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Edna Ferber.
This section contains 717 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review

SOURCE: A review of Emma McChesney & Company, in The New York Times Book Review, October 17, 1915, pp. 390, 396.

In the following favorable review of Emma McChesney & Company, the critic praises Ferber's realistic characterization of her protagonist.

According to all the rules of precedent, one should by now be thoroughly tired of Emma McChesney. Miss Edna Ferber should be especially tired of her, and Emma herself should be tired of life.

But Emma has always been a defier of precedent. She was, you remember, the pioneer among traveling saleswomen, and the travelers for rival firms shook their heads gravely and prophesied a sudden termination to the career of the Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company's charming young agent. Woman's place, they said, was the home—this woman's place, especially.

Her historian has told us, however, that Emma's ingenuity and perseverance brought her victory over all her rivals, including Fat Ed Meyers. Also it has been revealed to us that her undomestic occupation did not hinder her success in an operation peculiarly domestic—that of making a man out of that somewhat unpromising subject, her son Jock.

But now [in Emma McChesney & Company] comes her greatest exploit. She appears, more vivacious and attractive than ever, as the heroine of a new book—the third in which she has figured. We find her "cleaning up" Buenos Aires with the same easy power that she had been accustomed to exercise on the dry goods buyers of East St. Louis; we find her (in one of the most humorous and original love stories that has appeared for years) becoming the wife of our old friend, T. A. Buck, her employer; we see her reveling in the new-found joys of a home life undisturbed by business cares, and later, after leisure had grown irksome to her active brain, yielding to the Call of the Petticoat, and triumphantly reentering the world of commerce, and finally—amazing spectacle!—we see her in the role of an eminently practical but (of course) doting grandmother.

Now, the extraordinary thing about this series of stories is the cumulative humanness of their heroine. We have had too many series of stories about types—chorus girls, confidence men, engineers, cowboys, and the rest. As a rule the central figure of such a series is the same in the thirtieth story as he was in the first, with this important exception, that he is more of a confidence man or a cowboy, or whatever it is, and less of a personality—more of a type and less of a human being.

There is one thing which every writer of a series of type stories should get into this mind, that is that in real life, and especially in real life in the United States, there is no such thing as a type. For instance, there are no people who are, body and soul, waking and sleeping, eating, drinking and making love, traveling salesmen. There are vegetarians, Christian Scientists, Republicans, people who like Conrad, kelly-pool players, admirers of post-impressionism, of Dr. Henry van Dyke and of little neck clams with mignonette sauce, who make a living by salesmanship. But their occupation is their only bond; they must be catalogued, not primarily as salesmen, but as human beings.

This psychological fact, which has escaped the attention of many of our most industrious contributors to the magazines, has not eluded Miss Edna Ferber. The Emma whose adventures fill this entertaining volume is the same Emma who first stepped daintily into the hearts of the public from the pages of the American Magazine. But the years have passed, and have left their imprint on Emma as on everyone in the world. She has not remained stationary, like most of the central figures in popular series of magazine fiction; she has grown, physically, mentally and spiritually.

That is why no one can really be tired of Emma McChesney—or Emma Buck, as we must call her now. She is too radiantly alive to be tired of life, too radiantly alive for us to be tired of her. She is made, it seems, not of paper and ink but of flesh and blood. She is not a type, she is a fallible, changeable, lovable human being. May she live to be a great-grandmother, and Edna Ferber live to tell us all about it!

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This section contains 717 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review
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Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review from Literature Criticism Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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