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Buddy Reads > Giant by Edna Ferber (Spoiler Warning)

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message 1: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Thoughts on the first chapters (sorry can't be more specific as don't have book with me at the moment).

1. I had to put a spoiler warning in the thread title because of the way the book starts, in the present day (or what was the present day), so that the main story is one long flashback. Although the opening chapters are a good evocation of the lifestyle of wealthy Texans in the 1950s, I'm not sure this was the best way to begin, because it gives away plot points (eg: Jordan and Juana, Bick and Leslie making a success of their marriage). I think the story really starts when the flashback does.

2. The drinking of hot coffee in spite of the heat. This surprised me because although the British will travel to somewhere tropical and then drink hot tea on the beach, I thought Americans were more likely to drink iced tea or coffee in hot weather. Is it common practice to have hot drinks no matter what the temperature in the hotter states?

3. The girls' names - Leigh, Leslie and Lacey. I was surprised that they were considered to be boys' names as they sounded like girls' names to me. But then this is Virginia in the 1920s - have naming conventions changed?

4. Leslie's arrival at the ranch as a new bride - anyone else reminded of Rebecca?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I was wondering how you were doing with the vernacular. I lived in Texas for four years and can speak Texan if I have to, but even I have to admit it might be a pain for someone not well versed in the language down there. :)

Hot coffee....with the advent of Starbucks, I'd say these days hot coffee in the summer is almost non-existent. Actually, in the South they drink iced tea (well, sweet tea, which is a ton of sugar over which they pour some tea....blech) year 'round.

Names: Leigh and Leslie were certainly boys' names up until fairly modern times. Lacey surprised me, though. Naming conventions have certainly changed a lot since the 50s, though.

Just finished Leslie and Bick getting married....will get back to you tonight re: her arrival to the ranch.

That said, Ferber absolutely nails the Texas mentality....and not just rich Texans. They are an insecure people, given to bragging and everything they own having to be the biggest and the best.

In fact, back when oil prices were skyrocketing and it cost sooooooo much to fill up your gas tank, we were all laughing at the silly Texans and their giant SUVs they drive around. It had to have cost them $100 every time they stopped at a gas station.


message 3: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments I'm so glad you used to live in Texas! I really wanted a point of view from a native or resident. Whereabouts did you use to live?



It certainly is big, if no longer the biggest state since Alaska joined the Union.

I can understand a lot of the language and I know a little Spanish. I hadn't realised how much Spanish was engrained in the culture and I get the impression it is quite different from other Southern states. After all, Leslie is technically a Southerner too and yet it's a complete culture shock for her to move to Texas.

Why should Texans be insecure? Is it because historically their wealth was based more on cattle than cotton (and now oil) or because the European influence is Spain rather than England? I was very interested by Ferber saying that the women using a rising inflection for statements meant they were insecure, because just about every female under the age of 30 in the UK seems to be doing this.


message 4: by MAP (last edited Dec 17, 2010 03:52PM) (new)

MAP As a native Texan, I must ask: what on earth is "speaking Texan?"

I think saying all Texans are insecure is somewhat of an overstatement. In my experience, many loudmouth "my state is the best" Texans are rather inexperienced with travel (think about it...if you live in the middle of Texas, just driving to get out of the state can take 6 hours) and just really really into their culture. To label all Texans as insecure as a culture is a broad and ridiculous generalization. (Though if I had to guess, yes I would say the insecure Texans come from the fact that many early wealthy Texans made their money from oil rather than business, were by no means "old money" but good old boys with sudden tremendous wealth, and were never really able to fit in with more northern money who had very specific rules and mentalities to abide by and who never really accepted oil money into their circles.)

I've found that often non-Texans assume that Texans will be loud and over-proud more often than they really are, and several times over my life I've had someone get in my face about how stupid it is that Texans say...have t-shirts with the Texas flag on it or something, and I'm just like "Well, I don't. Why are you yelling at me?" One person harangued me about the "don't mess with Texas" slogans that seem to be everywhere (thanks to DFW airport selling them and letting them leave the state without any context), taking it as some sort of...anti-immigration message or something (??) and didn't believe me when I said it was an anti-littering slogan.

Also, I don't really think rising inflection as a cultural way of speaking has anything to do with insecurity...if it's something you pick up on because everyone around you does it from the time you're a baby, how can it be due to your own personal insecurity? That's like saying that using the word "ain't" is a form of insecurity or something.

