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Edna Ferber

  • Gussie's mother was a real mother — the kind that wakes up when you come home.

  • ... celebratin' New Year's Eve is like eatin' oranges. You got to let go your dignity t' really enjoy 'em.

  • ... home isn't always the place where you were born and bred. Home is the place where your everyday clothes are, and where somebody or something needs you.

  • The small town smart set is deadly serious about its smartness.

  • 'Does one eat peanuts at a ball game?' 'It ain't hardly legal if you don't.'

  • There are two ways of doing battle against Disgrace. You may live it down; or you may run away from it and hide. The first method is heart-breaking, but sure. The second cannot be relied upon because of the uncomfortable way Disgrace has of turning up at your heels just when you think you have eluded her in the last town but one.

  • Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling.

  • I'm tired of hearing you men say that this and that and the other isn't woman's work. Any work is woman's work that a woman can do well.

  • Roast Beef, Medium, is not only a food. It is a philosophy. ... Roast Beef, Medium, is safe, and sane, and sure.

  • ... the past-that-might-have-been, and the future-that-was-to-be, stretched behind and before her, as is strangely often the case when we are listening to music.

  • Emma McChesney was engaged in that nerve-wracking process known as getting things out of the way. When Emma McChesney aimed to get things out of the way she did not use a shovel; she used a road-drag.

  • Opinion! If every one had so little tact as to give their true opinion when it was asked this would be a miserable world.

  • So this was what life did to you, was it? Squeezed you dry, and then cast you aside in your old age, a pulp, a bit of discard. Well, they'd never catch her that way.

  • She mistook his stolidness for depth, and it was a long time before she realized that his silence was not due to the weight of his thoughts but to the fact that he had nothing to say.

  • There are people who have a penchant for cities—more than that, a talent for them, a gift of sensing them, of feeling their rhythm and pulsebeats, as others have a highly developed music sense, or color reaction. It is a thing that cannot be acquired.

  • Cherry cobbler is shortcake with a soul.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "Afternoon of a Faun," Gigolo ()
  • This wasn't conversation. This was oral death ...

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "Old Man Minick," Gigolo ()
  • Most of the men regarded Europe as a wine list. In their mental geography Rheims, Rhine, Moselle, Bordeaux, Champagne, or Würzburg were not localities but libations.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • title story, Gigolo ()
  • ... a life like this develops the comedy sense. You can't play tragedy while you're living it.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "Not a Day Over Twenty-One," Gigolo ()
  • His silences had not proceeded from the unplumbed depths of his knowledge. He merely had nothing to say.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "The Sudden Sixties," Gigolo ()
  • ... she never gave up hope of stiffening the spine of the invertebrate Hermie.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "The Sudden Sixties," Gigolo ()
  • It's terrible to realize that you don't learn how to live until you're ready to die; and, then it's too late.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "The Sudden Sixties," Gigolo ()
  • When the two married, Milly's people went through that ablutionary process known as washing their hands of her.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "If I Should Ever Travel," Gigolo ()
  • She was more than a merely good cook; she was an alchemist in food stuffs.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "If I Should Ever Travel," Gigolo ()
  • I like any place that isn't here.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • "If I Should Ever Travel," Gigolo ()
  • Life has no weapons against a woman like that.

  • There are only two kinds of people in the world that really count. One kind's wheat and the other kind's emeralds.

  • Housework's the hardest work in the world. That's why men won't do it.

  • About mistakes it's funny. You got to make your own; and not only that, if you try to keep people from making theirs they get mad.

  • Any piece of furniture, I don't care how beautiful it is, has got to be lived with, and kicked about, and rubbed down, and mistreated by servants, and repolished, and knocked around and dusted and sat on or slept in or eaten off of before it develops its real character ... A good deal like human beings.

  • He said that the war had disillusioned him. It was a word you often heard uttered as a reason or an excuse for abandoning the normal. "Disillusioned."

  • Don't you believe 'em when they say that what you don't know won't hurt you. Biggest lie ever was.

