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50 Works of Edna Ferber

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April 25th, As Usual

Story type: Literature

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Mrs. Hosea C. Brewster always cleaned house in September and April. She started with the attic and worked her purifying path down to the cellar in strict accordance with Article I, Section I, Unwritten Rules for House Cleaning. For twenty-five years she had done it. For twenty-five years she had hated it—being an intelligent woman. […]

Roast Beef, Medium

Story type: Literature

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Foreword: Roast Beef, Medium, is not only a food. It is a philosophy. Seated at Life’s Dining Table, with the Menu of Morals before you, your eye wanders a bit over the entrees, the hors d’oeuvres, and the things a la, though you know that Roast Beef, Medium, is safe, and sane, and sure. It […]

The Gay Old Dog

Story type: Literature

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Those of you who have dwelt–or even lingered–in Chicago, Illinois, are familiar with the region known as the Loop. For those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer point between New York and California there is presented this brief explanation: The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the iron arms of […]

Before she tried to be a good woman she had been a very bad woman–so bad that she could trail her wonderful apparel up and down Main Street, from the Elm Tree Bakery to the railroad tracks, without once having a man doff his hat to her or a woman bow. You passed her on […]

Farmer in the Dell

Story type: Literature

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Old Ben Westerveld was taking it easy. Every muscle taut, every nerve tense, his keen eyes vainly straining to pierce the blackness of the stuffy room–there lay Ben Westerveld in bed, taking it easy. And it was hard. Hard. He wanted to get up. He wanted so intensely to get up that the mere effort […]

That’s Marriage

Story type: Literature

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Theresa Platt (she had been Terry Sheehan) watched her husband across the breakfast table with eyes that smoldered. But Orville Platt was quite unaware of any smoldering in progress. He was occupied with his eggs. How could he know that these very eggs were feeding the dull red menace in Terry Platt’s eyes? When Orville […]

Long Distance

Story type: Literature

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Chet Ball was painting a wooden chicken yellow. The wooden chicken was mounted on a six-by-twelve board. The board was mounted on four tiny wheels. The whole would eventually be pulled on a string guided by the plump, moist hand of some blissful five-year-old. You got the incongruity of it the instant your eye fell […]

Un Morso doo Pang

Story type: Literature

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When you are twenty you do not patronize sunsets unless you are unhappy, in love, or both. Tessie Golden was both. Six months ago a sunset had wrung from her only a casual tribute, such as: “My! Look how red the sky is!” delivered as unemotionally as a weather bulletin. Tessie Golden sat on the […]

The Maternal Feminine

Story type: Literature

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Called upon to describe Aunt Sophy, you would have to coin a term or fall back on the dictionary definition of a spinster. “An unmarried woman,” states that worthy work, baldly, “especially when no longer young.” That, to the world, was Sophy Decker. Unmarried, certainly. And most certainly no longer young. In figure, she was, […]

Representing T. A. Buck

Story type: Literature

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Emma McChesney, Mrs. (I place it in the background because she generally did) swung off the 2:15, crossed the depot platform, and dived into the hotel ‘bus. She had to climb over the feet of a fat man in brown and a lean man in black, to do it. Long practise had made her perfect […]

Chickens

Story type: Literature

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For the benefit of the bewildered reader it should be said that there are two distinct species of chickens. There is the chicken which you find in the barnyard, in the incubator, or on a hat. And there is the type indigenous to State Street, Chicago. Each is known by its feathers. The barnyard variety […]

Some one–probably one of those Frenchmen whose life job it was to make epigrams—once said that there are but two kinds of women: good women, and bad women. Ever since then problem playwrights have been putting that fiction into the mouths of wronged husbands and building their “big scene” around it. But don’t you believe […]

His Mother’s Son

Story type: Literature

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“Full?” repeated Emma McChesney (and if it weren’t for the compositor there’d be an exclamation point after that question mark). “Sorry, Mrs. McChesney,” said the clerk, and he actually looked it, “but there’s absolutely nothing stirring. We’re full up. The Benevolent Brotherhood of Bisons is holding its regular annual state convention here. We’re putting up […]

Simply Skirts

Story type: Literature

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They may differ on the subjects of cigars, samples, hotels, ball teams and pinochle hands, but two things there are upon which they stand united. Every member of that fraternity which is condemned to a hotel bedroom, or a sleeper berth by night, and chained to a sample case by day agrees in this, first: […]

Temptation himself is not much of a spieler. Raucous-voiced, red- faced, greasy, he stands outside his gaudy tent, dilating on the wonders within. One or two, perhaps, straggle in. But the crowd, made wary by bitter experience of the sham and cheap fraud behind the tawdry canvas flap, stops a moment, laughs, and passes on. […]

We all carry with us into the one-night-stand country called Sleepland, a practical working nightmare that we use again and again, no matter how varied the theme or setting of our dream-drama. Your surgeon, tossing uneasily on his bed, sees himself cutting to remove an appendix, only to discover that that unpopular portion of his […]

