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Winesburg, Ohio

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Winesburg, Ohio depicts the strange, secret lives of the inhabitants of a small town. In "Hands," Wing Biddlebaum tries to hide the tale of his banishment from a Pennsylvania town, a tale represented by his hands. In "Adventure," lonely Alice Hindman impulsively walks naked into the night rain. Threaded through the stories is the viewpoint of George Willard, the young newspaper reporter who, like his creator, stands witness to the dark and despairing dealings of a community of isolated people.

240 pages, Paperback

First published May 8, 1919

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About the author

Sherwood Anderson

429 books527 followers
Sherwood Anderson was an American writer who was mainly known for his short stories, most notably the collection Winesburg, Ohio. That work's influence on American fiction was profound, and its literary voice can be heard in Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell and others.

From PBS.org:
Sherwood Anderson, (1876-1941), was an American short-story writer and novelist. Although none of his novels was wholly successful, several of his short stories have become classics. Anderson was a major influence on the generation of American writers who came after him. These writers included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. Anderson thus occupies a place in literary history that cannot be fully explained by the literary quality of his work.

Anderson was born on Sept. 13, 1876, in Camden, Ohio. He never finished high school because he had to work to support his family. By 1912, he was the successful manager of a paint factory in Elyria, Ohio, and the father of three children by the first of his four wives. In 1912, Anderson deserted his family and job. In early 1913, he moved to Chicago, where he devoted more time to his imaginative writing. He became a heroic model for younger writers because he broke with what they considered to be American materialism and convention to commit himself to art.

Anderson's most important book is WINESBURG, OHIO (1919), a collection of 22 stories. The stories explore the lives of inhabitants of Winesburg, a fictional version of Clyde, Ohio, the small farm town where Anderson lived for about 12 years of his early life. These tales made a significant break with the traditional American short story. Instead of emphasizing plot and action, Anderson used a simple, precise, unsentimental style to reveal the frustration, loneliness, and longing in the lives of his characters. These characters are stunted by the narrowness of Midwestern small-town life and by their own limitations.
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Displaying 1 - 29 of 2,763 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
June 24, 2018
zut, alors! i don't even know where to begin. i had such a complicated reaction to this book. am i the only person who didn't find this depressing?? this book is life - it is tender and gentle and melancholy and real. not everything works out according to plan here, but what ever does? that's not necessarily depressing, it's just a reality that can either be moped over and dwelled upon, or accepted and moved on from. this is the emotional truth of life - we don't understand our urges, we make bad decisions, we work hard to no great end and no one notices, but sherwood anderson noticed. this book is us - amplified. life gets all of us; it is the struggle to be understood, the struggle to not get lost in the crowd - to make a noise that someone hears. these characters are believed, cared for, delicately rendered by anderson to really get to the core of human shortcomings. i apologize in advance - this might become my most oddly formatted "book review" ever, just because i can't stop free-associating with the way i am feeling from this damn book that i didn't even like from the outset, but as the stories progressed, something in me kept brewing and growing and mutating, and now it is an unstoppable force in my heart-region.

the plot is deceptively simple: it is a town full of people unable to express themselves properly clawing and clutching at the one person they feel has the power of expression and who will release them somehow from their mute longings and joys and limitations. and then in turn releasing him into the the wider world with all of their rage and suffering and love inside of him. my god, the pressure!

i had to give it five stars because of how it made me feel at the end. the last sentence made me say (out loud, unfortunately) "oh my god, ridiculous", because it made the whole book perfect, despite several stories that i thought were only okay. but that's the trouble with short stories, even if they are part of a cycle like this - there are going to be some thin ones. but the ones that are good here are superfuckinggood. at the end of it all, it is like after reading dubliners or nine stories when this giant Dome of Connection just sort of drops over the whole thing, encapsulating it and preserving it as one exploration of the same problem - in this case, the spectacular inability to communicate and that sort of inarticulate mute howling we so often feel in the presence of emotions larger than ourselves; to know what to say, but to have it come out all wrong - too brassy, too wishy washy, or aggressive or too much bravado or too passive or pompous - just wrong... and then the aftermath of self-recrimination. i mean, we are all inarticulate grotesques sometimes; mine is appearing in the form of this book review.

it's also this wonderful noble hopelessness that gives me the same feeling watching bubble gave me (which i think is also set in ohio - i will check) or the wayward bus, or donald harington's stay more cycle, or that oingo boingo song "sweat" which as a nostalgia song i always found more compelling than "jack and diane" or "summer of 69" as far as pure (north) american nostalgia songs go:

The cool boys bit the dust
They couldn't take the pressure
The cool girls got knocked up
They only wanted to have fun
(Where did they go?)
They fell in love and suffered
(Where did they go?)
They picked up guns and hammers
(Where did they go?)

i mean, you can open this book pretty much anywhere, and find a beautiful phrase or a whole paragraph:

-Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

-"I want to fill you with hatred and contempt so that you will be a superior being."

-"Let's take decay. Now what is decay? It's fire. It burns up wood and other things. You never thought of that? Of course not. This sidewalk here and this feed store, the trees down the street there - they're all on fire. They're burning up. Decay you see is always going on. It don't stop. Water and paint can't stop it. If a thing is iron, then what? It rusts, you see. That's fire, too. The world is on fire. Start your pieces in the paper that way. Just say in big letters 'the world is on fire.' That will make 'em look up. They'll say you're a smart one. I don't care. I don't envy you. I just snatched that idea out of the air. I would make a newspaper hum. You've got to admit that."

-In an odd way he stood in the shadow of the wall of life, was meant to stand in the shadow.

-It seemed to her that the world was full of meaningless people saying words.

i mean, if i keep going, it will be nothing but quotes and none of you will ever have to read the book. but you should. because i have already reread several stories just to try to recapture it all inside of me, and this tiny little book has as many scraps of paper shoved in it as my prousts, just for well-turned phrases that gripped my heart..

it got me. i got it.
makes me wanna werewolf at the moon a little...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
963 reviews6,810 followers
December 9, 2015
Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

When you stop and listen, life is a brilliant cacophony of love and pain, where we are all struggling to shed the shackles of loneliness and stand full and actualized in a society that never bothers to truly look into our hearts. Sherwood Anderson’s gorgeous Winesburg, Ohio, which beautifully blurs the line between a collection of short stories and a novel, is a testament to the loneliness in our hearts, and delivers a pessimistic, yet ultimately uplifting, account of the ways in which we can be eternally trapped in internal strife by none other than our own hands. ‘Many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg,’ Anderson writes, setting his tales within the comfortable boundaries of an idyllic small town—the type of quiet, peaceful place where everyone knows one another that are often glorified in early 20th century American literature—yet diving deep within the populations hearts to examine the depths of solitude and sorrow that exist in even the most idealized and comfortable of surroundings. This book came to me at what seemed like the exact time in which I could appreciate it to the fullest, a time when presenting the golden core of existance through montages of melancholy and sorrow would be the perfect way to take hold of my heart and lift me free of my own burdens and into literary bliss. Despite the increasing ability to interact on a global scale during which the book is set, the citizens of Winesburg find themselves trapped in a cage of internal anguish and alienation of their own design, and seek out those with the true creative capabilities to express the emotions they cannot manage to make plain, and Anderson delivers their stories of struggle and strife through his unflinching, connected short stories that culminate towards a dazzling depiction of the human condition.

There is something very modern about this slim novel published back in 1919, yet it retains that wonderfully nostalgic feeling that come alive in me when I read the works of authors such as Steinbeck and Faulkner, a feeling as peaceful as the a warm summers day from your childhood that makes you believe your own coming-of-age tales are as epic as the words printed upon the pages of novels that stand as monuments in the history of literature. For some reason, stories set in small towns during the early 1900s really make my heart sing out to the heavens, and with Anderson conducting the orchestra, it sings out in mighty rapture. Yet, considering the introductory story, ‘The Book of the Grotesque’, Anderson preforms a magic act of near metafiction that makes his style as poignant today as when it was first written by hinting that the book to come is merely the unpublished scribblings of an aging who only wishes to watch the sunlight brighten the trees outside his bedroom window. Anderson immediately reveals his hand, yet this does not diminish the potency in his every move but simply allows the reader to better appreciate each glorious depiction of sorrowful existence.
[I]n the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful…And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them. It was the truths that made the people grotesques….the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.
The first story is the Genesis of the novel to come, the creation story behind the people who stumble about in futility as they attempt to connect with one another and make themselves understood, so trapped within their image of the ‘truth’ that they cannot create outside its boundaries.

Speaking of futility, I do not posses the adequate gifts of analytical prose to sum up Anderson’s mighty message as this succinctly cutting passage from Ernest Boyd’s incredible introduction to my 1947 Modern Library Edition:
It is essentially a literature of revolt against the great illusion of American civilization, the illusion of optimism, with all its childish evasion of harsh facts, its puerile cheerfulness, whose inevitable culmination is the school of “glad” books, which have reduced American literature to the lowest terms of sentimentality.
Anderson exposes life in its raw form, without the opportunity to comb its hair or apply makeup, and by avoiding the convenience of administering external interference as justification for a characters shortcomings, implies that many of our defects and dilemmas are wrought by our own hands. Failure to adequately express ourselves through socially acceptable conventions is the foible that forces us into emotional isolation and existential angst, most openly diagrammed in the character of Wing Biddlebaum who’s hands and their flamboyant flailing or easy rest upon the shoulders of young boys cause him to be run out of town and spend his twilight years wandering the streets of Winesburg beset by bitter solitude ¹. There is the epic, biblical in nature as well as biblically influenced², tale of Jesse Bently attempting to assert his godliness only to be met with misunderstanding and horror by his grandchild (with the gloriously executed, tragic subplot of his daughters tearful life as her attempts to proclaim love result in an unsatisfactory, face-saving marriage of convenience); Alice Williams nude flight through the town in an effort to free herself from the promise to wait for a man that will never return to her—a promise that robs her of her golden years as she withers in loneliness—; Seth Richmonds efforts to win Helen White’s heart by proclaiming he is leaving town in hopes it will make her realize how his absence will inflict misery upon her, but then having to leave before the opportunity of love can blossom; and a whole slew of others damned by their own attempts to carve their mark into the history of Winesburg.

