Winesburg, Ohio achieves so much in being well ahead of its time. Sherwood Anderson really accomplished something in tone, language, structure, and accessibility with Winesburg, Ohio that really tickled me. The detail and insight into character here are contemporary because they influenced 20th century American literature.
As a reader, you get a collection of short stories with a single main character that perseveres from one story to the next in language that is perfectly suited to the town and people that the short story discusses. The language is unadorned, small town, rural, simple, and full of the internal complexity of the people the stories bring alive.
Each short story is a complete whole that works by itself, yet the whole of the short stories when taken together in a single narrative gives you something more keen, insightful, and new. The structure feels very contemporary for something written in 1915/1916. In fact the influence on Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, and others is part of what makes the telling so compelling for me as a reader of the stories today.
George Willard is the central character that inhabits the town we know as Winseburg, Ohio. With The Book of the Grotesque serving as the first of 22 short stories, or essays, or cheaply thought of as chapters, you experience an overarching sense that the town, its people, and really George Willard are the story. The moral tone of the stories were a criticism at the time of release.
Some readers might have trouble understanding short stories stitched together as one larger story. Simply, my advice is to expand your notion of narrative structure. The stories are each like a little meaning to the whole about people, how they live (internally and externally), and the interactions they have towards each other.
My sadness in experiencing the intimacy of the larger George Willard story is that George learns “too late” that his vision of himself is wrong. The honest narrative of George in these stories resonated for me. My feeling is that they will work for you too.
I rate this 5-stars out-of 5-stars. Again, Winesburg, Ohio achieves so much in being well ahead of its time.
Matt – Monday, February 20, 2017