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Winesburg, Ohio (1919)

by Sherwood Anderson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,8191211,644 (3.8)1 / 265
Classic Literature. Fiction. Short Stories. HTML:

Winesburg, Ohio is a series of loosely linked short stories set in the fictional town of Winesburg. The stories are held together by George Willard, a resident to whom the community confide their personal stories and struggles. The townspeople are withdrawn and emotionally repressed and attempt in telling their stories to gain some sense of meaning and dignity in an otherwise desperate life. The work has received high critical acclaim and is considered one of the great American works of the 20th century.

.… (more)
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    The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (bertilak)
    bertilak: Bradbury has said that Winesburg, Ohio was one of the inspirations for The Martian Chronicles (grotesque characters in Ohio versus on Mars).
  4. 40
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  5. 20
    Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (kxlly, jannon)
    jannon: A similar multivocal version of a small midwestern town, but in verse.
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    FutureMrsJoshGroban: The style of writing and realism in the portrayal of the characters is very similar.
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    Marriages Are Made In India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma (Publerati)
    Publerati: Like Winesburg Ohio, this story collection hangs together in mood and theme in an appealing way.
  10. 00
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  11. 00
    Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (Jozefus)
    Jozefus: Anderson en Munro zijn vaker met elkaar vergeleken. Beide boeken bestaan uit losse verhalen over een protagonist(e) die opgroeit in een fictief provinciestadje. En in beide gevallen vertoont dat stadje een opvallende gelijkenis met de plaats waar de auteur zelf is opgegroeid.… (more)
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» See also 265 mentions

English (109)  Catalan (5)  Spanish (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (121)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
The good: I appreciate his writing style. Every so often he hits upon a phrase or paragraph that reflects humans. His ideas of situations are sometimes interesting, even though they aren't reflective of reality.

The bad: first thing, the ridiculous setting. It feels like 90% of what's referred to as "great American" works or on those top 100 lists is set in some rural, pastoral town which feels like a complete fantasy. I cannot believe for one second this town exists. I feel kind of stupid saying this, given he was born and presumably grew up in such a town, but what's shown is not a town. He describes random houses and random people. Nobody wants for money, even if they're poor. There is no town past a few houses where characters live. Characters that should exist don't. There are no consequences. Nothing makes sense. This is what killed the book for me. I'm so sick of these utopian, rural towns, the conception of which is incredibly reactionary. Maybe this is unfair on the book itself but ugh. Nobody in the town has a life, except for what's described in each person's story. It's frustrating. The artificiality of the book shone through - ostensibly it's a reflection of reality yet it feels like fantasy.

Every character's story is a sort of melancholy. The first chapter warns us that every character is going to be a "grotesque," but it's ridiculous. Everybody has some sort of obvious but ridiculous and unlikely problem and ridiculous thoughts. They don't do anything except for the one event described by the story. A sad thing happens but although it defines their life for us the events don't change how they think or how they live. Apparently nobody can get over anything. Everything is static, even when it describes an incredibly long period of time. Nobody reacts to what happens.

There feels a strong divide between the description of what people do and how they think/what they are/what's going on. One character is described as having serious trouble speaking and apparently having serious, debilitating delusions yet he has a whole load of friends and a wife. It doesn't match at all. One character apparently goes through being walked home by a dude for 2 years (!) with nothing else happening - not even inviting him in to her house - and then suddenly decides she doesn't like it. Ok sure whatever. I can't think of many specific examples, just a general pervasive sense that the characters aren't real and what we're being told once doesn't fit what we're told later.

What made me give up on the book is incredibly minor but was the straw that broke the camel's back. A minor character is called "Sugars McNutts." The rest of the book is deadly serious. Come on.

I think my strong dislike of this book is influenced by how I'm feeling right now and is pretty over the top but my frustrations are real and all too typical of this sort of book. One star is maybe too little but what I liked about it was constantly overshadowed by the problems. It quickly felt like a chore to read. I didn't feel like I was reading about humans or anything that happens in real life.

later note: As I said I think my review is probably unfair. It's at least a little better than I make out, it just hit a lot of my pet peeves ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Winesburg, Ohio, is often cited as one of the seminal works in modernist American literature. Some commentary states that great American writers such as Hemingway and Faulkner credit Anderson with influencing their writing styles. The book depicts small-town life with a certain darkness that is not very complimentary.

The book contains seemingly unrelated short stories, yet a common character, George Willard, is a journalist. The motley cast of characters shares their experiences and thoughts about loneliness and alienation in Winesburg. Many are hiding out in Winesburg after having had difficulties elsewhere. There are stories of missed dreams, unhappy marriages, sexual perversion, and repression. Some characters seek the truth and meaning of life, sometimes through their religious faith.
  LindaLoretz | Aug 6, 2023 |
Every so often I come upon a 'classic' worth reading, meaning: an older book that still has something to say; a book that is of its time but not a Sweeping Epic about its time; a story whose humanity isn't lost in the Zeitgeist, then or now. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
The author Sherwood Anderson led an interesting life. He was born in 1876, America’s Centennial Year, to a father who was a veteran of the Civil War, and a mother who later took in laundry to make ends meet while her husband drank. After growing up in small town Ohio, he followed his brother to Chicago and began working factory jobs while going to night school to further his education. He left to join the Army for the Spanish American War, and then returned to Chicago to begin a career in advertising and sales. In his spare time he began writing. It wasn’t until his 40s that his first book was published.

