Essays On Winesburg

Essays On Winesburg-16
Only rarely is the object of Anderson's stories social verisimilitude, or the "photographing" of familiar appearances, in the sense, say, that one might use to describe a novel by Theodore Dreiser or Sinclair Lewis.

Only rarely is the object of Anderson's stories social verisimilitude, or the "photographing" of familiar appearances, in the sense, say, that one might use to describe a novel by Theodore Dreiser or Sinclair Lewis.

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They show patches of talent but also a crudity of thought and unsteadiness of language.

No one reading these novels was likely to suppose that its author could soon produce anything as remarkable as Winesburg, Ohio.

(There are some writers one should never return to.) But now, in the fullness of age, when asked to say a few introductory words about Anderson and his work, I have again fallen under the spell of Winesburg, Ohio, again responded to the half–spoken desires, the flickers of longing that spot its pages.

Naturally, I now have some changes of response: a few of the stories no longer haunt me as once they did, but the long story "Godliness," which years ago I considered a failure, I now see as a quaintly effective account of the way religious fanaticism and material acquisitiveness can become intertwined in American experience. His childhood and youth in Clyde, a town with perhaps three thousand souls, were scarred by bouts of poverty, but he also knew some of the pleasures of pre–industrial American society.

Occasionally there occurs in a writer's career a sudden, almost mysterious leap of talent, beyond explanation, perhaps beyond any need for explanation.

In 1915–16 Anderson had begun to write and in 1919 he published the stories that comprise Winesburg, Ohio, stories that form, in sum, a sort of loosely–strung episodic novel.Nor was this, I believe, merely a deception on Anderson's part, since the breakdown painful as it surely was, did help precipitate a basic change in his life.At the age of 36, he left behind his business and moved to Chicago, becoming one of the rebellious writers and cultural bohemians in the group that has since come to be called the "Chicago Renaissance." Anderson soon adopted the posture of a free, liberated spirit, and like many writers of the time, he presented himself as a sardonic critic of American provincialism and materialism.Such tags may once have had their point, but by now they seem dated and stale.The revolt against the village (about which Anderson was always ambivalent) has faded into history.In my book I tried, somewhat awkwardly, to bring together the kinds of judgment Trilling had made with my still keen affection for the best of Anderson's writings.By then, I had read writers more complex, perhaps more distinguished than Anderson, but his muted stories kept a firm place in my memories, and the book I wrote might be seen as a gesture of thanks for the light—a glow of darkness, you might say—that he had brought to me. I no longer read Anderson, perhaps fearing I might have to surrender an admiration of youth.I must have been no more than fifteen or sixteen years old when I first chanced upon Winesburg, Ohio.Gripped by these stories and sketches of Sherwood Anderson's small–town "grotesques," I felt that he was opening for me new depths of experience, touching upon half–buried truths which nothing in my young life had prepared me for.Clyde looked, I suppose, not very different from most other American towns, and the few of its residents I tried to engage in talk about Anderson seemed quite uninterested.This indifference would not have surprised him; it certainly should not surprise anyone who reads his book.

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