Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Taking a brief respite from foreign novels, I listened to this book while driving down to Cincinnati last weekend on melancholy family business. From one Ohio boy to another -- it seemed like it would be a good novel for this trip. And -- it's supposed to be a classic of 20th C. American literature.

But I was not impressed.

Because it's not really about Winesburg, Ohio --- but only about the sad, lonely, dreamers of that satellite of Cleveland -- the ones who just can't get connected to their lives.

All the characters just seem to be variations on the author himself - who abandoned wife and children to become a great writer. They're all angry, frustrated, shabby -- and always on the brink of some violent act.

I suppose it's been celebrated because it offers the downside of American spiritual life - where religion is phony and individualism means solipsism. None of his characters are devoted to anything other than their own blurry fantasies of self.

But who knows -- perhaps a non-American reader would find it a fascinating window into our world.

And, there is something about northern Ohio that I've never really liked.


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