"In Texas the truth is often too strange for fiction." - Edna Ferber
Full disclosure here: I am a proud Texan. I have been all my life and continue to be, despite being displaced some eleven years ago. My love for Texas runs deep in my blood, as my family can be traced back for well over 100 years to the diverse geographical expanse known as The Lone Star State. But, that does not mean I can't be objective about Texas. I realize Texans are a prideful people, they revel in the bigness that is Texas, they are fiercely independent; and though loyal to the United States, in most Texan hearts, Texas comes first.
I picked up the novel Giant a couple months back and bought it solely because it (the movie incarnation, at least) is featured in my favorite song about Texas ("The Front Porch Song" - This old porch is a palace walk in on a main street in Texas. It ain't seen or heard the days of G and Rs and Xs and that '62 poster that's almost faded down and a screen without a picture since Giant came to town.). The fact that Ferber won the Pulitzer led a little credence to the whole purchase as well.
Ferber was lambasted for her portrayal of Texas within the confines of the state, but lauded for her realist depiction of the "new rich" of Texas in the rest of the 47 states. I think Texans just needed a little perspective. Though some of the scenarios and statements hit a little too close to home, it is an incredibly accurate portrait of the people of Texas (not just the rich). But, I have the objectivity that comes with letting a book breathe for about 50 years.
Overall, Ferber told an amazing story of the decline of the ranch life of Texas as the discovery of abundant resources of oil turned Texas from the cattle king to the oil oligarch. She tells the story of the end of an era with less of a "good riddance" but more of a hopeful "here we go." The closing line of dialogue of the book tells the reader, Ferber had kind intentions in her satire. That said the satire is played up nicely by the over-the-top vocabulary she uses in the telling. For the first 100 hundred pages, I strongly recommend having a dictionary by your side. The words she puts into her character's mouths are often so esoteric, they strain believability. I think it must be her way of pointing out the difference between the Texan and the rest of the country. She overtly states later in the book that Texas was less than desirable on the education front. Other gripes: racism, classism, ostentatious lifestyles, bull-headedness; the list goes on.
The story is well told and the characters, though some would call them caricatures, are engaging. I recommend this book, but I am Texan, so that might be because I "get it" more than others. Ferber's inconsistent use of commas was a little maddening, as well as some errors in the text (come on this book is 50 years old, the manuscript should be edited by now!), but not enough to put the book down.
Rating: 5 out of 7