Winesburg, Ohio

( 45 )

Overview

Winesburg, Ohio (1919) is Sherwood Anderson's masterpiece, a cycle of short stories concerning life in a small Ohio town at the end of the nineteenth century.

At the centre is George Willard, a young reporter who becomes the confidant of the town's 'grotesques' -- solitary figures unable to communicate with others. George is their conduit for expression and solace from loneliness, but he has his own longings which eventually draw him away from home to seek a career in the city....

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Winesburg, Ohio

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Overview

Winesburg, Ohio (1919) is Sherwood Anderson's masterpiece, a cycle of short stories concerning life in a small Ohio town at the end of the nineteenth century.

At the centre is George Willard, a young reporter who becomes the confidant of the town's 'grotesques' -- solitary figures unable to communicate with others. George is their conduit for expression and solace from loneliness, but he has his own longings which eventually draw him away from home to seek a career in the city. He carries with him the dreams and unuttered words of remarkable characters such as Wing Biddlebaum, the disgraced former teacher, and the story-telling Doctor Parcival.

In the perfectly imagined world of an archetypal small American town, Anderson reveals the hidden passions that turn ordinary lives into fonts of unforgettable emotions. Played out against the deceptively placid backdrop of Winesburg, Anderson's loosely connected stories coalesce, like chapters, into a powerful novel of love and loss.

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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

From Barnes & Noble
Widely considered Anderson's masterwork, this book is a series of intertwined vignettes that reveals the secret life of a seemingly placid Midwestern town and the inner desires and dreams of its residents in the early years of the twentieth century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486282695
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 1/17/1995
  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions Series
  • Edition description: Dover Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 377,042
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author


Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941) had a simple and direct writing style that influenced both Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. His most notable works include Winesburg, Ohio, Triumph of the Egg, Horses and Men, and A Story Teller's Story.

George K. Wilson has narrated over one hundred fiction and nonfiction audiobook titles, from Thomas L. Friedman to Thomas Pynchon, and has won several AudioFile Earphones Awards.

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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Interesting.

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

    Midwestern Malaise

    This book bored me to death. There are some wonderful sentences here and there, but I guess I'm just not cultured enough to like books without plots. Malaise: The Midwest Edition would have been just as suitable a title - I honestly don't see why this is considered one of the most influential books of all time.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2011

    Intertwined characters

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    One of the few books I hate

    This book was an agonizing read at best. A sad little book about a sad little town with sad little people and their sad little lives.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2010

    10 Word Review

    I get it. Everything's grotesque. Can we please move on?

    10wordreview.blogspot.com

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

    Seth

    *ponders*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2013

    Lacy

    *she waks up hoping he was going to get on*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    Seth

    Morning. Ugh im tired. Oh well optimism works for me. Now another twisted day at school and a little flirting. Why not?

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Interesting but bizarre reading.

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2004

    Good characters, interesting stories, but...

    The stories were intriguing and the character development was good, but, my Lord, the writing! The passive language was so bad, I found myself picking up a pen and editing the text while I read. Didn't they have copy editors back in 1919? Still, I enjoyed the book, even though I found the writing style hard to handle at times. All in all, I give it a positive review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2003

    Lost something in the Audio 'translation'.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2002

    Andersons grotesque and hands

    anderson with a clear and humble style expresses the half dreams of these half wits in such a charming and touching way, couldnt put it down and still cant. it really was a poets job and anderson knew this

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2001

    A classic

    Sherwood Anderson¿s story cycle about small-town life blurs the lines between novel and short story, while using a narrative style that sometimes blurs the lines between past and present. In fact, this book captures a time when the agrarian past was falling to the industrial present. The characters are often charming, but their lives are often tragic. This book has influenced countless writers and deserves its place as one of the classics of American literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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