Knee-Deep In Knickers

Story type: Literature

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When the column of figures under the heading known as “Profits,” and the column of figures under the heading known as “Loss” are so unevenly balanced that the wrong side of the ledger sags, then to the listening stockholders there comes the painful thought that at the next regular meeting it is perilously possible that […]

This is a love-story. But it is a love-story with a logical ending. Which means that in the last paragraph no one has any one else in his arms. Since logic and love have long been at loggerheads, the story may end badly. Still, what love passages there are shall be left intact. There shall […]

The Frog And The Puddle

Story type: Literature

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Any one who has ever written for the magazines (nobody could devise a more sweeping opening; it includes the iceman who does a humorous article on the subject of his troubles, and the neglected wife next door, who journalizes) knows that a story the scene of which is not New York is merely junk. Take […]

The Man Who Came Back

Story type: Literature

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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 […]

What She Wore

Story type: Literature

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Somewhere in your story you must pause to describe your heroine’s costume. It is a ticklish task. The average reader likes his heroine well dressed. He is not satisfied with knowing that she looked like a tall, fair lily. He wants to be told that her gown was of green crepe, with lace ruffles that […]

A Bush League Hero

Story type: Literature

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This is not a baseball story. The grandstand does not rise as one man and shout itself hoarse with joy. There isn’t a three-bagger in the entire three thousand words, and nobody is carried home on the shoulders of the crowd. For that sort of thing you need not squander fifteen cents on your favorite […]

The City was celebrating New Year’s Eve. Spelled thus, with a capital C, know it can mean but New York. In the Pink Fountain room of the Newest Hotel all those grand old forms and customs handed down to us for the occasion were being rigidly observed in all their original quaintness. The Van Dyked […]

One Of The Old Girls

Story type: Literature

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All of those ladies who end their conversation with you by wearily suggesting that you go down to the basement to find what you seek, do not receive a meager seven dollars a week as a reward for their efforts. Neither are they all obliged to climb five weary flights of stairs to reach the […]

The Leading Lady

Story type: Literature

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The leading lady lay on her bed and wept. Not as you have seen leading ladies weep, becomingly, with eyebrows pathetically V-shaped, mouth quivering, sequined bosom heaving. The leading lady lay on her bed in a red-and-blue-striped kimono and wept as a woman weeps, her head burrowing into the depths of the lumpy hotel pillow, […]

Maymeys From Cuba

Story type: Literature

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There is nothing new in this. It has all been done before. But tell me, what is new? Does the aspiring and perspiring summer vaudeville artist flatter himself that his stuff is going big? Then does the stout man with the oyster-colored eyelids in the first row, left, turn his bullet head on his fat-creased […]

That Home-Town Feeling

Story type: Literature

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We all have our ambitions. Mine is to sit in a rocking-chair on the sidewalk at the corner of Clark and Randolph Streets, and watch the crowds go by. South Clark Street is one of the most interesting and cosmopolitan thoroughfares in the world (New Yorkers please sniff). If you are from Paris, France, or […]

The Homely Heroine

Story type: Literature

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Millie Whitcomb, of the fancy goods and notions, beckoned me with her finger. I had been standing at Kate O’Malley’s counter, pretending to admire her new basket-weave suitings, but in reality reveling in her droll account of how, in the train coming up from Chicago, Mrs. Judge Porterfield had worn the negro porter’s coat over […]

Sun Dried

Story type: Literature

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There come those times in the life of every woman when she feels that she must wash her hair at once. And then she does it. The feeling may come upon her suddenly, without warning, at any hour of the day or night; or its approach may be slow and insidious, so that the victim […]

This will be a homing pigeon story. Though I send it ever so far–though its destination be the office of a home-and-fireside magazine or one of the kind with a French story in the back, it will return to me. After each flight its feathers will be a little more rumpled, its wings more weary, […]

The Three Of Them

Story type: Literature

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For eleven years Martha Foote, head housekeeper at the Senate Hotel, Chicago, had catered, unseen, and ministered, unknown, to that great, careless, shifting, conglomerate mass known as the Travelling Public. Wholesale hostessing was Martha Foote’s job. Senators and suffragists, ambassadors and first families had found ease and comfort under Martha Foote’s regime. Her carpets had […]

Shore Leave

Story type: Literature

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Tyler Kamps was a tired boy. He was tired from his left great toe to that topmost spot at the crown of his head where six unruly hairs always persisted in sticking straight out in defiance of patient brushing, wetting, and greasing. Tyler Kamps was as tired as only a boy can be at 9.30 […]

The key to the heart of Paris is love. He whose key-ring lacks that open sesame never really sees the city, even though he dwell in the shadow of the Sorbonne and comprehend the fiacre French of the Paris cabman. Some there are who craftily open the door with a skeleton key; some who ruthlessly […]

The Guiding Miss Gowd

Story type: Literature

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It has long been the canny custom of writers on travel bent to defray the expense of their journeyings by dashing off tales filled with foreign flavour. Dickens did it, and Dante. It has been tried all the way from Tasso to Twain; from Raskin to Roosevelt. A pleasing custom it is and thrifty withal, […]