  • Wasn't marriage, like life, unstimulating and unprofitable and somewhat empty when too well ordered and protected and guarded? Wasn't it finer, more splendid, more nourishing, when it was, like life itself, a mixture of the sordid and the magnificent; of mud and stars; of earth and flowers; of love and hate and laughter and tears and ugliness and beauty and hurt?

  • 'I may not know much' — another form of locution often favored by her. The tone in which it was spoken utterly belied the words; the tone told you that not only did she know much, but all.

  • Here were blood, lust, love, passion. Here were warmth, enchantment, laughter, music. It was Anodyne. It was Lethe. It was Escape. It was the Theater.

  • 'What about her Future?' Future, as she pronounced it, was spelled with a capital F and was a thin disguise for the word husband.

  • Anything can have happened in Oklahoma. Practically everything has.

  • He's going for the adventure of it. They always have, no matter what excuse they've given, from the Holy Grail to the California gold fields. The difference in America is that the women have always gone along.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • on pioneers, Cimarron ()
  • No woman ought to pretend she's intelligent. And if she is she ought to have the intelligence to pretend she isn't.

  • The Oklahoma wind tortured her. It rattled the doors and windows; it whirled the red dust through the house; its hot breath was on her agonized face as she lay there; if allowed its own way it leaped through the rooms, snatching the cloth off the table, the sheets off the bed, the dishes off the shelves.

  • I am not belittling the brave pioneer men, but the sunbonnet as well as the sombrero has helped to settle this glorious land of ours.

  • Funny, isn't it, how your whole life goes by while you think you're only planning the way you're going to live it?

  • Spring ... made fair false promises which summer was called upon to keep.

  • 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!

  • Life really can't utterly defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death; fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant ...

  • But I have felt that to be a Jew was, in some ways at least, to be especially privileged.

  • Nicknames are fond names. We do not give them to people we dislike.

  • A whole roomful of Jews is like a charged battery. The vitality sparks seem to fly, and frequently the result is a short circuit.

  • I sometimes wonder ... if the land is not destroying the people who inhabit it as the people who inhabit it are destroying the land. A magic continent, a Peculiar Treasure, stuffed with riches, millions in it are starving in the midst of plenty.

  • There's no sauce for play like work.

  • ... the very rich and the very social are, often, the very stuffy.

  • The goat's business is none of the sheep's concern.

  • ... she would live again her own past, drinking deep though she knew it would not slake her thirst, as a wanderer in the desert drinks of the alkaline water because there is no other.

  • Men often marry their mothers ...

  • I never would just open a door and walk through, I had to bust it down for the hell of it. I just naturally liked doing things the hard way.

  • ... don't you hate people who say they're not complaining and then complain?

  • Young folks don't want you to understand 'em. You've got no more right to understand them than you have to play their games or wear their clothes. They belong to themselves.

  • It's difficult to write a really good short story because it must be a complete and finished reflection of life with only a few words to use as tools. There isn't time for bad writing in a short story.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • title story (1925), One Basket ()
  • Mother knows best.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • title story (1925), One Basket ()
  • A closed mind is a dying mind.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • radio broadcast ()
  • A closed country is a dying country.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • radio broadcast ()
  • Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • No one in the United States has the right to own millions of acres of American land, I don't care how they came by it.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • Whoever said love conquers all was a fool. Because almost everything conquers love — or tries to.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • Take Texas the way Texas takes bourbon. Straight. It goes down easier.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • People in big empty places are likely to behave very much as the gods did on Olympus.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • ... here in Texas maybe we've got into the habit of confusing bigness with greatness.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • Giant
    • ()
  • A woman can look both moral and exciting — if she also looks as if it were quite a struggle.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • Someday ... this part of the world is going to be so important that just to say you're an Alaskan will be bragging.

  • Books should be cherished, like children, books are for the next generation, like children, like history.

  • I suppose it is a gift, being young, but it isn't special. We've all got it, early in life.

  • If men ever discovered how tough women actually are, they would be scared to death.

