Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson was recommended to me originally in the mid ’90s by one of my first writing teachers, Diana Cavallo. I took a copy from my in-laws’ basement on my trip west from Philadelphia to Minneapolis in 1998. It sat on my shelves until this year, when the same friend’s author mentor recommended it to her and she recommended it to me as happened with Maile Meloy’s Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It.
Anderson’s name is barely recognized today, and his most famous book relatively obscure compared to those of some of the writers who came after and credited him as an influence, like Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck.
The book is a novel in linked stories. Even though each story was about different people in the town, they all orbited one young man, George Willard, a reporter at the small town’s paper. His story is the anchor at the end.
The town is full of complex people leading quiet lives. They have painful pasts and often long for a lost love, or present sexual shenanigans. For a book from 1919, it’s quite sexually frank, I thought. I found it tough to get into but once the stories began to accumulate, I became involved in the town and its people, even when they thought and behaved badly, just as real people do.