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Posts Tagged ‘Sherwood Anderson’

Faulkner’s Cocktail of Choice

December 31, 2013 | by

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In honor of the new year, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!

When I first started working at Kings County Distillery, in the summer of 2010, I was delighted to find the job provided ample time to read. Whiskey making has its own peculiar rhythm. Each batch begins in a flurry, as one juggles a series of tasks like a line cook, but ends in a hush, with little to do but watch the languorous drip of the stills.

This was in the wobbly-legged days of the company’s infancy, before we moved into the grand old brick paymaster building in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Back then we were based out of a studio space on Meadow Street with wooden floors and five-gallon steel pot stills that had to be emptied, scaldingly, by hand. (This, as our former downstairs neighbors can attest, would prove an unfortunate combination of circumstances.) During that first summer, we worked singly, in nine-hour shifts, so there was a lot of alone time. So, unless one wanted to lose one’s goddamn mind in that little room, one read. Read More »

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On the Map: Sherwood Anderson; Clyde, Ohio; and the Mythologies of Small Towns

July 25, 2013 | by

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Wikipedia will tell you that the National Arbor Day Foundation has bestowed upon Clyde, Ohio, the illustrious title of Tree City USA, and also that the Whirlpool Corporation calls the town home. You might learn, too, from the “Notable Residents” section of Clyde’s Wikipedia page, that former NFL tackle Tim Anderson has lived there, and that he was preceded in this by George W. Norris, a progressive senator from Nebraska during the early part of the twentieth century. Should you meet a Clyde native of a particular sort, though—in San Francisco, say, or New York—she might skip these details to tell you about a more hallowed pedigree. She might say, if she judges you a literary type, that she hails from the small town where Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio is set. (Winesburg’s Wikipedia page will explain, if you happen to visit it, that it is not the setting for Winesburg, Ohio.)

It turns out, though—somewhat perplexingly—that Clyde natives eager to claim ties with Anderson are scarce. Since Winesburg’s publication, in 1919, residents have for the most part regarded Anderson as a prodigal child—a troublemaker and bawdy apostate from whom to keep a wary distance. A 2001 article in Cleveland Scene magazine titled “Unfavorite Son” noted that although the Clyde Public Library boasted a Whirlpool Room, “nary an alcove” had been dedicated to Anderson. For years, the library’s only copy of Winesburg “was kept in a locked closet with other ‘bad books.’” If you wanted a peek, “you had to ask the librarian, and she looked down at you with a scowl.” In the 1980s, an annual Sherwood Anderson Festival was inaugurated but lack of interest saw it swiftly snuffed. Local high school teachers exclude Winesburg from reading lists, and an Anderson scholar from a nearby college told Scene that at the time of the book’s release, townspeople regarded it as gossip: “They didn’t understand what fiction was,” he said. “They thought he was a liar.” It did not help, perhaps, that Winesburg contains much indelicate innuendo regarding married women, teenage girls, and the local religious establishment.

Still, nearly a century has passed since Winesburg’s publication. Anyone who might have detected in the novel traces of her own biography has surely passed on. Modern-day Clyde has little to recommend it, and it strikes one odd, at first, that natives would fail to claim Anderson with pride. A town of some 6,000 citizens fifty miles from Toledo, Clyde is a place of vacant storefronts and empty streets. Stoplights hang heavy between buildings of faded red brick, and plywood boards panel downtown windows. It is the sort of town from which escape can prove difficult and not the kind to which people readily relocate. People in Clyde are quick to discern condescension, and though Winesburg, Ohio owes its endurance to universality—to artful, empathetic investigations of human weakness and desire—they cannot shake the notion that it levels at their town a targeted indictment. They do not see in it a feat of artistic alchemy but a slim volume of petty judgment, a document of isolation rather than transcendence. Read More »

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Parsing Middle Earth Contract, and Other News

January 22, 2013 | by

  • Listen to contemporary masters such as Charles Baxter and Siri Hustvedt read ten Sherwood Anderson stories.
  • “Most of the topography turns out to be relatively straightforward. The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith sits falsifying back-numbers of the Times, is the University of London’s Senate House building in Malet Street. Big Brother’s statue in Trafalgar Square, now rechristened ‘Victory Square,’ adorns the plinth previously reserved for Nelson, while the waxworks museum on the square’s eastern side, where visitors queue to inspect tableaux of military atrocities, is the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields put to sinister propagandist use.” Mapping 1984.
  • “So far the dwarves haven’t committed any unsalvageable drafting errors or done anything that might jeopardize the validity of the contract.” A lawyer examines the dwarves’ contract from The Hobbit.
  • “Write drunk,” and other (questionable?) advice from famous writers.