  • To be alive is a fine thing. It is the finest thing in the world, though hazardous. It is a unique thing. It happens only once in a lifetime. To be alive, to know consciously that you are alive, and to relish that knowledge — this is a kind of magic. Or it may be a kind of madness, exhilarating but harmless.

  • The astronomers tell us that other planets are gifted with two — four — even nine lavish moons. Imagine the romantic possibilities of nine moons.

  • Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; and looking back, if persisted in, strains the neck-muscles, causes you to bump into people not going your way ...

  • It is a curious fact that people permit life to slide past them like a deft pickpocket, their purse — not yet missed and now too late — in his hand.

  • I sat staring up at a shelf in my workroom from which thirty-one books identically dressed in neat dark green leather stared back at me with a sort of cold hostility like children who resent their parents. Don't stare at us like that! they said. Don't blame us if we didn't turn out to be the perfection you expected. We didn't ask to be brought into the world.

  • The ideal view for daily writing, hour on hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible.

  • A stricken tree, a living thing, so beautiful, so dignified, so admirable in its potential longevity, is, next to man, perhaps the most touching of wounded objects.

  • A writer's working hours are his waking hours. He is working as long as he is conscious and frequently when he isn't.

  • I don't know what it is that makes a writer go to his desk in his shut-off room day after day after year after year unless it is the sure knowledge that not to have done the daily stint of writing that day is infinitely more agonizing than to write.

  • There is an interesting resemblance in the speeches of dictators, no matter what country they may hail from or what language they may speak.

  • There is no denying the fact that writers should be read but not seen. Rarely are they a winsome sight.

  • The writer is a writer because he cannot help it. It is a compulsion.

  • One can summon courage and fortitude to face tragedy; irritations and frustrations are a cloud of mosquitoes that nip and sting and drive one frantic.

  • ... writers of novels are so busy being solitary that they haven't time to meet one another. But then, a writer learns nothing from a writer, conversationally. If a writer has anything witty, profound or quotable to say he doesn't say it. He's no fool. He writes it.

  • Writing, to be memorable, must be done in a state of impassioned serenity.

  • When a new post-war generation has grown to puberty and to youth and to manhood and womanhood, it should read, and it should be realistically told, of the futility, the idiocy, the utter depravity of war. For that matter, this instruction could begin at the age of six with the taking of those toy guns out of those toy holsters and throwing them in the ash-cans where they belong.

  • A placated bully is a hand-fed bully.

  • Imported actors, like certain wines, sometimes do not stand the ocean trip. This can be as true of American actors in Europe as it is of European actors in America.

  • I think that in order to write really well and convincingly one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, fault-finding, indignation, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice, are perhaps corrosive to the container but they make fine fuel.

  • The feminine in the man is the sugar in the whisky. The masculine in the woman is the yeast in the bread. Without these ingredients the result is flat, without tang or flavor.

  • Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • in Robert E. Drennan, The Algonquin Wits ()
  • So do you.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • to Noel Coward when, both wearing suits, he said 'You look almost like a man,' in Robert E. Drennan, The Algonquin Wits ()
  • The New Jersey Nero who mistakes his pinafore for a toga.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • on Alexander Woollcott, in Robert E. Drennan, The Algonquin Wits ()
  • To my mother who thinks it doesn't interrupt if she whispers.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • book dedication, in Adela Rogers St. John, Some Are Born Great ()
  • [Response to the prurient hotel clerk who called upstairs to inquire, while she was working late at night with George S. Kaufman on their new play, 'I beg your pardon, Miss Ferber, but is there a gentleman in your room?'] I don't know. Wait a minute and I'll ask him.

    • Edna Ferber,
    • in Margaret Case Harriman, The Vicious Circle: The Story of the Algonquin Round Table ()
  • The feminine in the man is the sugar in the whiskey. The masculine in the woman is the yeast in the bread. Without these ingredients the result is flat, without tang or flavor.

Edna Ferber, U.S. writer, playwright

(1885 - 1968)

Pulitzer Prize winner for So Big.