The futility of the townsfolk to make their hearts heard is what gives George Willard, a teenage journalist at the local newspaper—the Eagle, and seemingly the pride-and-joy of Winesburg³, a central role within the book. George figures in a majority of the stories and, aside from the town, serves as the thread connecting each story. George is a figure of creation, a figure who can take a life and immortalize it within the words printed in the newspaper, so each member of the town is drawn to him during their lowest hour, only able to provide a clear depiction of their soul and struggles to him. Kate Swift, his former teacher (whose nude form inspires a holy revelation within the local preacher), recognizes this and her lust for him is a reflection of her desires to make whole the fractured souls that haunt society and she is drawn to him by his literary potential to do so. She tells George that in order to become a writer he will
have to know life…It would be better to give up the notion of writing until you are better prepared. Now it’s the time for living. I don’t want to frighten you, but I would like to make you understand the import of what you think of attempting. You must not become a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is to know what people are thinking about, not what they say.
Anderson’s novel is an exquisite expression of this sentiment, and it is only through their late-night/drunken/bitter/etc. confessions to, or interactions with, George that we can see through the veils of grotesqueries to flowering souls within.
Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.
Through the book’s frequent glimpses at George’s maturation, a sort of bildungsroman is erected. Carefully placed not in the forefront of the novel, as a book bent on sentimentality would have it, but subtly omnipresent and lurking in the background, Anderson is able to employ all the emotionally stimulating and memorable aspects assigned to the coming-of-age tale without letting its warm glow overpower the real message at hand. In effect, this becomes a literary coming-of-age for the reader with Winesburg as the canvas upon which the realization of the human condition is splattered. Through George we learn what hides in the human heart, and through George we grow to empathize with our fellow man. Like many others, George inevitably leaves Winesburg to pursue his dreams, and hopefully, unlike the rest, he will achieve them. The characters try in many ways to escape the mundane and stagnant town, often seeing Helen White as the way out. Even George seeks after her, winning her fancy under the pretext of understanding love so he can write about it in a novel. To the males of Winesburg, Helen and and her wealthy family represent a way out, a higher goal of sophistication and sensuality. However, most fail to win her hand, much like those who leave Winesburg fail to achieve their glory and riches. Perhaps, despite the meaningfulness of our unique coming-of-age moments, we fail to bring our lessons learned into adulthood and falter at the alter of life. We must properly express ourselves and let our creative powers grow to the heavens, not keep them locked up as does Enoch Robinson, slowly slipping into madness within the confines of his New York apartment speaking with the idealized imaginary friends that replace his friends of flesh-and-blood, foibles and blunders. Winesburg, Ohio is a war-cry for literature, rising bloodied and sullied from the trenched, unashamed to be seen in such a dark and animalistic state, to plunge it’s bayonet through the ribcage of fictions that would glorify humanity while sweeping any inconvenient ugliness under the rug.

Anderson sets his book near the turn of the century, at a time when human interaction was expanding beyond the borders of a small town to a national, and even globalized state. Trains and telegraph wires opened the gates of transportation and communication, bringing everyone closer together regardless of physical distance. Ironically, during this booming era of national headline news, we witness characters feeling evermore isolated and alienated. This message is just as darkly poignant in todays world with the ever-booming social media that allows us to interact instantly and make our every action known to people across the globe, yet many are still beleaguered with a sense of loneliness. Regardless of the ease of communication, it is still just as difficult to make ourselves properly understood, and even sentences typed onto a blog with the warmest of intentions can be misconstrued, ignored, or taken out of context. Can we truly express who we are to anyone? You can only understand me as your perspective of me, as I in turn can only understand myself through my perspective of myself, and express myself in a manner in which I think best reflects me, but is any of this, even the culmination of all these perspectives, the true ‘me’? Can we really know each other, and can we really know ourselves?

Winesburg, Ohio is easily one of my favorite books. This book makes you want to pay attention to all those around you, get to know them, recognize why they are the way they are, all just so you can show them the kindness and love they need. Like the Knights of Columbus and their pocket sized New Testaments at my beloved alma mater, I want to stand outside the doors of every major university and pass out copies of this book (did this happen at anyone else’s school? I still have a few New Testaments thumping around in the trunk of my car). Anderson’s prose, which is reminiscent of the greatest descriptive paragraphs found within a Steinbeck novel (of whom he was an influence upon, as well as Faulkner, Hemmingway, and even Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff style was inspired by this book), perfectly captures both the beauty and the blemishes of life and paints an unforgettable portrait of the city’s downtown and pastoral scenes. The book is a marvelous montage of reality, becoming greater than the sum of its parts and striking a chord deep within the readers heart that rings out on a universal level. Upon completion, it is as if you have lived a lifetime within Winesburg, and each passing citizen is an old friend. Luckily, there is room within Anderson’s Winesburg for us all.

Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman.

¹ The fact that Wing is unaware of the circumstances that lead to his being beaten by the drunken barkeep and chased out of town—the unhinged mouth of a youth with unfounded stories of being molested by his teacher—makes the story all that much more tragic, especially as he is embarrassed and horrified by his expressive hands in a nearly Pavlovian sense. The sexual implications of this story, as well as the general sexuality that prevails throughout Winesburg, Ohio is just another aspect that lends to the very modern feel to this classic.

² There is a subtle probing at religious morality throughout the novel, that often borders on poking fun at those with strong religious conviction. Though not in the Flannery O’Connor method of exposing those with publicly professed holiness as presenting their beliefs as a façade to hide their rotten core, yet still somehow within the same vein, Anderson presents holiness as yet another truth that if held onto as a singular lifeline casts the individual into the realm of grotesquery. ‘The world is on fire’, Joe Wellington tells George Willard, insisting upon that as a valuable article to include in an upcoming edition of the Eagle, ‘s sidewalk here and this feed store, the trees down the street there—they’re all on fire. They’re burning up. Decay you see is always going on. It doesn’t stop.’ Anderson’s novel is about decay within the soul, and even holiness is just another decaying agent where the only antidote is achieved by looking into one another’s hearts and responding with empathy and love.

³ George Willard’s family owns a boarding house in the center of town where many of the characters either live or frequent. This is similar to Anderson’s own upbringing living in a boarding house in Clyde, Ohio (Anderson’s fictional Winesburg is heavily influenced by his boyhood home of Clyde, Ohio, resembling many of the locals as well as the geographic nature and arrangement and is in no way representative of the actual city of Winesburg, Ohio). George’s residence there gives him the opportunity to view the comings and goings of many townsfolk and allows them easy access to vomit up their life stories into George’s ears.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews44 followers
September 18, 2021
Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life, Sherwood Anderson

A cycle of short stories concerning life in a small town at the end of the nineteenth century.

At the center is George Willard, a young reporter who becomes the confidant of the town's solitary figures.

Sherwood Anderson's stories influenced countless American writers including Hemingway, Faulkner, Updike, Oates and Carver.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «کتاب عجایب: واینزبرگ اوهایو»؛ «واینزبورگ اهایو»؛ نویسنده: شروود آندرسن؛ انتشاراتیها (نیلوفر، نیماژ) تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم نوامبر سال 2006میلادی

عنوان: کتاب عجایب: واینزبرگ اوهایو؛ نویسنده: شروود آندرسن؛ مترجم: روحی افسر؛ ویراستار: شهرام شیدایی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1383؛ در 247ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛ موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: واینزبورگ اهایو؛ نویسنده: شروود اندرسن؛ مترجم: فرانک جواهری؛ تهران، نشر نیماژ، 1395؛ در 216ص؛ شابک 9786003672772؛

واینزبرگ، اوهایو منطقه‌ ای در حال دگرگونی است، و «آندرسن» در این کتاب، زندگی آدم‌های واقعی همین شهر خیالی را، روایت می‌کنند؛ زندگی آدمهایی که هر روز به سر کار خویش میروند، فرزند خود را دوست میدارند، آدم‌هایی که محروم به دنیا می‌آیند، ناکام زندگی میکنند، و هماره در حسرت آن چیزهایی هستند که نمی‌توانند داشته باشند؛ بنابراین راهی جز پناه بردن به تنهایی و خیال‌بافی ندارند؛ زندگی بحرانی آدم‌هایی که خرافات، کوته بینی، و ناتوانی روحی، به آن دامن میزند، ...؛ «آندرسن» را نویسنده ی نویسنده ها نامیده اند؛ ایشان از نویسندگان عصر طلایی داستان کوتاه در «آمریکا»، به شمار می‌روند؛ «آندرسن» را پدر داستان‌ نویسی مدرن «ایالات متحده آمریکا» می‌دانند؛ داستان‌های «اندرسون»، روایت زندگی طبقه ی متوسط جامعه ی «آمریکا»، و به ویژه آدم‌های حاشیه ی اجتماع است؛ آدم‌هایی محروم و ناکام، که گزینشی جز تنهایی، و خیال‌بافی ندارند؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 18/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 26/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,356 followers
September 7, 2017
A beautiful, melancholy song to small-town loneliness and despair--to the fragile bonds that tie neighbors together and the vivid lives and heartfelt personal dramas that pulse beneath the surface of ordinary affairs. This was once a book I carried with me everywhere, a book I tried (and failed) to emulate in my own writing, and a book whose sentences I'd whisper to myself to catch something of their hypnotic cadences. It's easy to see how influential this book was on so much American literature: from Hemingway to Faulkner to Thomas Wolfe to Updike, they (and we) all owe Sherwood Anderson a tremendous debt for opening up the possibilities of fiction in a uniquely American landscape.
Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
July 26, 2021
“There is a time in the life of very boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is torn open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their live and again disappeared into nothingness…”
- Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Small towns hold an outsized place in the American imagination. Even though most people live in cities or suburbs, we still feel a strong pull towards those tiny specks on the map, those places with the town square and the bronze Civil War cannon, the five-and-dime and savings-and-loan, and one main street called “Main Street,” those places where everyone knows your name and your secrets. For many, the small town is the “authentic” or “real” America.

There are no shortage of books exploring, celebrating, or deconstructing life in a rural community. You can take your pick of classics, from Peyton Place to Lake Wobegon Days to Empire Falls.

One of the most famous and influential examples of this literary subgenre is Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.

Published in 1919, Winesburg, Ohio is not a traditional novel, but a series (or cycle) of loosely interconnected and sometimes overlapping short stories. These stories, twenty-two in all, each focus on one main individual. Anderson writes in the third person, utilizing a roving, omniscient viewpoint, though he occasionally slips into the first person singular. Most of the stories are one-offs, and to the extent that they have any commonality whatsoever, it is in the person of George Willard, a reporter for the Winesburg Eagle. Willard’s life provides a chronological marker as the stories progress, letting the reader know that we are moving forward through time, even if the tales themselves lack such specificity.

