Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio

3.8 47
by Sherwood Anderson
     
 

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Before Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who, with Winesburg, Ohio, charted a new direction in American fiction—evoking with lyrical simplicity quiet moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary men and women. In a bed, elevated so that he can peer out the window, an old writer contemplates the fluttering of his heart

Overview

Before Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who, with Winesburg, Ohio, charted a new direction in American fiction—evoking with lyrical simplicity quiet moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary men and women. In a bed, elevated so that he can peer out the window, an old writer contemplates the fluttering of his heart and considers, as if viewing a pageant, the inhabitants of a small midwestern town. Their stories are about loneliness and alienation, passion and virginity, wealth and poverty, thrift and profligacy, carelessness and abandon. "Nothing quite like it has ever been done in America," wrote H. L. Mencken. "It is so vivid, so full of insight, so shiningly life-like and glowing, that the book is lifted into a category all its own."

With Commentary by Sherwood Anderson, Rebecca West, and Hart Crane

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.
From the Publisher
"When he calls himself a 'poor scribbler' don't believe him. He is not a poor scribbler . . . he is a very great writer."—Ernest Hemingway

"Winesburg, Ohio, when it first appeared, kept me up a whole night in a steady crescendo of emotion."—Hart Crane

"As a rule, first books show more bravado than anything else, unless it be tediousness. But there is neither of these qualities in Winesburg, Ohio. . . . These people live and breathe: they are beautiful."—E. M. Forster

"Winesburg, Ohio is an extraordinarily good book. But it is not fiction. It is poetry."—Rebecca West

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781519426673
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
11/20/2015
Pages:
118
Sales rank:
742,485
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(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.

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.
From the Publisher
“A work of love, an attempt to break down the walls that divide one person from another, and also, in its own fashion, a celebration of small-town life in the lost days of goodwill and innocence.”—Malcolm Cowley
 
“He was the father of my whole generation of writers.”—William Faulkner
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 (September 13, 1876 - March 8, 1941) was an American novelist and short story writer, known for subjective and self-revealing works. Self-educated, he rose to become a successful copywriter and business owner in Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio. In 1912, Anderson had a nervous breakdown that led him to abandon his business and family to become a writer.

At the time, he moved to Chicago and was eventually married three more times. His most enduring work is the short-story sequence Winesburg, Ohio, which launched his career. Throughout the 1920s, Anderson published several short story collections, novels, memoirs, books of essays, and a book of poetry. Though his books sold reasonably well, Dark Laughter (1925), a novel inspired by Anderson's time in New Orleans during the 1920s, was the only bestseller of his career.

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Winesburg Ohio 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although it begins slowly and eerily, it does eventually unfold. The stories are connected in an interesting way, and it is up to you to see it either as one big story or a bunch of little ones. It was easy to relate to most of the stories in some way, and this made for a relaxing read. I recommend this to those who have ever lived in a small town.
Daven Carlson More than 1 year ago
Anderson very creatively intertwined the characters of his fictional town. It's as if we're in a 360 degree setting. It is also intriguing how relatively open about human sexuality Anderson is, given the early 1900s time period in which it was written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I had read the book first...the audio version failed to move me. The readers, famous as they may be for their own work, are NOT performers..they were not able to bring the stories alive..they seem pretty uninterested and really untalented. Wonder how much they were paid for their individual 'performances'? Oh well... Might I suggest a REALLY good audio book? Pepys' Diary, read by Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh...a great example of how an audio book should be done.
Laura_at_125Pages 7 months ago
Original Review @ 125Pages.com Winesburg, Ohio is a series of interconnecting short stories (twenty-two in total) published in 1919. It is considered to be one of the earliest works of modernist literature and in 1998, the Modern Library rankedWinesburg, Ohio 24th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Focusing mainly on George Willard, a young man coming of age in the early 1900’s in a small town, all the stories revolve around the citizens in the town. Stories range from tales of the local doctor, school teacher and merchant. Tales of scandal, the women who was the first to have a driver for her carriage, family, the mother who is uninterested in raising her child, and love, a brief affair concerning the town doctor, showcase the citizens of the town. Over one hundred characters are mentioned, some only once and some weave through each story. It was interesting to see that gossip about others was prevalent in that time and that jealousy regarding monetary and social statuses were also heavily in play. There were very obvious social classes and the interaction between the haves and the have nots was a primary focus. This was a very fast read at only 180-ish pages and I did enjoy it. The pacing was quick, as each story was only a few pages long. The world building was superb. Sherwood Anderson created such a complete and well fleshed out world, I could picture the streets, the stores and the houses as I read. The characters fit well in the world and even though you only got glimpses into their world, I understood their motivations and actions. While Winesburg, Ohio is not a typical read for me now, I was a classic English lit major when I started college and have read a large amount of classics in the past. It was nice to get back to my reading roots and delve into a story (in this case stories) that don’t focus on social media mishaps, love found across a bar, or a helicopter parent. Not that I don’t enjoy reads like that, but sometimes focusing on the writing itself is a welcome change. Favorite lines – In all the babble of words that fell from the lips of the men with whom she adventured she was trying to find what would be for her the true word. Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids.
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Bookworm705 More than 1 year ago
This book was nothing at all what I had imagined. I haven't read it all as yet, but so far, it has been somewhat interesting as a collection of very short tales of various small town people and their ideosyncrasies. The writing style is nothing like any other I have noticed before, although one might see certain resemblances in the writings of Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield. I can't say that I can relate to most of the characters or to the situations portrayed, which might be why the tales seem interesting.
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