Author: Sherwood Anderson
Publication Date: 1919
Page Count: 160
I couldn't let the opportunity to plug this classic slip away.
This book was assigned reading for one of my freshmen English courses—so almost ten years ago. But it left an impression.
This book isn't a traditional novel or short story collection. According to Wikipedia, it's considered a composite novel or a short story cycle (whatever that is).
The collection is staunchly grounded in reality, but it's like looking through a pair of glasses when you're already wearing contact lenses—things look the same, but slightly distorted.
It also offers a very grim, melancholic view of reality. Be forewarned.
The fictional town of Winesburg serves as the universal backdrop for each story, which follows the town's residents. The main character, a young journalist preparing to leave Winesburg for a job in a new city, is the common thread that weaves the stories together.
These stories don't deal in plot. Instead, you're pulled into the inner turmoil of each character.
Like real people, every character has their own brand of emotional struggle they're grappling with—often in silence and self-imposed loneliness. Also like real people, many of them are not likable, but their unresolved frustrations are three-dimensional and often hit close to home.
Winesburg, Ohio's lack of plot may be boring to some but Anderson kept my attention with his odd, yet believable cast of townspeople.
If you're a fiction writer who wants to study character, this is a must-read.
Even if you're not a writer or fan of classic American lit, which I'm usually not, this book still has something unique to offer. It's a portrait of small-town life that has been largely erased by modernity and globalism but still has echoes in American culture today.
Emotionally, this book may have more resonance now than ever before.