According to the introduction in my Penguin Classics edition, Anderson’s work influenced a whole host of later authors, most of whom achieved far wider fame than Anderson himself. The list includes Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck. Not being an English professor, I will have to accept these assertions as having some basis in truth.

Regardless of its putative impact, Winesburg, Ohio did next to nothing for me. At its best, it was tolerable. At its worst, it was a frustratingly repetitious waste of my time.

Despite being the setting, the fictional Winesburg never becomes a character. Only vaguely described, Anderson doesn’t give it any permanence or atmosphere. My edition of the book contains a small map, which is an odd affectation given that Anderson is apparently unconcerned with the town’s physical reality, and uses it mainly as an opaque, passive antagonist for his characters.

The stories themselves are almost aggressively unspectacular, defined not by action or incident but by interior monologues. In other words, Anderson is concerned with character, not location. This would have been fine, if any single character was worth reading about. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there was not.

Each person that Anderson introduces, man or woman, is almost exactly the same. His themes – of loneliness, isolation, and an inability to communicate with others – are extremely well-worn. The idea that small-town folk might feel cut off from the rest of the world does not exactly blow my mind or deliver any real insight. One chapter simply bleeds into the next, as Anderson plays the same tune over and over.

By way of example, the first chapter features an old writer working on a book called The Book of the Grotesque. In this book-within-a-book, the writer expresses “hundreds” of “truths,” all of which were “beautiful.” Yet Anderson never describes what any of these beautiful truths are, or convinces me that it contained a single meaningful idea. We are asked to take on faith the importance of this writer’s work. The whole of the chapter is given over to an imprecise description of this book, concluding with the observation that it was never published, apparently because its ideas were too profound.

The very next story is a variation on the first. It’s about a former teacher named Wing Biddlebaum. Like the aforementioned writer, Wing has a lot of big ideas, and like the writer, he can’t satisfactorily express them. When those thoughts are finally given outline, they are almost laughably corny, such as Wing telling George Willard that “You must try to forget all you have learned” and that “You must begin to dream.” In other words, the wisdom in Winesburg, Ohio is just on par with that which you would find inside a fortune cookie.

It goes on like this, story after story. There’s a man filled with religious notions that he wants to share. There’s another man who really wants to talk about the imaginary people in his room. There’s George Willard, who wants everyone to know that he’s going to be a man, and that he wants to leave his small town, as though he’s the first young person to ever have such a concept.

When you write a book about ideas, the ideas better be interesting. When you base your entire story on psychological perceptions, they better be acute. For me, nothing that Anderson – or his characters – said or screamed or thought made any lasting impression. He was clearly trying to convey something grand, something evocative, something unique about the human condition, but like the citizens of Winesburg, he did not succeed.

I will be the first person to admit my own limitations as a reader. Frankly, I picked this up with certain expectations. The fact that my expectations were not in line with Anderson’s intent probably colored my experience. This is not entirely the fault of Anderson or his book.

With that said, I wanted something rather simple: I wanted to believe this town existed. I wanted to know its geography, its architecture, and its weather; I wanted to know its rhythms, history, and customs. I wanted to follow the town doctor as he made house calls, the milkman as he made his deliveries, and the local politico as he gathered votes. I wanted to hang out with the old farmers at the feed store, with the old ladies on a porch swing, and with the young kids skipping school to spend the day at the fishing hole. I wanted to spend a warm summer evening at the county fair on the Fourth of July, watching fireworks while surrounded by people wearing overalls and chewing stems of grass.

Instead, I found that my entire visit to Winesburg was taken up by chemically-imbalanced loners and narcissists, whose only form of communication came via unhinged rants directed at their neighbors. It was unpleasant, to say the least, and far from the chords of nostalgia that I wanted strummed.

Far be it from me to tell you what to do. But if you happen to be in the area of Winesburg, Ohio, I recommend that you just keep driving. After all, Peyton Place or Lake Wobegon is somewhere up ahead.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
September 1, 2020
Holy Moley! Virginia Woolf finds the very caverns leading to hell; Sherwood Anderson makes miscellaneous dips into the very depths of actual fire... & the residents of Winesburg all live there. They are the ghosts of the living. Anecdotes in Winesburg (devoid of time or protagonist) are juicy with implication and horrific details. They are grave, all of them portends of certain annihilation & the never-ending stasis of existence. What you will see in this unforgettable experiment and ONE OF THE BEST NOVELS out there (where for the first time it is proposed that literature itself is dangerous, that printed material can be lethal): traumas, superstition and tradition; downfalls, nepotism, patricide, misogyny, incest, homosexuality, false promises & doom--examples of mothers going through her son's things in the sure makings of the Norman Bates legend--motifs of hands, of mothers, of homecomings, of back alleys & apes (like Flannery O'Connor's "Wise Blood"), surplus of churches, of nature itself (birds & bats) in rebellion--moments of intense rapture in full Joan of Arc scariness--characters creating themselves, in that tricky but amazing Quixotean trick.

This trippy and soul-churning fantasia is a true EXPERIENCE. The narrative voice is poetic & almost clinical about the characters themselves & judgmental & even ultimately playful. The vignettes are twisted morals, cautionary tales. Mega Brilliant.


I mean, c'mon! The reader is a sucker for fully loaded sentences like that one (this book is entirely composed of 'em). Why hadn't I heard of this, the epicenter of post-nineteenth century experimental postmodernism?
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,743 followers
August 17, 2020
Un libro maravilloso, lleno de inolvidables personajes, tristes algunos, otros duros, incluso ridículos, pero tratados siempre con una enorme ternura. Un libro delicioso, una de las joyas de mi estantería. 
Profile Image for Ben.
74 reviews976 followers
September 12, 2009
Fuck, I loved this book...

I loved its drab mood, and existential feel.

I loved the descriptive writing, and the small town, midwest setting, with the seasons and people changing, but life in general, staying the same.

I loved the wild brilliance to the endings.

More than anything, and what made this novel truly special to me, was its insight into the raw emotions and psychological underpinnings of people's inner worlds. Reading this felt like peering into human nature.

I loved the depth of characters; their being out of place, hoping, secretly yearning for more. Heck yeah, they have crises going on -- we all do, and we gain from learning from the particular personal crises told of in this book. A main reason for this is exactly because most of these characters are different. To use Sherwood's word, they're "grotesques". Even the characters that seem normal to the rest of the community are actually stewing with emotion deep inside.

I'm going to get personal here for a second. I've been a grotesque. It's true. When I was in high school my face was covered in acne and so red from massive dosages of Accutane, I looked like a freak. I'm not exaggerating; it was so bad it made me an outcast for more than a year. During that time I was withdrawn, paranoid, I thought of death and God constantly; I lost most of my friends, and what new friends I had were mostly, yes, also grotesques. But guess what? I wouldn't trade that period of time for anything in the entire world. I'm convinced that that period of time; that 1/27th of my life, is responsible for 90% of any depth I have in me today. The new perceptions obtained, the insights into human nature that came to me, the range of emotions I felt, were all priceless gifts to my soul. And that my friends, is the affect that the characters in this novel can have on you.

There's a feeling of hopelessness to this book, yes; but it's a realistic one, and it's not completely hopeless. In every page a feeling penetrates through indicating that despite life's worthless existence, we can make something of it; we can find meaning, or some kind of connection with another. It may not work out, but there's something special to the struggle itself. All those disappointing endings to the stories of your life don't make you rare; they make you human. This novel helps you take comfort in that.

Two more things.

It seems that men tend to like this book more than women. I say this just from reading reviews and looking at my goodreads friends list, so I could be wrong. But... of the 16 male GR friends that read Winesburg, Ohio, the ratings were spread out like this:

1 star: 0
2 stars: 1
3 stars: 2
4 stars: 6
5 stars: 7

Average: 4.19

Only seven females from my friend list read this (and my GR friends are about 50% female). Their ratings were spread out like this:

1 star: 1
2 stars: 2
3 stars: 1
5 stars: 3

Average: 3.29

The three 5 star ratings by females is damn encouraging, and there's some damn good 4 and 5 star reviews by females on goodreads, as well. BUT, most of the 1 and 2 star reviews are from females, too, so there does seem to be a trend. So... if you're male, I can't NOT recommend this to you; if not from judging by the star ratings, then from my own personal experience, which makes me want to shout out my love for the book from the window of my apartment. I'll do it! And females, I think you should at least give this a shot, because there's a decent chance that you could love it too. Maybe read the first few chapters and see what you think; you should know if it's for you or not, by then.

Lastly, I want to thank David, whose amazing -- and now, after having read the novel, in my mind, perfect -- review of this, inspired me to buy it; this book that I will read at least every few years for as long as I can read. Goodreads enriches my life once again. Thank you, David. Check out his review, here.

Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
5,100 reviews723 followers
May 31, 2023
Open hearts - closed doors: read this book along with Spoon River Anthology (Edgar Lee Masters) and Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (Thornton Wilder) to get the zeitgeist of dawning industrialization as it carves canyons of alienation through small towns. A 'proto' examination of the gentrification we see going on all over to this very day - highest recommendation.
Profile Image for David.
161 reviews1,492 followers
January 17, 2010
Winesburg, Ohio, is certainly the geographical ancestor of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Washington, and Lumberton, North Carolina (Blue Velvet) -- not so much for its omens of severed ears and one-armed men, but for its wealth of turbulent emotion (e.g., rage, despair, lust, contempt... all the good ones, really) concealed behind a picturesque scrim of small town American life. Yeah, the shopworn theme of middle class American repression has been done to death -- Sam Mendes’s American Beauty may have seemed its trite little death knell -- but the masters always manage to make it fresh and insightful. And let’s not forget, naysayers, that Sherwood Anderson published this, his masterpiece, in 1919. That’s right. Ninety years ago, and I guarantee that it’s a helluva lot more modern, in language and sensibility, than some of the stuff being written today. If it weren’t for the talk of carriages and Butch Wheeler lighting the street lamps, you might not even guess at its age at all. It’s had literary Botox or something.

