3 / 5
"The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed."
To Sherwood Anderson, more than to any other American Writer, belongs the distinction of having converted mere sectional writing into a universal experience. As the interpreter of mid-western life, he wrought a change in mood and method that was revolutionary. His masterpiece,Winesburg, Ohio, became the forerunner of a new and vital school of contemporary humanity, its inescapable conviction of truth and its brooding, tender insight make it a book by which Anderson has earned a leading rank among the important novelists of America and certainly among the best of our storytellers.
Fun fact: This book was published on my birthday...62 years before I was born (yes, you can do the math if you want). That's pretty neat. Apparently it was a Thursday. Not sure if that was just a random day, or if publishers released books on that day of the week regularly, like how Tuesday is the preferred day for releases these days.
In any case, to get to the book itself: it was all right. I didn't love it, perhaps because it didn't feel like any character was given enough time for me to become familiar with. This is due to it being a collection of related stories, rather than a cohesive novel. I am not much for short stories (although Short Story Thursdays has helped me overcome that!), but this book appealed to me because it connected everyone's stories - you would be reading about one townsperson's tragic history, and you'd encounter characters who you had already met (with varying levels of intimacy) earlier in the work. That was an enjoyable aspect. The particularly outstanding character, who seemed to be at least mentioned in everyone's stories, was George Willard. I think Anderson ultimately is telling George's story through examining those of his fellow townspeople, and how the character's life is affected by them in so many different ways.
Anderson particularly seems to enjoy examining how people experience loneliness and isolation, even in the midst of a (small) town. His characters almost all seem desperate and unhappy lost souls. All of the characters seem to believe that nobody else could possibly understand or connect with them, and so they give up before they even try. One wonders if that is characteristic of this small town which Anderson is writing about, or if he is indicating that this is more of a pandemic which was affecting small-town America in the early 1900s. It was especially interesting to note the time pre-industrial revolution time period, when not everyone seemed eager to move to the city. Some want to flee the small town life, but most are content (enough) with their lot.
On a different note, I did find it quaint and charming how the book actually deals quite a bit with sex, but never mentions it by name. Many women end up pregnant out of wedlock, and several of the men are Lotharios, but never once is the subject of sex broached so that people could cry indecency and ban the book. I mean, not to say Anderson kept his book proper to that end. I am guessing that was more because of the times during which it was written. But it was still interesting to read and be forced to kind of read between the lines to get the true understanding of what Anderson was trying to convey.
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