Winesburg, Ohio might be the most haunting book I’ve read this year. A nice surprise, considering that I last read it 30 years ago and remembered only that it contained vivid sketches of quirky people. But it is, of course, much more than that. The “quirkiness” turns out to be the peculiarities of people who live in constant awareness of how uncertain and strange life is. I’ve assembled a few sentences into a pastiche that illustrates some of the existential questioning at the heart of the book:
It seemed to him that the world was full of meaningless people saying words. A wind began to blow and he shivered. He thought how strange it was that he knew that life was meaningless, and yet his love for life was so powerful that it brought tears to his eyes. He stands perplexed on the crest of his life. Thinks, the body is stronger than I knew. An immense pressure comes over him. He cannot move without dislodging the weight of centuries. I am a native of this place, he thinks, but the land is not mine.
THE FRIDAY LIST this week is dedicated to Sherwood Anderson, born September 13, 1876, died March 8, 1941:
SYNONYMS FOR BEING
(according to Roget’s Thesaurus, first entry, page 1):
NO JOKE, existence,
matter of fact,
sober reality, actual
ontology [Science of existence],
NOT A DREAM.