One of my new favorite books of all time, Winesburg, Ohio is also the longest shortest book I have ever read in my life... which isn’t to say that it’s tedious or verbose or difficult, but that each short story in this compilation of character sketches about Winesburg residents contains so incredibly much, that the emotional weight of three or four of them in one sitting is enough or is as much as human empathy will tolerate. Make no mistake... The people of Winesburg are, for the most part, pretty fucking miserable. I ain’t kidding you: the lion’s share of them are privately contending with some deep sense of loss or regret or dissatisfaction which they are -- or merely feel -- powerless to overcome.

I mean, just take a good look at a few of ‘em: Wing Bindlebaum lugs around the (unfounded) rumors of his pedophilia, keeping him from expressing himself freely; Elizabeth Willard suffers from marrying her cold, neglectful husband Tom because 'he was at hand and wanted to marry at the time when the determination to marry came to her' (ah, romance!); Elmer Crowley is so obsessed with the fear of being perceived as strange (or 'queer' in the original sense of the term), that he makes of himself the most inexplicable town oddity; and Alice Hindman, who I think is the saddest one of all (no small feat), saves herself for a man who has left town and forgotten her and lies in bed at night 'turning her face to the wall [and:] trying to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg.'

Wow is right. There are some pretty baroque -- not to say bleak -- interior lives inhabiting these plain and simple-seeming folk. Because the narrative component in these stories is only a means to illustrate -- no, not illustrate -- transmit these inner lives to the reader, I think it’s fairer to call them vignettes. Regardless of seasons, characters, and particulars, each one transpires in a gauzy-golden-late-autumnal-Bergmanesque-twilit-dream-state. We see too opaquely into the psychological interiority for this to be hard-and-fast realism. We experience these vignettes primarily as auras, moods, and eulogies.

Sherwood Anderson’s use of language in Winesburg, Ohio is definitely worth mentioning because it feels profoundly unique. Yeah, sure, his sparse, colloquial prose is a kindred spirit of sorts with Gertrude Stein’s and Ernest Hemingway’s, but it’s certainly not neat or easy. What I mean is that, just because the bulk of the words are elementary, monosyllabic, it doesn’t follow that the reader glides effortlessly over the prose. Anderson often tosses in non-sequiturs, layered abstractions, mysterious phrases, and clunky rhythms to keep his readers fully engaged. Nestled within the simple, matter-of-fact narration in 'Death,' for instance, we find these two sentences:

In the big empty office the man and the woman sat looking at each other and they were a good deal alike. Their bodies were different as were also the color of their eyes, the length of their noses and the circumstances of their existence, but something inside them meant the same thing, wanted the same release, would have left the same impression on the memory of an onlooker.

Incredible. 'Something inside them meant the same thing.' That little verb, dispatched in an unfamiliar and enigmatic way, makes the sentence. Rather than feeling or thinking the same way, the two shared a significance. What does that mean exactly? You can almost grasp it or catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye, but it’s one of those things you need to feel to really understand.

I also can’t help but love the serial parity of eyes, noses, and existences in the second sentence. There’s a beautiful awkwardness in that phrase that quietly thrills me. (Yes, I’ll own my literary geekiness. It thrills me... and, now, no longer quietly!)

Winesburg, Ohio is only the nineteenth book I’ve added to my literary Valhalla, otherwise known as my 'pants-crapping-awesome' bookshelf. It is a rare and beautiful thing, and I am still wondering if you realize how much I loved it... If not, call me at home and I’ll tell you all about it.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,731 followers
June 26, 2016
"I wanted to run away from everything but I wanted to run towards something too. Don't you see, dear, how it was?"
-- Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio


This is one of those important novels I would have probably passed over or missed if Sherwood Anderson wasn't mentioned in so many lists--and if so many authors I admire (Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, O'Connor, McCarthy) didn't mention (or perhaps not mention, but just shadow) him as an influence or inspiration.

There is something beautiful about every single sentence that Anderson writes. Some of the stories in 'Winesburg, Ohio' (Death, Loneliness, the Strength of God, Godliness, and Adventure) were nearly perfect. Others, while they might not have hit me as hard as those five, were still almost uniformly beautiful and interesting. Like waves beating rhythmically against a wall, Anderson's stories seemed to gently deliver a message from the universe of the grotesque. Ideas of isolation, loneliness, love and the need to reach out to others (to find love or understanding) float from one story to the next and weave the various plots of the twenty-two short stories together. 'Winesburg, Ohio' is a great piece of American fiction and an amazing piece of 2oth century art.
Profile Image for Oscar.
1,971 reviews492 followers
February 29, 2020
Esta es la historia de un observador, George Willard, y de sus crónicas sobre algunas de las situaciones que acontecen o acontecieron a su alrededor. Sherwood Anderson era un mago. No hay otra explicación. Es capaz de conmovernos con cualquier mísera historia, apenas importante a simple vista, pero contada con tal apasionamiento que logra hacer grande lo insignificante. Anderson es capaz de ver lo extraordinario en lo cotidiano, de hablarnos de sus semejantes con una precisión y una poesía exquisitas.

Estos cuentos transcurren en el Medio Oeste americano, concretamente en Winesburg, Ohio, durante los primeros años del pasado siglo.

* EL LIBRO DE LO GROTESCO. Nada más empezar la novela, un relato extraño pero maravilloso sobre un anciano escritor que desea elevar la altura de su cama para poder observar por su ventana. Como digo, una pequeña maravilla, cuyo significado se va comprendiendo según se van leyendo el resto de cuentos.

* MANOS. Las protagonistas de este cuento son las manos de Wing Biddlebaum. ¡Pobre Wing! Este cuento es una pequeña (o gran) obra maestra.

* PÍLDORAS DE PAPEL. Nunca más veré las manzanas rugosas y arrugadas de la misma manera. Un cuento, apenas una miniatura, conmovedor y bellísimo.

* MADRE. Elizabeth Willard desea lo mejor para su único hijo, ya que no ha podido conseguirlo para ella misma. Un cuento triste y hermoso al mismo tiempo.

* EL FILÓSOFO. El doctor Parcival es un personaje curioso que intenta inculcar a George Willard su particular filosofía de vida a través de sus vivencias. Una buena historia de aventuras.

* NADIE LO SABE. Historia sobre el deseo, contada muy sutilmente.

* DEVOCIÓN. Este cuento está dividido en cuatro partes en las que se nos cuentan las vicisitudes de la familia Bentley, sobre todo del cabeza de familia, Jesse Bentley, obsesionado con ser el elegido de Dios y conseguir cuantas más riquezas mejor. Los otros dos personajes principales de este cuento son Louise, hija de Jesse y mujer sumamente compleja para su época, y David, su hijo y nieto del viejo Jesse, muchacho absorbido por las neurosis de ambos. Es un relato perfecto, en el que ni sobra ni falta nada.

* UN HOMBRE DE IDEAS FIJAS. Otro cuento exquisito en el que prima el humor, y es que Joe Welling es un personaje memorable.

* AVENTURA. Me he sentido muy identificado con este cuento, porque al igual que Alice Hindman, también he sufrido más de una vez el temor a la soledad, a qué será de mí en los años venideros.

* RESPETABILIDAD. Una clásica historia de amor e infidelidad, perfectamente contada.

* EL PENSADOR. De nuevo un personaje, Seth Richmond, en busca de qué y quién ser en la vida. Seth se siente un extraño en su propio pueblo, no logra integrarse. Le gusta la soledad y hablar poco, y esto me gusta.

* TANDY. ¡Ójala encuentre algún día mi propia Tandy!

* LA FUERZA DE DIOS. A simple vista, parece que el reverendo Curtis Hartman es un hombre satisfecho con la vida que lleva. Pero surge un obstáculo, en forma de mujer, que pone en entredicho su fe.

* LA MAESTRA. Este cuento es el complemento del anterior, 'La fuerza de Dios', y un ejemplo de cómo escribir un cuento con los mínimos medios, para obtener un resultado en donde todo encaja como en el mecanismo de un reloj.

* SOLEDAD. Este es un triste cuento de hasta dónde nos puede conducir un exceso de imaginación.

* UN DESPERTAR. De cómo la pasión y el amor, por y de una mujer puede ofuscar la razón.

* "RARO". Elmer Cowley odia ser un bicho raro. Pero no se da cuenta de que es imposible huir de uno mismo, que luchar contra la propia naturaleza es imposible. Cuanto menos raro quieres parecer, más lo eres. ¡Qué bien comprendo a Elmer!

* LA MENTIRA NO DICHA. Un relato precioso sobre las insatisfacciones de la vida, y de las obligaciones a las que se han de ver abocadas las personas en un momento dado de su existencia.

* BEBIDA. Otro maravilloso cuento. Cómo me gustaría vivir en un pueblo como Winesburg, estar cerca de la naturaleza, que cuando quieras alejarte y pensar un rato, estés a un paso del campo. Tom Foster y su abuela son unos personajes muy tiernos de los que habría que aprender.

* MUERTE, es un emotivo relato impregnado de una bella tristeza.

* SOFISTICACIÓN. El despertar a la edad adulta siempre supone un fuerte golpe y un enigma.

* PARTIDA. Y por fin, George Willard se decide.

Tras la lectura de estos cuentos, no me extraña que escritores de la talla de Faulkner, Hemingway o Steibeck, por citar unos pocos, hablasen de Anderson como de una de sus más significativas influencias.

Recomiendo este libro a todos aquellos que amen las palabras y las buenas historias. Así de simple.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,061 reviews495 followers
February 29, 2020
There 23 to 24 chapters in Winesburg, Ohio, depending on whether one wants to include the first story that does not speak directly of the town, Book of the Grotesque. After that is a major heading, Winesburg, Ohio with 23 chapters or as the book portrays them, “ a group of tales of Ohio small town- life”. I read this short story collection over 15 years ago, but I wanted to re-read it for two reasons. One, I remembered liking it a great deal, and two, a GR reviewer had said this short story collection reminded them of a style that I have not seen a lot of, but which I greatly enjoy – when each tale can stand alone, but a character in one tale who might be the protagonist is mentioned in another tale…I suppose that is not surprising in this book since it contains tales about a small town of some 1800 citizens. I noticed that style or genre when reading Yoko Ogawa’s short story collection, Revenge. And this from a Chicago Tribune reviewer giving other examples of this style and which may have been inspired by Sherwood Anderson: Steinbeck's "The Pastures of Heaven," Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles," Louise Erdrich's "Love Medicine," Gloria Naylor's "The Women of Brewster Place," Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club," Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Russell Banks's "Trailerpark," Stuart Dybek's "The Coast of Chicago" and "I Sailed With Magellan," Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge," and Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad."

