This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for August 15, 2017: The Sound of Summer

August 15, 2017: birthday: Edna Ferber

It’s the birthday of novelist and playwright Edna Ferber (1885) (books by this author). She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was known for her detailed, but not especially deep, stories of Midwestern life. She began her career as a journalist in Appleton, Wisconsin, when she was only 17; she earned three dollars a week. She later became part of the Algonquin Round Table, an assortment of clever writers who met daily for lunch at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. She never married, nor did she have any known affairs with anyone of either gender. In one of her early novels, a character observes, “Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning — a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling.”

She’s best known for So Big (1924), a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize; Show Boat (1926), which was made into a musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II; and Giant (1952), which was made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. She also wrote plays with George S. Kaufman, like Stage Door (1926) and Dinner at Eight (1932). Her obituary, which appeared on the front page of The New York Times, read, “Her books were not profound, but they were vivid.”

She said: “Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never!”