Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Ok to Sip a Chardonnay When You Read This Book...

A month or so ago  I lamented that I could not find anything I wanted to read--and I need a book to be "in" at all times, in order to be happy! In my public library's used book funder-store, I found a nice old-fashioned copy of a little American cult classic called Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson--which I read as a high-school girl (tho not for school); thoroughly did not understand the book at that time!

 So, Sherwood Anderson was a bit of an odd-duck. Born about 1876, he grew up and was influenced by childhood memories of the town he and his mother lived: real-life Clyde, OH. He married, had kids and ran a production factory in Northern Ohio,(and wrote some) got to near middle age and just left it all and went to booming, early 20th century Chicago, lived in a boarding house and suddenly one night poured out this elegant little book....
 ...made up of a series of loosely interconnected stories or literary portraits of people who lived in and around his remembered but imaginary town. Each of these characters might today be considered--maybe neurotic--Anderson called them "grotesques", since they attached themselves to too many or incorrect "truths". The literary device he uses to help tie it all together is the main character, young, coming-of-age George Willard, who lives with his dying Mother and business-obsessed Father in the hotel the family runs. George works for the towns little newspaper, so he gets to run around town all day and night learning of the quirks of the quirky townfolk.  The first story, Hands, came to my attention just as the Penn State Child Sex Scandal hit the headlines. Strange.
The out-lying countryside is wonderfully described in simple, clear detail In the first few stories the author will suddenly break away from the subject at hand to inform his readers about rural American life in the long ago days just after the American Civil War---and he's writing for my Grandparents' generation. The presence of passenger rail as an everyday item is richly portrayed.  Right up my alley, in other words. About 3/4 thru the book, suddenly all these disjointed stories meld in the readers mind. Cool. It just suddenly jells as a continuous piece, colorizes itself. Neat book, not always easy to read because some of the people are so crackers.  Anderson personally influenced Faulkner, Hemingway etc. I'm such a fan of Wm. Faulkner and I can see that without Anderson, he may not have come up with that difficult classic, The Sound and the Fury.      So what happened to Anderson? Typical early 20th Century artistic flame-out: he swallowed a toothpick likely concealed in a martini olive and it punctured his intestine and he died of infection. This was 1941 and they didn't have as many antibiotics and medical techniques.

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Slightly Belated Remembrance of Dad's 98th Birth Anniversary

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