The short story collection was published in 1919…actually some stories first appeared in magazines – The Little Review, The Seven Arts, and The Masses. According to Wikipedia the short stories are based loosely on the author's childhood memories of Clyde, Ohio. Clyde is in northern Ohio in between Toledo and Cleveland.

The one central character is George Willard, a newspaper reporter for the Winesburg Eagle. His mother inherited the town’s hotel from her father.

After reading several of the tales and getting used to them, I decided to use a rating system to characterize a story on four aspects: weird, sad, hopeful, and interesting in which 0=not at all and 5=extremely. With almost no exception, the central protagonist in a story or the circumstances surrounding the character were very-to-extremely weird…very-to-extremely sad…not at all to just a bit hopeful, and most tales/stories were very-to-extremely interesting. This collection of short stories is considered a classic as considered by such notables as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck.

Although the stories are from the early 1900s there seems to be a timeless quality to them…at least for me. In short, this book is nothing short of magnificent. 😊

This is a very interesting review… https://www.chicagotribune.com/entert...


From Tom Perrotta: Sherwood Anderson's strange and beautiful book made me remember why I'd wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Profile Image for Howard.
339 reviews244 followers
February 29, 2020
Winesburg, Ohio, small town, late 19th century, filled with the kinds of characters that later populated Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life; a town populated with a good-hearted do-gooder cop and taxi driver, and even a generous savings and loan president (with, of course, a cold-hearted banker as his foil; there has to be some conflict) and other charmingly eccentric characters, who look out for each other.

Is that what one expects when picking up a copy of the book and looking at the depiction of the town square looking warm and inviting on the cover? Expect, yes; get, no.

Here is what you get:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau

As well as this which ran through my head as I read:

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there's nobody there
What does he care

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

-- McCartney and Lennon

There is no leavening humor in the book, no heroes, there isn’t even much plot. It is neither fish nor fowl, but a hybrid that strikes a middle ground between novel and short story collection. There are twenty-two stories with each consisting of a character study, with a heavy dose of psychological insight. Sigmund Freud is not a character in the book, but his presence hovers above it.

One individual, a young newspaper reporter named George Willard, is the main character in a couple of the stories and makes appearances in several others, primarily when the main character in those stories seek him out as a sounding board. His natural curiosity makes him a good and willing listener, but the persons who seek him out are nearly always so psychologically repressed that they are unable to communicate their thoughts.

But because he does appear in more of the stories than anyone else he is often named as the book’s protagonist. That, however, is stretching the characterization. He is not the unifying theme in the book; Winesburg is. The town, and not young George, is the real protagonist.

As a stylist, Anderson prefers short declarative sentences (He is said to have been an important influence on Hemingway, though Hemingway never acknowledged that influence.) and as the omniscent narrator he prefers tell over show.

Since Winesburg is clearly based on Clyde, Ohio, the small town in which Anderson spent his years from age eight to eighteen, one has to wonder what his life was like there. His book makes me believe that the dark mood that characterizes these stories, stories populated by so many isolated, unhappy, unfulfilled, inhibited, repressed, alienated individuals, "all those lonely people" who spend much time taking solitary walks at night in the streets and surrounding area of Winesburg, tells us much about his life in Clyde and the unhappiness that he must have experienced there.

Anderson wrote other books, but this is the one for which he is remembered. Published in 1919, it was not a commercial success (maybe too gloomy?), but it did receive some critical acclaim. Over the years it has gained many admirers and in 1998, the Modern Library ranked it 24th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Anderson, at age sixty-five, died in the Panama Canal Zone. The cause of death was peritonitis that occurred after he swallowed a toothpick while eating an hors d’oeuvre. Such an ignominious death would have made for an interesting story in his book.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
May 4, 2019
“There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. . . With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. . . “

This may be the third or fourth time I have read Sherwood Anderson’s classic (1919) story cycle, Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life. It makes me think of other portraits of places via tales of individual persons, such as Joyce’s Dubliners, or Master’s Spoon River Anthology (which was published in 1915 and which it most closely resembles). I suppose you can name many novel cycles, too, such as Faulkner’s saga of fictional Yoknapatawpha County--based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life--that are similar.

Anderson’s Winesburg is based on Anderson’s own hometown, Clyde, Ohio. It was written mainly in Chicago where Anderson escaped his small town life to become a writer, just as his main character, the would-be writer George Willard does. As a growing-up story, it feels a bit like the alternately nostalgic and dark stories of Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan, Illinois stories, including Dandelion Wine.

“One shudders at the thought of the meaninglessness of life while at the same instant, and if the people of the town are his people, one loves life so intensely that tears come into the eyes.”

Anderson’s style focuses on psychological insights of characters over plot, and plain-spoken prose, and his approach, one of the first modernist works of fictions, was influential in the development of his mentee Ernest Hemingway’s early work about northern Michigan. Anderson is not as good as any of the above-mentioned writers, though this is his best work.

The 22 stories in the book feature particular townspeople, beginning with a kind of frame, “The Book of the Grotesque,” a term Flannery O’Connor popularized in her stories of the south. Most of the people seem sad and lonely here, but I think Anderson’s point is not to depict small town people as miserable, but to reveal that under the surface of their calm, quiet exteriors they are sometimes seething with longing, lust, fear, restless ambitions, lost dreams.

“She was very quiet but beneath a placid exterior a continual ferment went on.”

One story is about a minister who sees a woman smoking in a window one night and, suddenly obsessing about her, without her knowledge, turns his life upside down over her. Another is about a woman who waits much of her life for her teen love to return to town; one more is about a bitter man once dumped by a woman. What emerges centrally out of the telling is the character of George Willard who weaves his way through many of the stories, and who struggles with whether to fall in love and stay in town or strike out to make his way in the world:

“He wanted terribly to make his life a thing of great importance, and as he looked about at his fellow men and saw how like clods they lived it seemed to him that he could not bear to become also such a clod.”

Much of George’s struggle is between love and ambition: “In youth there are always two forces fighting in people. The warm unthinking little animal struggles against the thing that reflects and remembers.”

So George Willard (and Sherwood Anderson) choose the latter, an they also get and take some advice for their journies:

“You must not become a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is to know what people are thinking about, not what they say.” Anderson definitely does that, and the result is often moving.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
October 10, 2012
I apologise for my lack of originality, but I need to steal karen's perfect summarisation of this book: "this book is life - it is tender and gentle and melancholy and real. not everything works out according to plan here, but what ever does?"

There is no better way to put it than that. Winesburg, Ohio is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants of the small town of Winesburg, it is a very real story about the lives of "normal" people. Those people who work hard every day of their lives and never get rewarded for their dedication. Those who pray each day for the one thing they've always wanted... only to remain disappointed. Those who are sad and broken from having never been loved as a child, those who were never good enough for the people in their lives. This little book captures so many emotions in just over 250 pages: pain, happiness, fear, want, greed, sadness, frustration...

This book is filled with beautiful, quotable writing and the last line is one of the best finishing lines I've ever read. It just adds that cherry on top of this sundae and left me feeling a whirlwind of emotions. As does the whole book. Sherwood uses the short story method to explore different styles of story-telling when dealing with different characters in this small town. For example, the second story in the book is called Hands and tells the tale of Wing Biddlebaum through his hands that have inspired emotions from wonder to hatred in the hearts of the people he has known in his life. "The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his name."

Another example of Sherwood's experimentation with styles that I really liked was in Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts. In this, the author tells the story of a family from the point of view of different family members and your opinion of the characters change with each one you read. At first, Louise is a selfish and argumentative woman who neglects her son and is prone to fits of anger or alternatively periods of withdrawal and silence. But then Sherwood switches perspective to allow for understanding: "Before such women as Louise can be understood and their lives made livable, much will have to be done. Thoughtful books will have to be written and thoughtful lives lived by people about them." Because Louise was not born with rage and frustration inside her, it was put there by life and others who failed her. Sherwood's portrait of a woman at this time and the limits put upon her because she is a woman and not a man is sad and somewhat ahead of its time.

I really wanted to give this five stars and I almost did, but I held back from doing so when I paused to look back over the book and realised the quality of some stories is far greater than others and it was the stronger stories that were tempting me to rate higher. But readers of short story collections often acknowledge that this is frequently the case and I don't want to put you off reading this. It's hard not to be touched by the realities these people faced and I think this would be the perfect opportunity to compare with The Casual Vacancy - another book about the lives of people in a small, quiet town and how they are not as calm and gentle as one may be tempted to believe.

I want to make this comparison because I tried to read Rowling's adult novel and found myself too bored to continue. So I inevitably started to believe that this was down to the subject matter and the subtle tone of the book and perhaps my not-so-secret super love of wizards and magic. I personally think Winesburg, Ohio is proof that it wasn't my lack of ability to appreciate a certain type of story and that it really was just pretty boring (sorry fans!). Because this is about small town relations too, it is about people who aren't celebrities or supernatural creatures or dating supernatural creatures... and it hooked me from start to finish.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
580 reviews87 followers
December 10, 2022
کتاب داستان قشنگی داشت، هرچند که از اوایل کتاب تعدد شخصیت‌ها یکم باعث گیجی میشه ولی بعدتر که داستان پیش میره و ارتباط بین شخصیت‌ها رو متوجه می‌شیم، داستان دلنشین‌تر میشه. همه‌ی اتفاقات روابط عاشقانه و زندگی و کار شخصیت‌ها در شهری خیالی به نام واینزبورگ رخ داده...
جزو لیست مدرن لایبرری (به انتخاب منتقدین)
Profile Image for Quo.
292 reviews
February 21, 2020
When I began rereading Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio for a library book discussion, I found myself grumbling about what I considered clumsy syntax and a seemingly monotonous prose style. However, in time I put away the red pencil and just allowed the characters from this century old (1919) book the freedom to take root in my consciousness. This is not a novel in the normal sense & it is also not merely a collection of short stories. Rather, Winesburg, Ohio is a series of vignettes or tableaux vivant that eventually blend together to populate a small Ohio town, with the author acting as a kind of literary ringmaster.

To my mind, Sherwood Anderson was not a particularly formidable writer but he was an exceedingly keen observer who often found just the right words to animate a group of people often bereft of hope and without the ability to express themselves to each other.