He found his first real success with the work that he is mainly remembered today - the short story collection in Winesburg, Ohio. The publisher of his first two books refused to publish Winesburg, calling it “too gloomy”. It was Ben Heubsch, owner of a small publishing house in New York, who gave the book its title and published it to effusive critical reception.

Anderson has been considered by some critics to be more significant for his influence on a younger generation of writers than for any of his own works. Those he influenced include Hemingway, Faulkner, and Sandburg, who he and his third wife entertained at their apartment in New Orleans in the 1920s. He was married four times, taking full advantage of the new sexual freedom of the Roaring Twenties. He died in 1941 of peritonitis while on a cruise in the Caribbean.

In 1998, Modern Library chose Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio as #24 on their list of 100 Best Novels. It’s in fact not a novel, but a series of interconnecting short stories. Each is a character study focused on a particular individual. Every one of Anderson’s characters has their secrets, every one has their disappointments. Taken together the stories provide a sense of the loneliness and frustration hiding beneath the surface of small town pre-industrial life. The stories are heartbreakingly real, and written in simple, matter-of-fact language that I found distinctly Midwestern.

In many of the stories young George Willard, an eager newspaper reporter, and stand-in for the author, plays a part. People come to him and unload their tales. George himself is a character in the tales of his mother and himself that finish out the book.

I really enjoyed these stories. I know some find them depressing, but remember when they were written, with World War I raging and America undergoing enormous change - from agriculture to industry and from rural to urban. Stories looking back to small town life between the Civil War and World War I, and seeing it with all its shortcomings, make perfect sense given the times.

But for me the realness of the stories Anderson captured makes them timeless. ( )
  stevesbookstuff | Nov 11, 2022 |
Some strange groupings if little fictions.

Goes from funny and fascinating to confusingly convoluted.

But I can't hate on the book written about my ancestor's small town in Ohio. ( )
  josh513 | Aug 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
In the autumn of 1915, while living in a bohemian boardinghouse on Chicago’s Near North Side, Sherwood Anderson began work on a collection of tales describing the tortured lives of the inhabitants of Winesburg, a fictional Ohio town, in the 1890s. Drawing on his own experience growing up in the agricultural hamlet of Clyde, Ohio, he breathed life into a band of neurotic castaways adrift on the flatlands of the Midwest, each of them in their own way struggling — and failing — to locate meaning, personal connection and love amid the town’s elm-shaded streets.
Barely a day has passed in more than 20 years during which my thoughts haven’t turned, however fleetingly, to Anderson, “the minor author of a minor masterpiece,” as he once described himself. Winesburg has become my life’s great literary obsession, though for reasons that remain obscure even to me.
added by rybie2 | editNEH website, Bruce Falconer (Oct 8, 2017)
Het boek kent enkele zich nogal herhalende thema’s en lijdt wat onder de afwezigheid van de psychologische inzichten die de er opvolgende decennia gemeengoed zouden worden. Toch heeft deze terechte heruitgave meer dan louter literair historische waarde. Het toont een Amerika op de historische grens van een agrarische naar een industriële samenleving, en het toont de onmacht, de hopeloos lijkende ontsnappingsstrategieën, de dieptrieste psychologische problematiek van het voetvolk dat nooit erkenning zou krijgen in het Amerikaanse succesverhaal. Sherwood Anderson zal dit nooit als oogmerk hebben gehad, omdat hij het lot van zijn personages als universeel zag en dat met veel mededogen noteerde.
added by Jozefus | editNRC Handelsblad, Jan Donkers (pay site) (May 26, 2011)

» Add other authors (124 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anderson, Sherwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cowley, MalcolmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, IrvingIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koontz, DeanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stahl, Ben F.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trevisani, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of my mother, Emma Smith Anderson, whose keen observations on the life about her first awoke in me the hunger to see beneath the surface of lives, this book is dedicated.
First words
(Introduction) Rereading Sherwood Anderson after many years, one feels again that his work is desperately uneven, but one is gratified to find that the best of it is as new and springlike as ever.
The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Classic Literature. Fiction. Short Stories. HTML:

Winesburg, Ohio is a series of loosely linked short stories set in the fictional town of Winesburg. The stories are held together by George Willard, a resident to whom the community confide their personal stories and struggles. The townspeople are withdrawn and emotionally repressed and attempt in telling their stories to gain some sense of meaning and dignity in an otherwise desperate life. The work has received high critical acclaim and is considered one of the great American works of the 20th century.


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Book description
Short stories with common setting and several common characters, and a rough chronological order. Life in small town Ohio in the late nineteenth century.

Includes: "Hands"
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