Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, April 11, 2011

"The Homely Heroine" by Edna Farber

"The Homely Heroine" by Edna Farber (1911,  7 pages, 22 minutes as audio book)

As I have said before (and will say again)  short stories have helped me learn about a lot of new to me authors.   

I had heard of Edna Farber (1885 to 1968-Michigan, USA) but never read any of her works.    I think like most people I saw her as the author of  Show Boat, the basis for the famous Jerome Kern movie (and  remake in 1951 by George Sydney).    Farber worked as a journalist before beginning her very successful career as a writer.   She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for her novel, So Big.

"The Homely Heroine" is a tremendously  fun story, heart warming, totally entertaining and much wiser than it at first may seem.   I just complete Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and this story felt like it could be part of a Midwestern American version of the mythical town of  Cranford.   I think it would be a great story for use in literature classes for students 12 and above.     

As the story opens the narrator is talking to a friend about  a story she she is working on.   She wonders why the heroines in stories all have to be beautiful.    I liked when she said even in stories about an Irish girl, she always about half way through the work, turns out to beautiful once you change her from her frumpy look.

The narrator wants the lead character of "The Homely Heroine" to be ugly.   Farber goes out of her way to describe her as being very heavy and not any any kind of Reubenesque kind of way at all.    She works as a stenographer in a hotel that caters to traveling businessmen.   She types their letters for them.   Unlike the other young women who work in the hotel, she never has to worry about any of the men being fresh with her.   She lives with her mother.   She has been given one wonderful talent.   (I really like the Ferber's relaxing prose style and am quoting a bit below so you can see it for yourself.)

But if the gods had denied Pearlie all charms of face or form, they had been decent enough to bestow on her one gift. Pearlie could cook like an angel; no, better than an angel, for no angel could be a really clever cook and wear those flowing kimono-like sleeves. They'd get into the soup. Pearlie could take a piece of rump and some suet and an onion and a cup or so of water, and evolve a pot roast that you could cut with a fork. She could turn out a surprisingly good cake with surprisingly few eggs, all covered with white icing, and bearing cunning little jelly figures on its snowy bosom. She could beat up biscuits that fell apart at the lightest pressure, revealing little pools of golden butter within. Oh, Pearlie could cook!

Pearlie gets to be friends with one of the traveling businessmen.    She invites him over for Sunday Dinner with her mother.    The food is to die for-I found myself  crying out "marry this girl, you idiot" to the traveling business man.    I loved what happened next and I think most everyone who reads the story will also.   I do not want to spoil the great and really shocking in gentle totally great way ending so I will tell no more of the plot.   It is not a twist ending story it just closes great!.   

You can both listen to it and read it HERE.    This is very much a "feel good story"!  And yes why does the heroine always have to be beautiful??

as always please send me any suggestions you might have for short stories

Mel u

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