The focal point of this menagerie of lonely people is George Willard, a young reporter for the town newspaper & narrator of Anderson's book, someone many townspeople relate to as a sounding board, one woman as an object of lust and one jealous young man as a punching bag. George's mother, Elizabeth Willard, is said to be like a sleepwalker roaming within the Willard House, a semi-seedy hotel run by George's father Tom Willard, someone who has "succeeded at nothing, failing at both farming & hotel-keeping but who fancies himself as a successful man". George's parents are like many others in Winesburg, residents with seemingly contradictory natures & self-defeating personalities.

In time, Curtis Hartman, a Presbyterian minister lusts after Kate Swift who he spies on from the church belfry as she, a resident of a nearby house, lounges in bed in a nightgown reading a book. Kate in turn lusts after George Willard, wanting initially to warn the much younger man about life's pitfalls even as she becomes increasingly attracted to him, causing George to wonder if the entire town of Winesburg has gone mad.

Some moments are reminiscent of Thornton Wilder's wonderful play, Our Town, set in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire but one is also reminded of another cast of characters with a Midwestern theme, Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, except that the folks in that book repose in a cemetery while those in Sherwood Anderson's work resemble living ghosts.

There is "Wing Biddlebaum" (originally Adolf Myers), a former school teacher attacked & driven into exile & obscurity because he had "very expressive hands" & some felt that his rather constant touching of students made him a potential menace. There are the Bentleys, living on 600 acres, 3 of whose sons perish in the Civil War, with Jesse Bentley taking over the farm after his wife dies in childbirth but with Jesse, acting with biblical overtones, becoming a fanatic & wanting God to anoint him in some way, said to be "a man born out of his time & place, mastering the souls of others but unable to master himself."

Alice Hindman loves Ned Currie briefly, a man who flees Winesburg, never to return, while Alice waits & waits, remaining faithful to a dream but one rainy evening momentarily runs about naked on the street in front of the house where she lives, before crawling back to seek refuge in her solitary bed,
What is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am not careful. Turning her face to the wall, she began trying to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live & die alone, even in Winesburg.
One of my favorite portraits is titled "Sophistication" & features both George Willard and Helen White, who seem to have a longing for each other but are unable to express their feelings to others and while unsuccessfully attempting to express these fleeting sensations to each other, ultimately come to a realization that there is a commonality of spirit that links them, for "in the darkness, the two oddly sensitive human atoms held each other tightly & waited.". Alas, when George finally decides to flee Winesburg, Helen fails to arrive in time to see his train off at the station.

Loneliness is like a virus that plagues the town & all of its residents but Sherwood Anderson manages to give each of them a voice & very often a memorable image as well, as with Tom Foster's grandmother, who is swept away by the illness of her daughter & by the cost of 2 funerals. Living above a junk shop...
for 5 years she scrubbed the floors in a building & then got a place as a dish washer in a restaurant. Her hands were all twisted out of shape. When she took hold of a mop or a broom handle her hands looked like the dried stems of an old creeping vine clinging to a tree
And there is Enoch Robinson, once an artist in New York City "who was like a writer busy among the figures of his brain" a man who feels lust & marries a girl who sat next to him in art school to solve his lust but still feels lonely, with "strange fevers keeping him awake at night." In time, the marriage fails and Enoch befriends...
shadow puppets of his own making, including a woman with a sword in her hand, an old man with a long white beard who went about followed by a dog, a young girl whose stockings were always coming down & hanging over her shoe tops. There must have been 2 dozen of the shadow people, invented by the child-mind of Enoch Robinson who lived with him.
If only the Winesburg townsfolk had lived in the age of Twitter & Facebook, their fates might have evolved quite differently but in so many cases, they seem never to be able to give vent to their inner feelings to those closest to them & sometimes not even to themselves. Sherwood Anderson referred to the characters in Winesburg, Ohio as "grotesques" but went on to say that "some of the grotesques were beautiful" & further, that "it was the truths that made people grotesque."

The critic Malcolm Cowley commented that Anderson had "the gift of summing up, for pouring a lifetime into a moment." But Cowley also suggested that a novel should have a structure & a development whereas with Sherwood Anderson "there was chiefly a flash of lightning that revealed a life without changing it." Another critic, Irving Howe, in a commentary that seems dismissive of the "Chicago School" Sherwood Anderson is said to represent & the Midwest in general, concludes that the figures in Winesburg, Ohio "personify to fantastic excess a condition of psychic deformity, the consequence of some crucial failure in their lives, some aborted effort to extend their personalities or to proffer their love."

Sherwood Anderson chose to expose the interior spaces of his characters in a manner that most authors of his time did not seek to explore & was an influence on Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck & other American writers, as well as others farther afield, Israel's Amos Oz among them. I found Anderson's "flashes of lightening" more than sufficient to hold my interest & arouse my empathy, while the lonely, forlorn characters in this little Ohio town were well worth getting to know.
Profile Image for Kim.
286 reviews791 followers
May 7, 2009

Okay, fine, I didn't like it.

I believe I had a crisis of faith whilst reading Winesburg, Ohio. One of the bestest reasons for GR is that I've been exposed to writers that I'd never heard of and to reviews that made me sit up and say 'To the library, NOW' and I really wanted to believe that I'd benefit from reading this. I really did.

So, uh... what went wrong? Where is this crisis of faith? Okay, maybe not faith---maybe foundation is a better word. See, I always sort of thought of myself as an equal opportunity hater, you know in the whole misogyny/misandry angle was never my thing. But, as I read Winesburg, I started to understand why Valerie Solanas penned her manifesto.

Okay, that's a bit harsh. I admit. But, still I don't like going there and unfortunately dear Sherwood made me question my misanthropy.

There are just a handful of women in Winesburg. I couldn't find one that I felt was justifiably written, in the sense of being 'real'... and represented. You have Elizabeth Willard, who has such a chip on her shoulder and such regret that she declares such statements as 'If I am dead and see him becoming a meaningless drab figure like myself, I will come back...I ask God now to give me that privilege. I demand it. I will pay for it. God may beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that may befall if but this my boy be allowed to express something for both of us.” Way to go, Mom. So, she sits in her room with her son and they don't talk and it's awkward and does she say anything to George? Tell him how she has faith in him, thinks he's this great force to be reckoned with? (Bit, of an Elektra complex, maybe?) No... but she was dang passionate about it.

Then there's Louise Trunnion who is supposed to drop everything to walk with George (I begin to think here that has a bit of an ego thing going on... one of those qualities that just make me want to kick him in the shin, btw) and you know as Sherwood writes "She was not particularly comely and there was a black smudge on the side of her nose. George thought she must have rubbed her nose with her finger after she had been handling some of the kitchen pots.” Good old woman's work, thanks for taking one for the team, Weezie. But, hey she puts out... so we can forgive her lack of comeliness.

We've got Alice Hindman and her Adventure. You know, being used and thrown out by Ned Currie before he moved to Cleveland and bigger and better places East. She just knows that he'll be back, right? I mean, she was a weaver of carpets... such a catch. But, you know... years pass and she starts to feel like the spinster she has become and decides one night to run naked in the rain.
”She thought that the rain would have some creative and wonderful effect on her body. Not for years had she felt so full of youth and courage. She wanted to leap and run, to cry out, to find some other lonely human and embrace him. On the brick sidewalk before the house a man stumbled homeward. Alice started to run. A wild, desperate mood took possession of her. 'What do I care who it is. He is alone, and I will go to him,' she thought; and then without stopping to consider the possible result of her madness, called softly. 'Wait!' she cried. 'Don't go away. Whoever you are, you must wait.' The man on the sidewalk stopped and stood listening. He was an old man and somewhat deaf. Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted. 'What? What say?' he called. Alice dropped to the ground and lay trembling.”

So, instead of snagging Brad Pitt she ends up with Red Skelton.

We have Tom Hard's daughter. Doomed with a calling and a new name before her 6th birthday. She lives in this pit of a town with her faithless dad and a stranger passing through gets drunk and ”...he dropped to his knees on the sidewalk and raised the hands of the little girl to his drunken lips. He kissed them ecstatically. 'Be Tandy, little one,' he pleaded 'Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.'”
Uh... 'Tandy' (stripper name???) be a good girl and go talk to Alice and Elizabeth and see what your future REALLY looks like, kay?

Then there's Kate Swift. The 'teacher'. Yes, poor Kate... peeped on by the local clergyman as she reads and smokes cigarettes on a Sunday. Sinner. Poor Kate who is crushing hard on her former studly student, George. Who so wants to pull a Pam Smart except you know, she's not married and lives with her elderly aunt and all. ”At the age of thirty Kate Swift was not known in Winesburg as a pretty woman. Her complexion was not good and her face was covered with blotches that indicated ill health. Alone in the night in the winter streets she was lovely.”
But, you know... after her wretched action of throwing herself at her former student she goes home and undresses and throws herself on her bed crying, beating her pillow and then begins to pray. So, of course good old peeping Minister Curtis is redeemed because Kate's become an instrument of God, bearing the message of truth.”. Yeah, that's it.

Okay... so where am I going with all this? Who the fuck knows. I just know what I'm feeling and that's pissed off. And I'm pissed off that I'm pissed off. I'm not THAT person that finds the nitpicky crap and whines about it, you know? Like I said, the world is my dumpster.

I don't see what the big deal is with this book. Maybe I'm missing out, obviously I am if I look at my friend's reviews of this. I did find it rather amusing that most of the ravings belonged to my male friends... hmmm...

Maybe it was the whole 'this book represents Middle America' angle and well, I'm not all that interested in Middle America.

But, I can't say that I'm all that blown away with the 'complex human beings whose portraits, rendered in Anderson's masterful prose, brought American literature into the modern age.' (back cover) So what, it was written in 1919. I don't think it was some great revelation that people make it out to be. Honestly... if I was interested in pre-industrial suburbia and it's dreariness, I'd read some Emily Dickinson.

But, that's just me.

Okay, I'm ready for the barrage... maybe.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,631 followers
March 21, 2021
This collection of short stories about the fictive city Winesburg, Ohio had a huge influence on the next generation of American writers: Hemmingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck. I was particularly taken with the aspects of what I felt were forerunners of the magical realism of Marquez, Allende, Rushdie, Calvino, and Murakami. I loved all these characters and felt that the author must have felt a particular affinity with his primary protagonist George Willard, who, like Anderson, finishes the book by leaving rural Ohio for Chicago.
A wonderful and thought-provoking masterpiece.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,586 followers
September 8, 2015
Winesburg? More like Whines-burg...