That said, now I'm interested in this book.

EDIT: I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas.


message 5: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments MAP wrote: "That said, now I'm interested in this book. It doesn't sound terribly flattering."

Apparently it didn't go down too well with Texans at the time. According to a review of Ferber's later book, Ice Palace:

Ms. Ferber liked to take a stand in her fiction: her previous novel, Giant (1953), had narrowed the eyes of Texans in anger, prompting one Houston critic to suggest ominously that if Ms. Ferber were ever to set foot in the Lone Star state again, she should be met with a "necktie party" (rather than the traditional autograph affair).


http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/bartl...

What about the unusual approach to punctuation? I think it feels gimmicky and I can't see that it adds anything to the narrative that a few more commas wouldn't.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 17, 2010 09:24PM) (new)

The punctuation has been bothering me, too. I'm hoping it will smooth out over the course of the novel.

I lived in Houston, Moppet. As an outsider, I had a different perspective (I'm sure) of Texas as opposed to a native. (I'm from Alaska, so the "bigness" of Texas didn't impress me, lol.)

That said, I think Ferber is nailing it and it doesn't surprise me that it ticked off a lot of Texans in the day (probably still does). Of course, I'm sure as the novel progresses, Ferber will also introduce some of the other, rural type of Texans and those folks are some of the kindest, generous you'll ever meet.

But you're right when you say that even though Leslie lived in Virginia, that's a whole different kind of "south." And the difference is family history. In Virginia and the Carolinas, those families go back to the founding of our country (not near as old as European families go back, but still....). Texas was "new money" so to speak. A generalization, but they didn't fit in with the genteelness of other, older Southern families from nearer to the Atlantic coast. Nor should they....you had to be tough to make it in Texas back then.

And for whatever it's worth, as an Alaskan, anyone out there can feel free to stereotype us all they want. I've got pretty thick skin and can take it. I even understand where a lot of the stereotypes about us come from and can laugh at it (and even see some of the truth in it!). ;)


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

ps....love the map you posted. I was looking at it and realized that I've been to each and every city/town that is on that map of Texas.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Texas bumper sticker that I used to see all over:

"I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could."

I agree with what you both are saying about the inflection thing. I think it's as MAP says: when you grow up around a certain form of speech, you are bound to pick it up yourself. I never noticed it much down there.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Moppet wrote: "MAP wrote: "That said, now I'm interested in this book. It doesn't sound terribly flattering."

Apparently it didn't go down too well with Texans at the time. According to a review of Ferber's late..."


Moppet: that link is FABULOUS. The picture of Ferber at the top of the page shows her in Kotzebue, Alaska....the town in which I was born and raised.


message 10: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Michele wrote: "The picture of Ferber at the top of the page shows her in Kotzebue, Alaska...the town in which I was born and raised."

Wow - quite a contrast to Houston! I think we should read Ice Palace too at some point.

In the UK people have a very definite idea of themselves as English, Welsh, Scottish or (Northern) Irish and also there is a North-South divide in England so even though much smaller, we manage to have our stereotypes too!


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Moppet wrote: "Michele wrote: "The picture of Ferber at the top of the page shows her in Kotzebue, Alaska...the town in which I was born and raised."

Wow - quite a contrast to Houston! I think we should read Ice..."


I just ordered Ice Palace from paperback swap!


message 12: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Michele wrote: "I just ordered Ice Palace from paperback swap!"

I've added it as to read but the library doesn't have it unfortunately - they might be willing to buy in a second hand copy though.

I'm going to add the movie to my rental list too. There's a review here which says the film is more successful than the book because it tells the story better - I think the reviewer has a point actually. The really dramatic moments sometimes take place offstage. I think it would be better to step back from Leslie's point of view now and again and take advantage of the book being in third person rather than first. It feels a bit like the other characters are being short-changed because we almost never see them from anyone else's perspective.


message 13: by Moppet (last edited Dec 19, 2010 10:08AM) (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Michele wrote: "I just ordered Ice Palace from paperback swap!"

I've added it as to read but the library doesn't have it unfortunately - they might be willing to buy in a second hand copy though.

