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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