I know this book of linked short stories about the lonely inhabitants of a small American town in the first decades of the 20th century has been influential, and is considered a classic, but I found it a drag: opaque, vague, obvious, tiresome.

Yeah yeah, I get it: small town = claustrophobic, gossipy, repressive, hypocritical, lonely.

Honestly? I’d suggest flipping through a book of Edward Hopper painting reproductions (see below), since he deals with some similar themes: how people don’t connect, the bleak flatness of existence, how you can feel isolated even among others.

The book’s not very long, but it took me over three months to finish. Not a good sign. And even though some people call it a “coming of age” book about a character named George Willard, a young reporter and perhaps an autobiographical stand-in for the author, I never got any sense of him or what he wanted.

In fact, I don’t remember much about the book at all: another bad sign. There are hints of pedophilia, exhibitionism, reincarnation, lots of premarital sex, a couple of murders, alcoholism. And so much loneliness. (Note: I think all of the above are in the book; I tried leafing through it again for specific details, but got bored even rereading the flat, declarative sentences and their dull, portentous titles like “The Strength Of God,” “The Thinker” and (seriously!) “Loneliness.”)

I liked best a series of stories linked by a couple of characters: one group of four stories tells the history of a prosperous farming family, while another pairing of two tales links a lonely, horny pastor and a schoolteacher he becomes obsessed with and George himself.

Just writing that I'm so bored I can’t... even…. zzzzzz
Profile Image for Esteban del Mal.
191 reviews64 followers
September 5, 2010

A man and woman meet at a bar. They begin to talk and learn that each has trouble staying in long-term relationships because their sexual tastes are considered deviant. Excited, they decide to return to the woman’s apartment. After a bit of heavy petting, the woman excuses herself to her bedroom, promising to return wearing something more appropriate. Minutes pass and the woman emerges from her room in dominatrix attire to find the man nude, spent and smoking a cigarette. Incensed, she admonishes him for finishing without her. He replies, "Lady, I don’t know what your idea of kinky is but I just fucked your cat and shit in your purse."


Bakersfield, California

The man closes the book. He is at the car wash. His daughter dances in front of him, hopping from colored tile to colored tile in the run down, if air conditioned, interior of the building. He remembers the dreams of youth.

He remembers standing on a hillside in Corona Del Mar and looking down upon a gigantic house under construction as his father tells him he is meant to be a writer. A plywood turret of what is to become a huge personal library is framed by the hazy blue of the Pacific Ocean. The house will be that of Dean Koontz, who would go on to write the Afterword for the 2005 Signet Classic Edition of Winesburg, Ohio.

The man remembers boyhood, when the dream of being a writer was new. He is eleven. He and his parents have moved to the working class community of South Gate. For the first time, he applies himself to his schoolwork. He wins a city-wide essay contest and is rewarded with an article in the newspaper and a free lasagna dinner. His parents, whose marriage is failing, declare a temporary truce and whisper with one another about their destined-for-greatness son. Almost as impressively, a biologically precocious Latina he goes to school with named Claudia asks him to sleep with her. Blushing, he buries his head in his desk. He does not know what it is to sleep with a girl, he only knows that Catherine Bach of Dukes of Hazard fame has made him feel funny on several different occasions.

One day he is accosted at the school bus stop by another boy named Jose who is jealous of the attentions of the resident alpha-female. Jose is beaten bloody and chased home by the boy. The school bus shows up just as Jose's family spill from their house, whipped into a bloodlust that the most fervent mujahideen would envy. As the eldest brother approaches the departing bus, his eyes meet the boy's through a window. The boy answers his foreign slanders by sticking out his tongue.

The boy did not become a writer. The man he became thinks of all the things he has left unsaid and of all the feelings he has never shown. He is at the hardware store. He buys a drain snake because his Hispanic wife's hair has clogged the shower. He is mildly irked, but he loves her. He loves his daughter. He loves his life. Old friends are coming over today and he will laugh. He thinks that anyone who has read Winesburg, Ohio and given it less than four stars probably only has sex like Jesus is in the room working the lights.
Profile Image for Eh?Eh!.
373 reviews4 followers
January 18, 2010
I've just started this but I have in mind the American radio show This American Life and the snarly description they quoted from a (I've never watched it but I gather it was sort of trashy) tv show, "Is that that [radio:] show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?"

Anyone can read this book and call it beautiful, moving, insightful, etc. But someone who reads this and then continues to snub the "common" man for no reason other than boredom, a perceived sense of 'cool,' or appearances has learned nothing and could be called a hipster know-it-all douchebag. Not that we must all join hands in peace & love, but...be tender with each other; or be a well-read douchebag.

...this book is wonderful so far. I think I'm only on page 20.


After reading a bit more, it occurs to me the above is a douchebag thing to say. There are likely reasons for rejecting your fellow man, for being a douchebag. Sherwood Anderson could describe these reasons in a short story that will leave you breathless with wonder. Position reversal, I am not one to judge who is a hipster know-it-all douchebag.

What the heck is a douchebag anyway? When the compound is separated each part makes sense but combined it is more than the sum of its parts. Ah, the magic of language.


"Breathless with wonder" is an exaggeration. I think "in contemplation and uneasy self-reflection" may be more accurate.


Done! Sort of. This book is quietly haunting, without the wooOOOoooo-ghost thing but more a slight creaking in the far corner of the house or a wisp barely sensed and gone by the time the head turns to follow the movement. My reading of it was in halting episodes, broken by work and sleep, so I feel I've forgotten too much already.

This book seems to be a study of the 'ordinary people that so fascinate hipsters' today, basically a collection of short stories describing regular folk. But so much more. With a few brushstrokes, Sherwood Anderson painted a masterpiece and I felt the emtpy rooms, the grayness of the lives, an upwelling of feeling and its inevitable return to absence, the silent sounds between people as they speak, purposeless running. Winesburg, Ohio is the town where dreams went to die, necessarily so since most dreams are bigger than feasible but for these poor folks they were not replaced by satisfaction with smaller goals. Those who were offered opportunity to escape didn't recognize it and remained trapped without realizing it and always wondering what-ifs and why they felt that way, why they felt nothing vibrant. Instead of excruciating detail, the people are presented in short descriptions of some past key event or current inner turmoil that a passerby would never realize by looking at them; these fulcrums sort of sink into your own mind and germinate. A cranky coworker or the surly pedestrian who didn't return a smile, what was their fulcrum, what disappointment or unrealized wish created this cardboard figure now and how can I get them to share with me so that they are no longer cardboard?

This can be read without a dictionary. It's not at the level of a newspaper (I believe newspapers are supposed to be written at the 6th grade level?) but it's simply written. There was little dialogue and often the dialogue was purposely minimized by being summarized as 'some words were said' because the spoken wasn't important, it was the spaces felt between the thoughts&feelings and the out-loud.

Near the middle, I stopped and read the little commentary section at the front of the book which included an excerpt of a letter from Sherwood Anderson to a playwright about a staging of Winesburg, Ohio. That was a mistake because Sherwood Anderson wrote of George Willard as being the main character and that nearly ruined it for me. I have a reflexive disgust for boys who do not try to be men (loaded words, both "boy" and "men," but stumble along with me for a sec) that blocks my open mind mechanism. After reading some of these lovely stories and feeling that I was so empathetic to their plight and lahdidahdidahhhh, to read that he intended their stories to be told through a boy trying to become a man but would he have the sensitivity to really see them and treat their broken lives with respect...and then I realized this is a book (but I love this book and started pulling out my sword for its honor or something). Also, hey dummy (I like to speak abusively to myself), he can and he did. The old man who begins the book wrote of man-made truths composed of numerous vagaries that were beautiful, but people came along and adopted just one or a few of these truths thus making them false, and those people became grotesques (this is a bad paraphrase). In my own grotesqueness, I was losing sight of the book and disliking the idea of an alien from Planet XY being the pivot point (dudes, I'm not a manhater, I love men, but boys make me impatient...keep stumbling with me). George Willard was a common figure in most of these stories so it was clear he would be used to pull it together.

The conceit of these short stories, giving insight into the lives of 'ordinary' people, reminds me of another science fiction book where a person's life was told at their funeral. Not a eulogy since those can be candy-coated lies, but an honest and sometimes brutal relating of why the person had been the way they were. I felt that this book accomplished that for these people.

At my current stage of grotesque, "Tandy" is my favorite. Not because I'm seeking that 'one,' but because I too fear missing my fulfillment or destiny or beauty or whatever it is that leads to contentment. I realize it's not a one-time thing, and maybe it's a continual striving. But will I know it when it comes? Or will I join the residents of Winesburg in gray and watch George leave?
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,892 followers
March 23, 2023

It has been a quiet week in Winesburg, Ohio, the little town that time forgot, and not without reason. The apple harvest was pretty good this year, mostly all the good apples have been picked, but you can find those small gnarled forgotten apples that are kind of twisted into the grotesque shapes of men’s foul sickening hearts right there in the grass if you look. And they taste so sweet. So sweet. This last week Seth Richmond strangled a couple of people and Kate Swift was found praying naked in the street again but heck you should see what happens in Indiana. Lot worse than that. Some of our reverends have got a few unreverent hobbies and I could name one or two falling down drunks and practically every other person swears they are going to get out of Winesburg on the next bus or hop a freight if they have to but mostly they don’t.

Well, that’s the news from Winesburg Ohio, where all the men are weird, all the women are a lot weirder, and all the children just plain creepy.

(With apologies to Garrison Keillor)
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,338 followers
August 27, 2010
If not for goodreads I might never have read this extraordinary book, despite its acknowledged status as a classic. But only a fool would ignore the recommendations of readers as smart as Montambeau, Jason Pettus, and my good friend Ben Harrison, and I'm not a complete idiot. So this past weekend I finally sat down to read Winesburg, Ohio, curious to see if it could possibly meet expectations.

God, I loved this book! In the two dozen or so linked vignettes that make up his account of the small town of Winesburg, Anderson gives voice to the lonely, the dispossessed, to those, whose own emotional inarticulacy has made them outsiders in their own town. In the book he uses the term "grotesques" to refer to his characters, a term I found unfortunate, because these people are no more grotesque than you or I. Each of us, at one point or another in our lives, has surely suffered from the same inability to communicate that affects the characters in Winesburg; each of us has experienced the status of being an outsider, felt that there is nobody else on the planet that speaks the same language as we do. There is a universal recognizability to the characters of Winesburg that contributes greatly to the book's emotional power.

