Saturday, November 27, 2010


Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean in "Giant"
Although Edna Ferber's Giant is less entertaining than her Pulitzer-winning grand Cather-mixed-with-Upton-Sinclairish novel,  So Big, it certainly has its great moments. Some of Ferber's novels--Giant and Ice Palace--are thinly disguised sociological studies, the former of Texas, the latter of Alaska.  In Giant, the elaborate underpinnings of her research reveal a history of exploitation and dirty secrets. Giant infuriated Texans when it was published in 1952.  It  is impressive in a way: she describes the rich ranchers' pride in the state's bigness, their exploitation of Mexicans, the history of illegal immigration (yes, it has long been a problem), the ranchers' frightening conspiracy to lock up Mexicans during elections unless they vote according to their employers' orders, the nouveau riche oilmen, and the (no pun intended) crudeness of the barren culture.  Ferber's lively, charming heroine, Leslie, a Virginian intellectual who falls in love with a charming rancher, is appalled by much that she sees in her husband's Texas.  And so are we.

In the holiday season I like to read old novels.  1952?  Old enough.  Although many people are genuinely absorbed by family reunions and holiday preparations, I personally find the fuss a bit excessive.  Read old novels--a good way to escape the pressured culture.  I certainly enjoy giving and getting gifts but perhaps Thanksgiving and Christmas are too close together. 

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