Not-So-Quiet Small-Town Life
Edited by Charles Baxter
The Library of America, $35.00, 928 pages
For readers looking for respite from the violence and shock typical of current American fiction and film, Sherwood Anderson’s Collected Stories will be a welcome change. Originally published in 1919, Anderson’s best-known collection, Winesburg, Ohio, is here, as well as three other published collections and more than a dozen previously uncollected stories. Anderson’s stories focus on the character of both people and places, and feature those quieter moments of tragedy, triumph and revelation typical of early-20th-century American writing. But these stories are far from subdued or prudish. Characters make choices, and the inevitable consequences – sometimes violent – play out in their own lives and the lives of those around them.
These days, Anderson is famous mostly for his sudden disappearance from home for several days in 1912 and his subsequent abandonment of family life to become a writer. For good or ill, he became a model for many young writers of that generation, and writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck show his influence. His story “I’m a Fool,” about a young man who takes his boasting a step too far, was made into a short (and delightful) film. This Library of America collection is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Daniel Hobbs