The Hooker-Up-The-Back

Story type: Literature

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Miss Sadie Corn was not a charmer, but when you handed your room-key to her you found yourself stopping to chat a moment. If you were the right kind you showed her your wife’s picture in the front of your watch. If you were the wrong kind, with your scant hair carefully combed to hide […]

The Tough Guy

Story type: Literature

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You could not be so very tough in Chippewa, Wisconsin. But Buzz Werner managed magnificently with the limited means at hand. Before he was nineteen mothers were warning their sons against him, and brothers their sisters. Buzz Werner not only was tough–he looked tough. When he spoke–which was often–his speech slid sinisterly out of the […]

The Eldest

Story type: Literature

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The Self-Complacent Young Cub leaned an elbow against the mantel as you’ve seen it done in English plays, and blew a practically perfect smoke-ring. It hurtled toward me like a discus. “Trouble with your stuff,” he began at once (we had just been introduced), “is that it lacks plot. Been meaning to meet and tell […]

Cheerful, By Request

Story type: Literature

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I CHEERFUL–BY REQUEST The editor paid for the lunch (as editors do). He lighted his seventh cigarette and leaned back. The conversation, which had zigzagged from the war to Zuloaga, and from Rasputin the Monk to the number of miles a Darrow would go on a gallon, narrowed down to the thin, straight line of […]

The Dancing Girls

Story type: Literature

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When, on opening a magazine, you see a picture of a young man in uniform with a background of assorted star-shells in full flower; a young man in uniform gazing into the eyes of a young lady (in uniform); a young man in uniform crouching in a trench, dugout, or shell-hole, this happens: You skip […]

One Hundred Per Cent

Story type: Literature

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They had always had two morning papers–he his, she hers. The Times. Both. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the plan on which Mr. and Mrs. T.A. Buck conducted their married life. Theirs was the morning calm and harmony which comes to two people who are free to digest breakfast and the First Page simultaneously with […]

When you try to do a story about three people like Sid Hahn and Mizzi Markis and Wallie Ascher you find yourself pawing around among the personalities helplessly. For the three of them are what is known in newspaper parlance as national figures. One n.f. is enough for any short story. Three would swamp a […]

The fabric of my faithful love No power shall dim or ravel Whilst I stay here,–but oh, my dear, If I should ever travel! –Millay. If you’ve spent more than one day in Okoochee, Oklahoma, you’ve had dinner at Pardee’s. Someone–a business acquaintance, a friend, a townsman–has said, “Oh, you stopping at the Okmulgee Hotel? […]

Old Lady Mandle

Story type: Literature

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Old lady Mandle was a queen. Her demesne, undisputed, was a six-room flat on South Park Avenue, Chicago. Her faithful servitress was Anna, an ancient person of Polish nativity, bad teeth, and a cunning hand at cookery. Not so cunning, however, but that old lady Mandle’s was more artful still in such matters as meat-soups, […]

The Sudden Sixties

Story type: Literature

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Hannah Winter was sixty all of a sudden, as women of sixty are. Just yesterday–or the day before, at most–she had been a bride of twenty in a wine-coloured silk wedding gown, very stiff and rich. And now here she was, all of a sudden, sixty. The actual anniversary that marked her threescore had had […]

When a child grows to boyhood, and a boy to manhood under the soul-searing blight of a given name like Florian, one of two things must follow. He will degenerate into a weakling, crushed beneath the inevitable diminutive–Flossie; or he will build up painfully, inch by inch, a barrier against the name’s corroding action. He […]

Home Girl

Story type: Literature

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Wilson avenue, Chicago, is not merely an avenue but a district; not only a district but a state of mind; not a state of mind alone but a condition of morals. For that matter, it is none of these things so much as a mode of existence. If you know your Chicago–which you probably don’t–(sotto […]

Any one old enough to read this is old enough to remember that favourite heroine of fiction who used to start her day by rising from her couch, flinging wide her casement, leaning out and breathing deep the perfumed morning air. You will recall, too, the pure white rose clambering at the side of the […]

Gigolo

Story type: Literature

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In the first place, gigolo is slang. In the second place (with no desire to appear patronizing, but one’s French conversation class does not include the argot), it is French slang. In the third place, the gig is pronounced zhig, and the whole is not a respectable word. Finally, it is a term of utter […]

Old Man Minick

Story type: Literature

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His wife had always spoiled him outrageously. No doubt of that. Take, for example, the matter of the pillows merely. Old man Minick slept high. That is, he thought he slept high. He liked two plump pillows on his side of the great, wide, old-fashioned cherry bed. He would sink into them with a vast […]

The Afternoon Of A Faun

Story type: Literature

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Though he rarely heeded its summons–cagy boy that he was–the telephone rang oftenest for Nick. Because of the many native noises of the place, the telephone had a special bell that was a combination buzz and ring. It sounded above the roar of outgoing cars, the splash of the hose, the sputter and hum of […]