Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
This book feels like Faulkner and for good reason. Anderson was mentor to the young writer in the mid 1920s, and also to Hemingway and Steinbeck, among others. Thomas Wolfe credits Anderson as being the ‘only man who ever taught me anything.’ His book can be considered the first Lost Generation novel, and that would have a huge influence on these young writers. It is worth reading for that reason alone.
The book is a book of stories that read like vignettes in a play. Anderson plays on this by announcing his intent:
‘Alice’s step-father was a carriage painter, and given to drink. His story is an odd one. It will be worth telling some day’
‘The story of Louise Bentley, who became Mrs. John Hardy and lived with her husband in a brick house on Elm Street in Winesburg, is a story of misunderstanding’
‘The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands.’
The town of Winesburg, its characteristics, and the daily life of the townspeople, is the common thread in each story. Each story is unique and carries its own weight but is tied to the others. Here is some lovely writing:
‘The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the tall dark girl who became his wife and left her money to him is a very curious story. It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot. On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy’s hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.’
Sherwood Anderson died in 1941.