At the end of December 2012, The Library of America published Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories. Michael Dirda, in a review he wrote for The Times Literary Supplement (here), called Anderson “the John the Baptist who prepared the way for (and influenced) writers as different as Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty and Ray Bradbury.” The Library of America said, “Without Anderson’s example, the work of Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck, McCullers, Mailer, and Kerouac is almost unthinkable.” There’d be quite a hole in our literary history if he hadn’t come along, yet I feel that Anderson’s work is neglected these days.

Review copy courtesy of The Library of America.

Review copy courtesy of The Library of America.

Is Anderson widely read anymore? Every once in a while someone brings up Winesburg, Ohio, and it seems that when they do they’re talking about some yesteryear; in other words, it seems many people have read it but no one is reading it now. Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of anyone reading his other work.

Naturally, my position does not give me any real privilege into the world of Anderson’s readers. I myself have read only Winesburg, Ohio. It remains one of the most formative and most enjoyable reading experiences of my life. That’s an understatement, actually: along with changing my relationship to literature, it affected my relationship with those around me, shaped the way I see our community, our shared histories, our isolation. Along with a few other select pieces of American literature, it is one of the reasons I enjoy the richness of small town life when I once dreamed of living in the bustling city.

It’s been a few years since I revisited Winesburg, Ohio, and this time I’m not going to stop when I’ve finished it. I’m encouraged by Michael Dirda, who, in that piece I linked to above, said, “[A]t least a half dozen of the stories he wrote in the 1920s and 30s are equal, or superior, to any of those in Winesburg, Ohio.” I’m anxious to see if I agree. I’m actually wondering if one of the reasons we don’t read much of Anderson’s work anymore is because the writers he influenced are better, so we read them.

As I read Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories, I’m going to be blogging about each story. It will take a while, I’m sure. I’d like to invite you to explore the works of Sherwood Anderson with me. As I said, I’m planning to do this slowly, so you have time to get your hands on a copy. Posts will start next week, while I’m away on holiday.

Here, for reference and as an outline of my simple from-page-one-to-the-end approach, is the Table of Contents. I will be updating this table with links to the individual posts as they materialize.

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By |2013-10-15T13:23:17-04:00June 13th, 2013|Categories: Sherwood Anderson|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Kevin Neilson June 13, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I read him! And love him still. Hands, even the very thought of it, still moves me to emotion. What a damn fine writer!

  2. Trevor June 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Do you mean “I REED him” or “I RED him”? If you, like me, have been negligent in reading his later works, I’ll try to point out the ones you have got to read. Also, I agree with you about “Hands.” It’s probably the piece I remember best, and it is so surprising to read such a piece in a 1919 book about small town life! My write-up of “Hands” will be going up toward the end of next week, and I’d love your comments there.

    I think you’ll be excited to hear that once I’m done with Anderson’s volume I’m moving on to Flannery O’Connor (all this while moving slowly forward with Alice Munro, and probably a few others from time to time), at which point I’ll finally get through Wise Blood. I’m afraid that train stalled last year during our move.

    Oh, and by the way, it’s nice to see you around and blogging again :-).

  3. Trevor June 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I should note that after posting this Stuart Evers mentioned to me on Twitter that he’s spent the last couple of months reading all of Anderson’s work. That was refreshing to hear!

  4. KevinfromCanada June 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I too have only read (and certainly appreciated) Winesberg — partly because tracking down copies of the other volumes was a chore. The LoA having taken away that excuse, I’ll order a copy of this volume and try to chip in with occasional comments.

    I’m not sure how planned your short story reading is: Is there any chance you can provide a “next up” list of two or three stories at the end of reviews when you do start posting them?

  5. Trevor June 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I remember when you read Winesburg, Kevin. That was the last time I revisited it too, right around the release of Roth’s Indignation, I believe, since his main character there goes to Ohio’s Winesburg College and Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer for her linked stories in Olive Kitteridge. Seems like just the other day, but that’s been about four or five years ago! I meant to review Winesburg then, but I’m glad it’s come to this.

    As for a “next up” list, I can certainly do that. For your benefit now, here’s my schedule for the first three posts on Winesburg, give or take a day or two should something else fall through (which I don’t think is likely right now):

    *Wednesday, June 19: “The Book of the Grotesque”
    *Thursday, June 20: “Hands”
    *Friday, June 21: “Paper Pills”

    I’m doing three of them together like that for a couple of reasons: 1) to get the project rolling and 2) because I’ll be on holiday all next week and wanted to make sure something was scheduled in my absence.

    In my post on “Paper Pills” I will put forward a tentative schedule for the next few stories I intend to cover, whether they are from Sherwood Anderson or someone else. I’m anxious to get back to Munro but decided to treat Lifes of Girls and Women as a novel, which has slowed me down there. Once I get that one posted, I will be back to reviewing her short stories again.

    I need to figure out some way to allow more input on a “short story reading project” so people can make suggestions, etc. (for example, I’d love to someday start on some of your recommendations from the past), but for now I guess comments will have to suffice.

  6. Lee Monks June 14, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Fabulous. Like Kevin I haven’t got beyond Winesburg yet but am happy to do so as I loved it. I look forward to your intermittent posts on Anderson and the O’Connor stories when they arrive.

  7. Oleg K. June 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

    I’ve read (finished NO SWANK recently) a fair amount of Anderson beyond Winesburg, including many of the collected stories and I’m in perpetual surprise at how terrible his novels are compared to his essays and memoirs, the latter which are sadly and wrongly neglected. His Memoirs (1942) are really an excellent piece of writing, composed during a time when he was all but forgotten by the public, overshadowed by the Lost Generation and dumped by critics.

    In any case, as a fan of Anderson, I’m very pleased that you’ll be going through his stories so methodically. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ll certainly be following your reviews.

    Happy reading!

  8. Spring Reading 2013 | Life in Oleg June 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    […] occasionally “live” blog some of my reading in this space. I noticed how Trevor over at The Mookse and the Gripes is reviewing Sherwood Anderson’s Collected Stories one-by-one and thought that might be a […]

  9. d Hain August 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I’m sorry, but reading Winesburg, Ohio is much like having a tooth pulled. As it is required summer reading at my son’s HS, most of the students reading it are angry, unhappy or downright hostile about it. This book, in my opinion, is not the type of book that an average HS student would enjoy, and definitely is the type of book that would produce the opposite of the intended goal of the school in its goal to promote reading. Literary students might enjoy it, as well as psychologists, with its troublesome character personalities. Personally, I would much rather read Steinbeck or Bradbury, Dumas or Eco.

  10. Trevor Berrett August 7, 2014 at 12:09 am

    No apologies necessary. I’m not for or against reading this in high school.

    But are your suggestions any better for high schoolers? I know plenty who abhor Steinbeck, cannot comprehend Eco, and never read 1/4 of any given Dumas. Bradbury, on the other hand . . . Perhaps he’s just right, but I’m sure I’d be shown wrong if I taught him in high school.

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