The View from Pompey's Head

The View from Pompey's Head

by Sherwood Anderson
     
 

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A timeless collection of short stories about an imaginary small town, unified by the presence of Winesburg Eagle reporter George Willard, Winesburg, Ohio is, as H.L. Mencken said upon it's publication in 1919, "...vivid, so full of insight, so shiningly life-like and glowing, that the book is lifted into a category all its own."

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Overview

A timeless collection of short stories about an imaginary small town, unified by the presence of Winesburg Eagle reporter George Willard, Winesburg, Ohio is, as H.L. Mencken said upon it's publication in 1919, "...vivid, so full of insight, so shiningly life-like and glowing, that the book is lifted into a category all its own."

Presented here by the leading lights of modern American letters, Winesburg, Ohio reverberates with the passion of both Sherwood Anderson and the many writers whom he has influenced.

Editorial Reviews

Rochelle O'Gorman
Anderson's 1919 story collection about the secretive inhabitants of a small town was an instant classic. This production probably looked like a great idea on paper: Gather twenty-five well-known authors, including Richard Ford, Elizabeth Berg, Paul Auster, Richard Russo, Russell Banks and Michael Cunningham, to each read one of the stories. Too bad the end result is uneven and sloppy. While some of the narrators sound natural and convincing, others seem preoccupied and ill prepared. Anderson's characters deserve better.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060010256
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/28/2002
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.46(w) x 7.68(h) x 2.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window.

Quite a fuss was made about the matter. The carpenter, who had been a soldier in the Civil War, came into the writer's room and sat down to talk of building a platform for the purpose of raising the bed. The writer had cigars lying about and the carpenter smoked.

For a time the two men talked of the raising of the bed and then they talked of other things. The soldier got on the subject of the war. The writer, in fact, led him to that subject. The carpenter had once been a prisoner in Andersonville prison and had lost a brother. The brother had died of starvation, and whenever the carpenter got upon that subject he cried. He, like the old writer, had a white mustache, and when he cried he puckered up his lips and the mustache bobbed up and down. The weeping old man with the cigar in his mouth was ludicrous. The plan the writer had for the raising of his bed was forgotten and later the carpenter did it in his own way and the writer, who was past sixty, had to help himself with a chair when he went to bed at night.

In his bed the writer rolled over on his side and lay quite still. For years he had been beset with notions concerning his heart. He was a hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea had got into his mind that he would some time die unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he thought of that. It did not alarm him. The effect in fact was quite a special thing and noteasily explained. It made him more alive, there in bed, than at any other time. Perfectly still he lay and his body was old and not of much use any more, but something inside him was altogether young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. No, it wasn't a youth, it was a woman, young, and wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is absurd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the old writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is what the writer, or the young thing within the writer, was thinking about.

The old writer, like all of the people in the world, had got, during his long life, a great many notions in his head. He had once been quite handsome and a number of women had been in love with him. And then, of course, he had known people, many people, known them in a peculiarly intimate way that was different from the way in which you and I know people. At least that is what the writer thought and the thought pleased him. Why quarrel with an old man concerning his thoughts?

In the bed the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes.

You see the interest in all this lies in the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques.

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made a noise like a small dog whimpering. Had you come into the room you might have supposed the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps indigestion.

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed before the eyes of the old man, and then, although it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed and began to write. Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted to describe it.

At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called 'The Book of the Grotesque.' It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before. The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:

That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.

The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.

And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

You can see for yourself how the old man, who had spent all of his life writing and was filled with words, would write hundreds of pages concerning this matter. The subject would become so big in his mind that he himself would be in danger of becoming a grotesque. He didn't, I suppose, for the same reason that he never published the book. It was the young thing inside him that saved the old man.

Concerning the old carpenter who fixed the bed for the writer, I only mentioned him because he, like many of what are called very common people, became the nearest thing to what is understandable and lovable of all the grotesques in the writer's book.

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What People are saying about this

Malcolm Cowley
"The only story teller of his generation who left his mark on the style and vision of the generation that followed....Henningway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck, Coldwell, Saroyan, Henry Miller...each of these owes an unmistakable debth to Anderson."
Malcolm Cowley
That single moment of aliveness - that epiphany, as Joyce would have called it... was the story Anderson told over and over, but without exhausting its freshness, for the story had as many variations as there were faces in his dreams.
Malcolm Bradberry
"Like Dubliners, Winesburg can be read naturalistically, as the account of individuals trapped by social confinement and paralysis, narrow human experience and puritanical burdens and guilt of American small town life....It's characters are depositories of the untold, trapped in ... pain; a direct utters cannot reveal the truth, the truth being too many."

Meet the Author

Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, Ohio. Following a brief stint in the Spanish American War, he started a family and founded a business — both of which he abruptly abandoned at the age of 36 to pursue his life-long dream of writing. His simple and direct writing style, with which he portrayed important moments in the lives of his characters, influenced both Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. His other notable works include Triumph of the Egg; Horses and Men; and A Story Teller's Story.

Richard Ford is the author of the Bascombe novels, which include The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day—the first novel to win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award—and The Lay of the Land, as well as the short story collections Rock Springs and A Multitude of Sins, which contain many widely anthologized stories. He lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford.

Richard Russo is the author of Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, and Straight Man. He lives off the coast of Maine with his wife and two daughters.

Russell Banks is a past president of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

New York Times bestseller Jacquelyn Mitchard's novels include The Deep End of the Ocean, Twelve Times Blessed, and The Breakdown Lane. She is also the author of The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship, a collection of her newspaper columns. She lives with her husband and six children in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jonathan Lethem is the author of the novels Gun, with Occasional Music, Amnesia Moon, As She Climbed Across the Table, and Girl in Landscape. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Ron Hansen is the bestselling author of the novel Atticus (a finalist for the National Book Award), Hitler's Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy, Desperadoes, and Isn't It Romantic?, as well as a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, and a book for children. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ron Hansen lives in northern California, where he teaches at Santa Clara University.

Daniel Halpern is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Foreign Neon and Selected Poems, and is editor-in-chief of The Ecco Press. He has edited numerous anthologies, including Plays in One Act, Writers on Artists, and The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories.

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