Some readers react negatively to what they perceive as an overwhelmingly negative tone throughout the book. I think this is a fundamental misreading. Although Anderson's portrayal of small-town America as it changes from an agrarian to an industrial society is undoubtedly dark, it is by no means hopeless. By allowing his surrogate, the young reporter George Willard, to pass on the stories of the lonely denizens of Winesburg, he is affirming the importance of the stories, and of their protagonists. There is a sweetness in the telling of these stories that is reminiscent of Carson McCullers in "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" or "The Member of the Wedding".

I think the reason I react so strongly to the stories in Winesburg, Ohio is partly because I can identify with the outsider status of many of the protagonists. Not so much in my current life (though there are those occasional days), but there was that first year in high school, without a doubt the most miserable year of my entire life. Having skipped several grades in primary school, grown up in a household where my title of golden boy was unquestioned, I was completely unprepared for the jungle of a boys' boarding school in which I was two years younger than all of my classmates. That first year was Lord of the Flies brutal, completely miserable, and probably the most formative of my life. Two important lessons I took away from it were confidence in my own ability to survive a tough situation, and - crucially - the capacity for empathy. If you've ever suffered as an outsider, I think there are two ways it can turn out - the resentment can turn inward and fester, or - more positively - the experience leaves you with a life-long ability to empathize with those in an outsider role. Ultimately, there is a compassion at the center of Winesburg, Ohio that is anything but pessimistic, and that gives these stories their extraordinary power.

Winesburg, Ohio completely earns its status as a classic. If you haven't already read it, I urge you to do so. Soon.
Profile Image for AJ Griffin.
63 reviews446 followers
July 3, 2007
If you ever want to engage in a fun experiment I suggest you do the following, which I've arranged in a convenient, step-by-step format.

A) Fall in love with a girl
B) This might be hard to arrange by yourself, but the girl has to move away from you- but not because you split or anything
C) Stay away from her for a while
D) Save up your money devotedly (i.e. stop smoking for a week) so you can afford to go visit her.
E) Take a 7 hour bus ride to where she resides, which may or not be a hippy/freak/artist university in Northampton, MA
F) Arrive. Greet. Be happy
G) Take copious amounts of speed
H) I mean, take a lot. More than you should
I) Do not sleep. Do not eat. These are the activities of the plebeians; you need to be spending your time having long, engaging, profound and worldly conversations that connect you with everyone you meet. At least, you need to think that
J) Keep going! You're only there for two and a half days
K) Leave in the morning. It's been....50 hours since you slept or ate. Say goodbye, hop on that bus
L) You haven't taken any speed in a while because you're not fucking made of money, man, so functioning as a human becomes difficult.
M) The speed wears off. You're on a bus, you're going back home to a place that you don't particularly like, and you're leaving behind the girl that you love without knowing when you will see her again
N) Lose hope. Embrace despair. Have daylight hallucinations. Feel every grain of anything resembling happiness drain out of your body.
O) Read Winesburg, Ohio.
P) See if you survive through the day!!

The "big fans of existentialism" in my english class would have shat themselves over this book, because it seems like Mr. Anderson is the definition of the "life is devoid of meaning and full of hopelessness" idea they all wanted to believe so much. I don't want to ruin anything for you, but here's the general moral of these stories: pretty much everyone's hopes and dreams are just that, and they all end up dying, feeling like a failure.

Cheery stuff. Enjoy with a heft dose of Coricidin Cough and Cold for optimal results.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,971 reviews1,982 followers
July 14, 2020
Real Rating: 3.75* of five

Anderson's influence on both Faulkner and Hemingway is very clear. He's got a deft hand with characterization, but he's not quite the craftsman that Faulkner would prove to be...his jumps in time feel like boo-boos, not choices. And he's not quite the storyteller Hemingway would prove to be, miring himself in the quotidian and missing the many opportunities to universalize his characters' angst the way ol' Ernie did.

I long to see an "American Masterpiece Theatre" created, and the stories here dramatized for it. Would win Golden Globes and Peabodys and such-like prestige awards, done well.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews83 followers
March 4, 2023
Winesburg, Ohio, is a fictional town that took shape in the imagination of Sherwood Anderson; but in its own way, Winesburg is every bit as real as any actual Ohio town that exists today in our shared physical reality, from Akron to Zanesville. Anderson’s creation of his town – of its people, and of the textures of life there – is that complete.

Sherwood Anderson may not be as well-known as Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner, but both Hemingway and Faulkner admired Anderson’s work – Hemingway because of the spare, minimalist quality of Anderson’s prose, and Faulkner because of the painstaking manner in which Anderson set forth the unique characteristics of an American region. Yet Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio deserves to be read not just as an important contribution to American literary history, but also as a great book in its own right.

The device that links together the 21 stories that make up Winesburg, Ohio is the presence of George Willard, a youthful journalist employed by the local newspaper, the Winesburg Eagle. Fortunately for George Willard, and for us, he is a gifted listener; he knows that if he just sits, and listens, and gives people an opportunity to talk, they will talk, and in the process they will reveal a great deal about themselves – chiefly, the sort of loneliness that we Americans, inveterate and gregarious joiners though we are, often feel in spite of ourselves.

On its surface, Winesburg embodies homespun Midwestern virtues. Below the surface, however, there is a much grimmer reality, as when Doctor Parcival in “The Philosopher” tells George Willard his story of refusing to come down from his office and examine a little girl killed in an accident on the town’s main street. In fact, no one in town has any real awareness of Doctor Parcival’s un-doctorly unwillingness to come and help; but Doctor Parcival does not know that, and therefore he is convinced that, sooner or later, a lynch mob of angry Winesburg residents will come for him. “I will be hanged to a lamp-post on Main Street,” Doctor Parcival says with terrible certainty (pp. 56-57). Clearly, this is not your grandparents’ safe and peaceful Midwest. Rather, it is a place where unhappy people bemoan the life choices they have made, and where the potential for violence forever lurks just beneath the surface of American life.

Evident throughout the collection is Anderson’s determination to demonstrate that the materials for modernist high art can be found within the workaday textures of ordinary Midwestern life. So strong is that determination, in fact, that there are places where Anderson may be trying too hard. For example, “Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts,” one of the longer stories in the collection, is an affecting multi-generational tale of religious fervor, romantic longing, and economic ambition. In its last section, however, Anderson brings together an old man named Jesse; his descendant David, a young man who carries and often uses a sling that he made himself; and a lamb that seems likely to be made the subject of a sacrifice! Biblical allusions, anyone? Some of the more “literary” elements of the story seem too “literary” for their own good. Anderson is on firmer Ohio ground when he steps back from such self-consciously artful flourishes, and gets back to the straightforward, understated storytelling that gives Winesburg, Ohio its power.

One of the most beguiling features of the collection is the way in which the stories, like the lives of the people of Winesburg, are intertwined. I liked for example, the way in which the stories “The Strength of God” and “The Teacher” worked together. “The Strength of God” chronicles the struggles of the Reverend Curtis Hartman, a respectable Presbyterian pastor who discovers one day that from his church’s bell tower, where he likes to work on his sermons, he can look down into a neighboring house and see Kate Swift, the young schoolteacher next door, reading in her bed, her throat and shoulders bare. Hartman struggles with the temptation implicit in this opportunity to play Peeping Tom, and ultimately finds himself running to George Willard’s office at the Winesburg Eagle, raving that “The ways of God are beyond human understanding” (p. 155). The following story, “The Teacher,” similarly focuses on Kate Swift’s own unfulfilled yearnings; while the town feels that “There was something biting and forbidding in the character of Kate Swift” (p. 161), she has her own “passionate desire” (p. 165), and something of her inner life comes forth in her own conversations with George Willard at the newspaper office.

Indeed, some of the finest moments in Winesburg, Ohio occur when George Willard loses his safe isolation as listener and interlocutor, and participates, whether he wants to or not, in the life of the town and its people – as when, in “An Awakening,” George unwittingly finds himself in the midst of a passionate love affair between bartender Ed Handby and milliner Belle Carpenter, who enjoys making Ed Handby jealous by walking about the town with George, in spite of Ed Handby’s threats: “You stay away from that kid….If I catch you together I will break your bones and his too” (p. 186). By book’s end, the loneliness and sense of futility so characteristic of Winesburg seems to have filled George Willard’s spirit as well. People in Winesburg feel trapped within the grip of the outwardly placid community’s rigid social norms, and privately wonder how they might break free.

I re-read Winesburg, Ohio some years ago, on a visit to the college town of Marietta. As I walked along Marietta’s peaceful, tree-lined streets, or looked out upon the Ohio River from the long sloping hill by the old Lafayette Hotel, I wondered how much of Winesburg there might be in Marietta and towns like it. Anderson’s Winesburg feels so real that it seems that one should be able to travel there and walk its streets. There is even a map of Winesburg in the book, provided by Anderson provides between the stories “The Book of the Grotesque” and “Hands” – a nice touch, though I am not sure that it is necessary, given the skill with which Anderson draws Winesburg using language alone, in this masterwork of American regional literature.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
December 29, 2018
I cannot say I enjoyed the classic Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. It is a a string of interrelated stories about people living in a fictitious town called Winesburg, modeled on the author's early years growing up in Clyde, Ohio. The time setting is the early 1900s. There are lots and lots of characters, but one returns to a handful over and over again; it is in this way we learn of their pasts. The central character is George Willard; we follow his growth toward manhood and his eventual decision to leave town. He is a young reporter, and as such, he hears of the other townspeople's lives.

I didn't hate the book, but neither did I like it. I found it boring. Flipping between different stories gave the telling a disjointed feel. After each story I consistently wondered what it was meant to say. I did not relate to any of the characters. Their thoughts and their behavior felt foreign to me. There is very little dialog. The stories feel told rather than lived. The characters are flat; none became real individuals to me.

Neither the religious content nor the depiction of lust nor the overall hopeless feel of the tales spoke to me. If there is a town filled with people such as these, it is a sad town. There is no vibrancy to these people's lives. They feel as ghosts, shadows or the dead. None of them have an inkling of how to communicate with other human beings.

I did not like this book, and so I am giving it one star.

The audiobook narration by George K. Wilson is fine.
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