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    The Art of Friendship

    November 20, 2012 | by

    Philia, the root of Philadelphia, roughly translates to “friendship” in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, an enduring source for understanding the ethics of friendship. Aristotle identifies three essential bases for friendship: utility, pleasure, and virtue. Friendships of virtue, Aristotle believes, are ideal because only they are based on recognition.

    When I was thirty, I moved back to Philadelphia. I had only been gone a few years, and though I knew better, I had half expected it to be just as I’d left it. It was not: most of my friends had left the city altogether or moved, married, to the edges of town. Occasionally, I would run into people I had once known, encounters that produced deep and surprising embarrassment in me; unexplained life choices digested in fast, always alienating, appraisal. The more unsettling thing was that my close friendships were changing, too.

    Friendship has never seemed both more important and less relevant than it does now. The concept surfaces primarily when we worry over whether our networked lives impair the quality of our connections, our community. On a nontheoretical level, adult friendship is its own puzzle. The friendships we have as adults are the intentional kind, if only because time is short. During this period, I began to consider the subject. What is essential in friendship? Why do we tolerate difference and distance? What is the appropriate amount to give? And around this same time, I discovered the curious, decades-long friendship between the writers Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and the sculptor Wharton Esherick. Their relationship seemed to me model in some ways; they were friends for over twenty years, mostly living in different cities. Each man was dedicated to pursuing his own line of work, and the insecurities and single-mindedness of ambition seemed analogous too to the ways that adulthood can separate us from our friends.

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    North American Books I Read as a Child in Castro’s Cuba

    October 19, 2011 | by

    Havana, Cuba. Photograph by Jordi Martorell.

    In the spring of 2007, I was invited to a dinner organized by The Paris Review in honor of Norman Mailer. The novelist had just published what would be his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, and would have a conversation with E. L. Doctorow. That evening, when Mailer entered the room, with his very distinctive mien—that of a rather solid and stout man who, because of his age, used two canes—I was deeply moved. I told him—what else do you say in those circumstances?—how much I admired his books and that I started reading them when I was very young, many years ago.

    A few days later I told a friend about this experience. “But, how?” he acted surprised, “Did you read Norman Mailer in Cuba?” And added, “Wasn’t he supposed to be one of the banned North American authors on the island?”

    My friend had imagined, perhaps for a good reason, that you couldn’t find American literature in Cuba, that it was banned because both countries were at more or less declared war, an openly proclaimed enmity. I patiently explained to him that nothing like this ever happened. Mailer’s books and those of many other North American authors were not censured in Cuba; in fact, they were widely sold. You could find them in every library; they could be read by everyone. Read More »

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    Staff Picks: Bookshop Door, Thinking Fast and Slow

    September 16, 2011 | by

    The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door at the Harry Ransom Center.

    Thinking, Fast and Slow sums up the cognitive research that won Daniel Kahneman a Nobel Prize in Economics (a first for a psychologist). It is also an old-fashioned work of philosophy: a series of DIY experiments that teach you how and why to doubt your intuitions about things as basic as cause and effect. —Lorin Stein

    The Ransom Center has launched a curiously fascinating exhibit online, based around a door from Frank Shay’s bookshop that was signed by hundreds of the habitués of 1920s Greenwich Village, including Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis. The original shop was across the street from my current apartment and exploring the site, and the interconnected histories of the people who frequented the store, is a nifty way back in time—like a portal to twenties social networking. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

    I’ve been looking forward to pulling Dalkey Archive’s new collection of stories and essays by Mina Loy off my shelf, but it hasn't yet found it’s way into my reading cycle. I have managed to dip my toe in by way of Triple Canopy’s excerpt of her play “The Sacred Prostitute,” a very funny send-up of, among other things, men’s attitudes toward women. What’s more, some young genius at the magazine has put a handful of CF’s sublime, seductive drawings into the mix. —Nicole Rudick

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