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 675 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 Half Portions, in The New York Times Book Review, May 9, 1920, p. 236.

In the following favorable review of Half Portions, the critic notes that Ferber's characters are similar to those of O'Henry.

There are times while reading Edna Ferber's stories that one thinks of O. Henry. It is not the O. Henry plot with its surprising conclusion, its snap at the end, but the O. Henry characterizations that come to mind. Miss Ferber picks her people from among the everyday persons, the man in the street, the shop girl, the farmer who is strangely out his element in the city, just the types that O. Henry found ready-made to his hand around practically every corner in New York. Half Portions, Miss Ferber's latest collection of short stories, emphasizes the impression she has already made. It is a book that is thoroughly enjoyable and laughable from beginning to end.

Nine stories are included in the book and each one of them, in its own way, possesses the true Ferber spirit. If one were to look for a philosophy in Miss Ferber's work one would probably reach the conclusion that all things, good and bad, should be viewed through a generous sense of humor. Miss Ferber can be serious when she chooses, but her serious moments have always a bit of humor lurking about the corner to lighten the more drab aspects. Certainly some of the characters in her stories have a hard enough struggle to get along, but the whimsical attitude of Miss Ferber presents them in such a light that the reader remembers only the happier aspects.

As a developer of character Miss Ferber carries her art a bit further than most short story writers. One of the stories in Half Portions, for instance, is called "The Maternal Feminine." The character of Aunt Sophy Decker is developed into such a rounded figure that the story stands forth as a first-class character sketch. Aunt Sophy is a spinster. She makes and sells hats to the female population of Chippewa, Wis. At 50 she has become in figure what is known as "stylish stout." Her three sisters, all of them well married, view with some frigidity the business of Aunt Sophy. But Aunt Sophy fills most efficiently her part in life. She is shrewd, kindly, hail-fellow-well-met with the millinery salesmen and a rock of refuge for her nephew and niece. When the war comes and the nephew, Eugene, is killed, it is to Sophy that the visiting Red Cross worker immediately turns, saying, "You must be a very proud woman." She had found in Sophy's eyes the flaming maternal instinct.

Among the other stories that stand out is "April 25th, as Usual." It describes how Mr. and Mrs. Hosea C. Brewster of Winnebago, Wis., leave their large, comfortable home at the instigation of their art-student daughter for a duplex apartment in New York. How long they last there and the reason for their return to Winnebago make up an amusing tale. Then there is "Old Lady Mandle," which treats the old subject of the mother-in-law in a new and, pathetic light. "You've Got to Be Selfish" is the story of the rise of three celebrities in the theatrical world and is probably based upon some real facts. "Long Distance" and "Un Morso Doo Pang" are both war stories, the first named having its locale in a reconstruction hospital in England. "Un Morso Doo Pang" gives a new twist to the girl-left-behind theme. "One Hundred Per Cent." is another war story and it brings back our old friend Emma McChesney, now Mrs. T. A. Buck. In this story Emma goes on the road as a saleswoman again, doing the work of three men, so that they may be relieved for war duty. "Farmer in the Dell" and "The Dancing Girls" complete the book.

Edna Ferber has been described as a writer who goes "eavesdropping upon humanity." She does, and she catches many undercurrents that reveal life and its tangled threads.

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This section contains 675 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by The New York Times Book Review
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