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Thread: Winesburg and the American Canon

  1. #1
    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    Winesburg and the American Canon

    Winesburg, Ohio has always seemed to one of those mainstays of American Literature and after over 2 years of reading American novels, it finally popped up on the old radar. First, it's not a novel, but a collection of portraits of various townspeople loosely connected to one young man named George Willard. I've read several novels based on young people leaving a small town (Sister Carrie, portions of USA) and Sinclair Lewis's Main Street is a portrait of how woman from the big city tries to adapt to life in a small town.

    This is something different and somewhere along the way I got a sense of how this small town represents each of our lives. We walk along our individual paths and we encounter some folks along the way, but there are far more people with whom our paths never cross. There are those we sit next to on airplanes who have their own stories and secrets and pasts, but we don't get to know them, but someone else might know them quite well. It's the one interesting thing I took away from the book.

    I grew up in a small town in Ohio about 50 years after this book was written and some ways I found it reminiscent, but not particularly nostalgic. Anderson's writing style is nothing special and seems consistent with other newspaper men who turned their hand to novel writing -- simplistic without much in the way of artistry.
    No damn cat, no damn cradle - Newt Honniker

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    It's been a little bit since I read it, but I thought it was a fairly good collection of short stories. Not all of them were top notch, but I do think several really rose. I think it may have been the first short story collection of interconnected stories. I also felt the writing was carefully crafted. It has a simplicity too, but I think it captures the simplicity of small town life. I guess i felt it was a better work than you did Pablo.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    It's been quite a while since I read this collection but I still remember most of the stories fondly and I have always considered the book one of the best of its kind.

    Maybe I should read it again.
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    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    I loved this book. I found the story collections to be quite interesting for the most part. Winseburg to me seemed a sort of Stephen King type of small town, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed the story. There was something gothic in it I thought, many of the stories did suggest something disturbing just behind them.

    They are the inner lives and secerts behind small towns, and that quality which makes small towns seem to be so errie.

    Maybe it is just because I am a horror freak, but I can rearely pass through a small town without feeling light I am stepping into a horror flim, and that is what Winseburg made me think of.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    I may have misrepresented myself. I enjoyed Winesburg. My comment about the artistry refers to the unusual nature of the work. I'm not sure if any of the stories stand alone as an exceptional short story. What I find unique is what Anderson refers to as his collection of grotesques. Each story has a character that is its focus. Sometimes the character interacts with characters from other stories, sometimes not. They walk the same streets, they go to some of the same places. And I related to it because I grew up in a small town just like it. I enjoyed the book a lot and after having read a couple of Faulkner's works, this was refreshing.

    You know, DM, it wouldn't have been much to turn this book into a horror classic. There are certainly some odd fellows about, including the fellow with the hands.
    No damn cat, no damn cradle - Newt Honniker

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Pablo - Winesburg was incredbly influential to both Hemingway and Faulkner, and while i don't know it for a fact I would think Fitzgerald as well.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Anderson is probably the godfather of American Minimalism and everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Raymond Carver have praised him to the heavens.

    Minimalism isn't my favorite form, necessarily, but I really enjoyed Winesburg, Ohio.

    Anderson, as far as I know, wasn't a newspaper man. He worked in advertisement then went on to have a writing career. Newspaper isn't a fair depiction. I'd just classify it as minimalism. Though for a minimalist I thought Anderson has some brilliant and rather deep settings within his work.

    The first two stories are probably the best: The Book of the Grotesque and Hands, concerning Wing Biddlebaum. They are hard to forget and are worth re-reading. There's a few short stories that drop in quality. I think the first story, as an introduction, is masterfully done.

    After this novel Anderson didn't really go very far in his writing career. Death in The Woods was pretty good but he failed to live up to Winesburg, Ohio.

    It's hard to separate great American novelists and short story writers without looking at Anderson and Winesburg, Ohio.

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