Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So Big

I had a little trouble with his book as the copy I had ordered from Amazon didn't have the final pages and some of the pages appeared to have been photocopied with sticky notes attached. Ian said he wondered if this edition was one of those print on demand books. Anyway, the last page on my copy concluded "No," Roelf replied, abruptly. "The mouth is smaller than the......" I knew there was more, but I didn't realize that only the final double-sided page was missing and that the Ferber's end was no more conclusive than the end of my copy.

Nevertheless, I loved this book, thought the writing and character development were fantastic and was gratified to hear the rest of the group agree. When we were selecting books last year, I spent all my extra pennies on this and was so happy that it was worth every bit my six cents.

When it was so clearly Selina's story, I asked what the group thought of the title. We were inconclusive and Maureen said she had read that Ferber wanted to change the title, but the publisher was committed to this one. We batted around alternative titles and I liked Cabbages is Beautiful, but Diana said it wouldn't sell copies. Probably not. Kareen wondered if the title referred to Dirk's size which Ferber referred to on a number of occasions.

When we talked about Selina and the coincidences in her life, Connie asked if maybe the title referred to her, to how she traveled the world through the books she read and the people she met. So big. There were a number of coincidences that changed her life; the passing of her husband whom she loved but with whom her farm would never have thrived; that of meeting Julia when she was trying to sell her produce in the male-dominated marketplace; the support and financial help of August Hempel. We decided that they weren't just a construct of fiction. Life is like that.

We also wondered how Selina had failed to foster in Dirk all things that she sacrificed for. We noted that her gambling father had educated her by including her in everything, whereas Dirk was encouraged to not be a farmer, not participate in her life, but to study to become a better person. Mary said that she and her siblings learned that they could escape chores by reading. We all said we had experienced moments of Selina's style of parenting.

Someone thought Dirk's downfall was Paula's manipulative engineering, because while he despised her avowal to only marry for money, he became the same sort of person. He was completely seduced by wealth and the lifestyle that came with it. Who was successful? Selina or Dirk? Remember, this won the Pulitzer.

The ending was certainly curious. Kareen kept saying that just two more paragraphs would have been all we needed. We agreed that Dirk had experienced an eye opening through the visit with the artists on Selina's farm. Mary read from the portion where he went home to his correct console with a correct pile of letters and his correct evening cloths laid correctly on his bed. She was optinistic that he got it. Inside him something said, 'You're nothing but a rubber stamp." I'm with Kareen - just two more paragraphs.

We concluded with the knowledge that everyone was clueless of what was to come in the next five years. Dirk's bond sales would be worth no more than the paper they were printed on. Mary left shaking the book in her hand; top ten she said. This goes in my top ten.