karen's Reviews > Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
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Dec 15, 11

bookshelves: littry-fiction, favorites, hey-shorty


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" (36)

"i want to fill you with hatred and contempt so that you will be a superior being" (55)

"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." (106)

"in an odd way he stood in the shadow of the wall of life, was meant to stand in the shadow" (212)

"it seemed to her that the world was full of meaningless people saying words." (238)

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...
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 57) (57 new)


David YES!


karen "a man of ideas" is a perfect short story. perfect.


Greg I'm really going to have to re-read this book sometime.


message 4: by karen (last edited Jan 02, 2010 07:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

karen you said "it is just like 'our town'" in a dismissive manner. but you loooove the downtrodden.

i have not read our town.


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

Ben Yes, I love you!


Eh?Eh! 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.

You...this...I...it's so...this is nice.
(ugh, should've stayed quiet. did I sound too garbled? why can't I act cool?)


message 7: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Just profess your love, Eh!. It's the easiest and most emphatically expressive way to show your appreciation.


Eh?Eh! But...I would need to add modifiers to explain exactly what I loved about the review and not coming across as a psycho using it in the traditional sense and the end result would look like a backhanded insult...I couldn't handle the aftermath.


message 9: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Hmmm. Read this book, k?


karen oh, i accept unqualified, unconditional love.
and cookies.


Ademption Yes, well done.


message 12: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell It's a beautiful book. I think it's actually more like Spoon River Anthology, another favourite of mine, than Our Town, altho I like Our Town too.


karen i will have to check them both out.


Chris Great review, karen. I think I'm going to read this book once a year for the rest of my life.


karen i want to read some of his novels, even though they are supposedly weak.


message 16: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell karen wrote: "i want to read some of his novels, even though they are supposedly weak."

....ohhh man, I loved Winesburg so much I tried Dark Laughter once, and SUCK. Bounced off that harder than a roomful of Superballs.




karen damn. yeah, that's what i have heard, but i have heard there are "moments" of great beauty, but that he wasn't good at sustaining the story...

no moments?


David I actually liked his novel Poor White quite a bit. It was worth four stars...


message 19: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell karen wrote: "damn. yeah, that's what i have heard, but i have heard there are "moments" of great beauty, but that he wasn't good at sustaining the story...
no moments?"


It was supposedly his bestselling novel during his lifetime I think and I just.could.not.read.it. I don't know if it was too dated or I was too young to appreciate it or what. It's kind of depressing looking over the long list of his novels and seeing that really only Winesburg is read now....I think Poor White was also popular, but I never even tried that one. I do remember I tried Return to Winesburg and really didn't like it, either! (God I am a picky bitch.) That's the problem with starting off reading an author's greatest masterwork, you look at all the other stuff left over and keep going 'WTF!'


Chris I loved The Egg and Other Stories as well. I know it's not a novel but it's got a bunch of words strung together by Sherwood Anderson, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.


message 21: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Chris wrote: "I loved The Egg and Other Stories as well. I know it's not a novel but it's got a bunch of words strung together by Sherwood Anderson, so it's got that going for it, which is nice."

I think I read that looong ago! but yeah, Not Winesburg Ohio. (Did I say I was a picky bitch?) Is that the one that has the story about his father and the egg in it? That was pretty funny. Altho Google tells me just now I had mixed that up with I Never Sang for My Father, augh.




karen was that an intentional caddyshack?


message 23: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell David wrote: "I actually liked his novel Poor White quite a bit. It was worth four stars..."

Really! Did you review it? Link? What's it about?



message 24: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen shit. Now I'm going to have to re-read it. No fair and all your fault.




message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Yay! I can't wait to hear about your rereading experience.


message 26: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan always meaning to read these stories, and now I must cuz they're superfuckinggood


Chris Moira wrote: "Is that the one that has the story about his father and the egg in it? That was pretty funny."

There is a story about a father and an egg. It's the story called "The Egg." Probably the best one in the book. And I agree that it's no Winesburg, Ohio but it's still pretty damn good.

karen wrote: "was that an intentional caddyshack? "

Yeah. I definitely overuse that one during the course of my daily life.


karen there's no overusing caddyshack, really.


Stephen Loved it, Frenchy


karen thank you!!! i hand-sold this to a girl today.


David What a great review. And I didn't find "Winesburg" depressing either. Just the opposite.


karen thank you! i'm glad i'm not alone...


Mariel I love this review.


karen i love this book!


Mariel Me too. I should've seen it coming. I'd read all of these reviews!


karen i wasn't sure they could be trusted, myself!! but then i agreed...


Mariel In goodreads I trust.


message 38: by Lizzie (last edited Aug 28, 2011 07:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lizzie I'm reading it now, almost done and maybe you are the only person to find it not depressing. And yet, somehow encouraging because people keep trying to connect. Yeah, so many perfect lines to quote. I want to read it over and over and until I can write like he does. Fat chance.


karen i think it is a very real depiction of frustration and desperate hope. and i find it invigorating, rather than depressing. it sustains me. oh, god - such a glorious read!!!


message 40: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Hey, Karen, this review was anything BUT "inarticulate." I remember having to read this book back in college, and our English teacher asking us what it meant that one of the characters picked up every last little bread crumb that he was eating. It's been a long time since I read this one, but I DO remember liking it a lot, and your review brought it all back....


karen i have since bought a really nice oooold copy of it that smells so nice. if i ever finish grad school, i will read it again and sigh.


Paquita Maria Sanchez GR steals votes. I know for a fact that I have voted for this review before, long ago though it may have been...thieves, I tell you!


karen hmmm - i floated it because i was thinking about it today, and made some minor changes to the review... who knows where votes go......


Paquita Maria Sanchez This isn't the first time I've noticed a review I have liked not being "liked" by me anymore. The "G" in GR stands for "glitch."


karen my precious votes! trickling away....


message 46: by Will (last edited Dec 20, 2011 08:16AM) (new)

Will Byrnes So much better than his earlier, unpublished work, Beerberg, Ohio.


karen oh, booooo


Eh?Eh! Hahahah! Yaaayyyyyy!!


message 49: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew you did this a lot more justice than i did!


karen yours was good, too, though - anyone who likes this book is good.


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