Monday, April 13, 2009

Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"

Sherwood Anderson's book "Winesburg Ohio" is 153 pages long. First published in 1919, it is considered to be the first "modern" American novel. Throughout the years this little book has been the main reason why people decided to choose a writing career. Let's just say that Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe and Steinbeck, to name but a few, are all heavily indebted to "Winesburg, Ohio". And yet this book is not widely known. Maybe the critics of 1941, the year of Anderson's death, are to blame who declared that his work lacked the "mark of high distinction that is needed to set off his undoubted originality." What were these people thinking of when they wrote this utter nonsence...

"Winesburg, Ohio" is a collection of short stories woven into a powerful portrayal of life in a small American town at the beginning of the 20th century. A masterful psychological portrait gallery of the inhabitants of this microcosm of community life that serves as the canvas for a study of humanity itself. The isolation, the hopes, the passions and dreams of these lives are a part of us and their fundamental questions on society, the transition of child to adult, the meaning of choosing a certain way of life that is changing and the questioning of life itself, are as valid today as they were at the time. Captivating this rare essence of humanity is what this book is all about. One can say that it is one of the first american existentialist novels. Here is an extract from the book:

" ... There is something memorable in the experience to be had by going into a fair ground that stands at the edge of a Middle Western town on a night after the annual fair has been held. The sensation is one never to be forgotten. On all sides are ghosts, not of the dead, but of living people. Here, during the day just passed, have come the people pouring in from the town and the country around. Farmers with their wives and children and all the people from the hundreds of little frame houses have gathered within these board walls. Young girls have laughed and men with beards have talked of the affairs of their lives. The place has been filled to overflowing with life. It has itched and squirmed with life and now it is night and the life has all gone away. The silence is almost terrifying. One conceals oneself standing silently beside the trunk of a tree and what there is of a reflective tendency in his nature is intensified. One shudders at the thought of the meaninglessness of life while at the same instant, and if the people of the town are his people, one loves life so intensely that tears come into the eyes..."

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