I'm going to add the movie to my rental list too. There's a review here (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...) which says the film is more successful than the book because it tells the story better - I think the reviewer has a point actually. The really dramatic moments sometimes take place offstage. I think it would be better to step back from Leslie's point of view now and again and take advantage of the book being in third person rather than first. It feels a bit like the other characters are being short-changed because we almost never see them from anyone else's perspective.


message 14: by MAP (new)

MAP To me, Texas is like an annoying little sister. I don't really let people know I'm related to it, and I try to hang out in it as little as possible, but if someone else starts ragging on it, I defend it. ;)

Also, thought I'd pass along a quote from a friend of mine who read Giant several years ago:
"It is terribly offensive to Texans. It's also terribly accurate."

I'd still love to know what "speaking Texan" means. :)


message 15: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments MAP wrote: "I'd still love to know what "speaking Texan" means. :)"

Well, Ferber's characters definitely use some language I haven't heard before, aside from the Spanish. For example, when Bick talks about people 'snooting' others. I understood what he meant as 'snooty' in the UK means snobby or stuck-up, but I'd never heard it used as a verb before.


message 16: by MAP (new)

MAP I've never heard that either. Hmm.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the language is magnified because this is rural Texas in the 1920s and 30s....different today. But I haven't read one single "fixin' ta" in the whole book, lol.

I'm almost finished and I have to say that Ferber really, really used this piece of fiction to express her vitriol towards Texas. I mean, she really hated that state. Wow. I wonder what she would have thought of it today.

I'm curious to read her Alaska book now because everyone says she felt the exact opposite there. If that's true, I'll spend the whole book rolling my eyes at over-exaggerated virtues of Alaska.

While I don't deny much of what Ferber writes in Giant is accurate (at least to a non-native like me), it's overkill. It's enough to express it once or twice, but not over and over throughout the book.

As Moppet says, we never get to understand anything from a native Texan (like Bick or Luz or even Jett) viewpoint. After all, Bick wasn't a bad man, he simply saw things different from Leslie.


message 18: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Also, you really don't get a balanced view because Ferber concentrates on the oil and cattle barons and the Latin Americans (not sure if this is modern politically correct term?) and ignores everyone in the middle. And yes, she repeats stuff all the time, not just the criticisms. The stuff about the flags of Texas was in twice, for example.

I have finished now and enjoyed reading it but I feel like a story with interesting characters and really great potential was spoiled by a subjective approach and poor storytelling (not to mention the lamest ending ever...just wait till you get there). Frustrating because what could have been a five star read turned out to be a 3.5 at best.

I agree, she seems to loathe Texas, and I think it unbalances the book, not just because the picture you get is biased, but because the story covers thirty years, but she focuses in huge detail on Leslie as a new bride because it gives her the opportunity to go on about how Texas is different - then the next twenty-five years go by in a flash. It feels unbalanced. I rarely say this, but this book needed to be longer, to give full value to character development. Marcia Davenport's The Valley of Decision, for example, did it much better.


message 19: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 478 comments Mod
Bah. I just started it last night and made about 50 pages before I nodded off. It really wasn't working well for me, and now reading these comments I'm not sure I want to. It certainly starts off dry as dirt and doesn't sound like it improves much on that.

No offense to MAP or any other Texans around here but it never has been a state I've much interest in and one of the few in the US that I have never had a desire to even visit.


message 20: by Moppet (new)

Moppet (missmoppet) | 32 comments Misfit wrote: "Bah. I just started it last night and made about 50 pages before I nodded off. It really wasn't working well for me, and now reading these comments I'm not sure I want to. It certainly starts off dry as dirt and doesn't sound like it improves much on that."

It does improve once you get past the party at the airport, but I'm not sure it improves enough for me to recommend you persevere! Having finished the book I definitely think it was a mistake to start the way it does - the opening chapters introduce a whole load of characters all at once some of whom are never seen again, give away plot points and are 90 per cent exposition 10 per cent action.



SPOILER WARNING



SPOILER WARNING



I was expecting that the narrative would return to the party at the end of the book but...no. The story just fizzles out. Jett's passion for Leslie? His interest in Luz? The aftermath of the diner incident? All left up in the air.

That said, I am glad I read it and I still want to give Ice Palace a go.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Moppet wrote: "Misfit wrote: "Bah. I just started it last night and made about 50 pages before I nodded off. It really wasn't working well for me, and now reading these comments I'm not sure I want to. It certain..."

Me too.


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