For quite a while now, Edna Ferber has interested me. She was one of the members of the Algonquin Round Table, which met at the New York City Hotel in the 1920s. It sounds like the members were witty and acerbic and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to listen to their banter. Ferber began her career as a reporter before turning to writing full time. She wrote more than thirty novels and was hugely popular in her day even garnering a Pulitzer in 1924 for So Big, the book I brought home with me today. And if having your books optioned for a film is the way to show "you've arrived", well Ferber not only arrived but moved on in and made herself comfortable. Half a dozen were either made into movies or musicals for the stage--some winning awards. Not too shabby for the single lady Ferber remained throughout her life.
I wouldn't mind knowing more about Ferber as I imagine she had an interesting life being part of a literary circle in the first half of the twentieth century, already a fascinating era but all the more so considering her popularity as a writer. My library has a whole shelf of her books, and not being sure which to choose I opted for So Big, which I already own as I've been looking forward to reading it. So Big concerns a woman of indomitable spirit living in turn-of-the-century Chicago and follows her through youth, marriage and widowhood. The story begins:
"Until he was almost ten the name stuck to him. He had literally to fight his way free from it. From So Big (of fond and infantile derivation) it has been condensed into Sobig. And Sobig DeJong, in all its consonantal disharmony, he had remained until he was a ten-year-old schoolboy in that incredibly Dutch district southwest of Chicago known first as New Holland and later as High Prairie. At ten, by dint of fists, teeth, copper-toed boots, and temper, he earned the right to be called by his real name, Dirk DeJong. Now and then, of course, the nickname bobbed up and had to be subdued in a brief and bitter skirmish. His mother, with whom the name originated, was the worst offender. When she lapsed he did not, naturally, use schoolyard tactics on her. But he sulked and glowered portentously and refused to answer, though her tone, when she called him So Big, would have melted the heart of any but that natural savage, a boy of ten."
A number of Ferber's books are in print, and some are available free online. I suspect she's not at all an unknown author, though I wonder if she is still read very widely these days? I'm certainly planning on exploring some of her books.