Monday, January 7, 2013

Five best books on the dark side of small towns

Stefan Kiesbye has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. His stories and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and his first book, Next Door Lived a Girl, won the Low Fidelity Press Novella Award.

For the Wall Street Journal, Kiesbye named a list of five top books on the dark side of small towns, including:
Winesburg, Ohio
by Sherwood Anderson (1919)

Sherwood Anderson is a writer for whom the achingly mundane is a source of both cruelty and wonder. His "Winesburg, Ohio" is at once a love letter, an elegy and a disturbing portrait of 19th-century rural America. A work of singular eloquence, it is written in the sparest of prose—a style that inspired Hemingway. The protagonist, George Willard—a young reporter whom Anderson describes as "full of big words"—navigates the narrow streets and small ambitions of his hometown. He is earnest and ill-prepared for a world that requires more than his grand philosophical ideas, but he works and he absorbs. During his apprenticeship in Winesburg, he encounters heartbreak, seduction, shame and death. In the end, he says farewell to the town he has always known and to the daily presences in his life—like Butch Wheeler, "the lamp lighter of Winesburg, hurrying through the streets on a summer evening and holding a torch in his hand." Big-city life beckons. Willard understands that his own future, and his country's, lie elsewhere.
Read about the other books on the list.

Winesburg, Ohio is one of Anna Clark's 13 essential works of fiction to come out of the Midwest.

--Marshal Zeringue