Herman Wouk vs Edna Ferber

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In my view, there’s no contest between the two: Edna Ferber and Herman Wouk.  Edna wins, hands down.

Why?

A friend of mine recommended Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke.  I tried to like it; I really did.  I slogged through pages and pages of description, and not a whole lot of action.  Never once did I say to myself, Dang! That’s a really good line.  Instead, I thought, This HAS to get better.  He’s a famous author.  

Then I got to page thirty-nine, and that’s what did me in.  I literally had to stop reading in order to COUNT the number of words in a particularly long sentence.  There were one-hundred-twenty-two words in one sentence.  You read that right:  122 words in a single sentence.

Now, if you ask me, any narrative that makes the reader stop reading in order to count the words in a sentence is not well-written.  In fact, anything that does not move the story forward, but instead brings it to a screeching halt, is not good writing.

Therefore, Youngblood Hawke will go back to the library.

At the same visit, I got a book that contains five novels by Edna Ferber:  So Big, Show Boat, Cimarron, Saratoga Trunk, and Giant.  I’m currently reading So Big.  I read Show Boat some years ago, but I’ll read it again.

This is good writing.  Yes, there is plenty of description, but it’s description that moves the story along, paints a picture, gives the reader a sense of place and purpose and atmosphere.  I often pause just long enough to think, Dang!  That’s a good line! then press forward, lest I miss anything.

I’d been an Edna Ferber fan a long time ago, but I’d forgotten all about her.  Then I got a few free Ferber novels for my Kindle, and fell in love with the written word all over again.

So, today, even though I should be working on my own novel, or proofreading a story for a client, I’m actually blissfully sitting in my recliner, with my faithful dog at my side, sipping a cold drink, and reading.  Now, this, my friends, is pure joy.