Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson

A portrait of a midwestern town at the turn of the century. Winesburg, Ohio is made up of several short stories about individual residents of Winesburg, Ohio. It's a small town, with berry farmers and a weekly paper whose young staff reporter George Willard provides the connecting thread. Each vignette seems almost like a character sketch, an attempt to capture the essence of a person or personality in a moment of crisis or desperation. Anderson demonstrates a deep knowledge of human nature, and as deep a love for his characters. He's unable, however, to give them happy endings. There's a pervasive unhappiness, loneliness and despair that ties these stories together. Each inhabitant of Winesburg, Ohio seems to posses that sensitive soul which can hardly exist in our cruel world; they long to find genuine human connections, and genuine fulfillment, but settle for escape or death.

It left me sad; it leaves me wondering about the reality of life as I experience it. Doesn't everyone at some point feel like they want to run out into a field, screaming in frustration and anger? I've never given in to the impulse, though, it just seems too dramatic. Too flamboyant to be sincere. This reflexive disbelief occurred several times as I listened; is it a flaw in the writing or did Anderson create the cliche? Anderson was one of the great mentors of Hemingway and a highly influential early American writer. The audio version I listened to was very good. Each story was narrated by a different prominent modern author. At the end of the book, several authors voice their thoughts about Anderson and his work. I most enjoyed Richard Russo's story - he seemed to have exactly the right voice. This would be an excellent gift for writers and aspiring writers. Highly recommended.

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