Ben Loory's Reviews > Spoon River Anthology

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
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Oct 10, 2009

it was amazing

i admit that i probably love the idea of this book more than the actual book, but i love the idea of it so damn much that the actual thing still gets five stars. a portrait of a small american town through the from-the-dead poem-soliloquies of hundreds of its departed inhabitants, it's unlike any other book i've ever read. the dead folk discuss their lives and deaths and thoughts and beliefs and relationships with each other, the town, and the larger world. it's from the dead so there's a pronounced metaphysical aspect (though masters never takes a particular religious stand). it spans generations of american history. there are people (well, a person) who remembers george washington, and others who fought in the civil war and WWI. Anne Rutledge, Abe Lincoln's first love, is here. There's a young Chinese boy who came from far away and was killed by the minister's son. Others who fell from water towers, were murdered in lover's quarrels, who died of heartbreak and disease. it's a heartbreaking book and also a hopeful one, but never sentimental or bleak. it's very quiet. it has a shape, a novelistic arc, but not an overly pronounced one. it's subtle. it's kind of like The Country of the Pointed Firs and kind of like Winesburg, Ohio, but it's more spacious and experimental-- more formally interesting-- than either, though a lot simpler and less realistic. this book seems to be part of my personal reader's mythology. i don't know exactly how it got there, but it's there. like catch-22 and the catcher in the rye, it's a book that just won't go away, won't leave me alone. i don't know if it's for everyone, but it seems to be for me.

Sometimes I talked with animals-- even toads and snakes--
Anything that had an eye to look into.
Once I saw a stone in the sunshine
Trying to turn into jelly.

-Willie Metcalf
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07/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer ooooh - i'm going to have to read this one.


message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Loory you should! i think you will like it.


Sammy "i admit that i probably love the idea of this book more than the actual book" is a beautifully apt summation of my thoughts also! Perhaps partly because of emotional connections to when I first discovered some poems, or the inevitable close study that yoked me to the book in acting class, but it's also part of my "personal reader's mythology" as you beautifully put it. No need for me to write a review, I think you've summed it up!


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