Article Written by : Young Fashion
This year, Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 classic “Winesburg, Ohio” turns 90. And my has the book weathered the last century well. Anderson’s collection of interconnected short stories involving Winesburg’s eccentric, misfit, and fiercely longing denizens feels just as meaningful today as when it was first published. Full of striking imagery such as the expelled pedagogue fumbling for bread crumbs or the scorned lover crawling naked through a muddy storm, the book cuts through the platform on which character is erected straight to the pith of experience. In less than 25 tales, Anderson manages to be both the paladin of the semi-fictional town of Winesburg as well as Winesburg’s most exacting critic. As he catalogs the ennui, heartache, and pleasures of small-town life, he creates accurate sketches both of the area’s geography and of the human desire that makes it uniquely provincial as well as universal.
The stories circulate around one George Willard, the town’s intrepid newspaper reporter who, in an obvious plot device (but one that still manages to avoid feeling heavy handed), becomes the citizen’s record as friends, family, and even complete strangers unburden themselves of their guilt, misdeeds, and desires. If you were expecting genteel, Midwestern, turn-of-the-century conflicts, you’re in for a surprise. The people of Winesburg are complex characters, as three-dimensional, self-serving, alive, and complicated–yet touched with a kind of hopeful delicacy–as any modern character. And as their stories unwind, they only serve to bind George to a fate which seems inevitable as he considers life in and beyond Winesburg.