The Other Woman by Sherwood Anderson, 1920 Read the rest of this entry »
The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.
- ‘Death In The Woods’ by Sherwood Anderson
- ‘Cheap In August’ by Graham Greene
- ‘Debarking’ by Lorrie Moore
- ‘The Juniper Tree’ by Lorrie Moore
- ‘Flight’ by John O’Hara
- ‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London
- ‘Harvey’s Dream’ by Stephen King
- ‘The Keyhole Eye’ by John Stewart Carter
- ‘The First Flower’ by Augusta Wallace Lyons
- ‘Subject To Search’ by Lorrie Moore
- ‘Thank You For Having Me’ by Lorrie Moore
- ‘Foes’ by Lorrie Moore
- ‘Spring In Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov
- ‘Talk To The Music’ by Arna Bontemps
- ‘The Contest For Aaron Gold’ by Philip Roth
- ‘The Old Army Game’ by George Garrett
- ‘Alma’ by Junot Diaz
- ‘Children Are Bored On Sunday’ by Jean Stafford
- ‘A Long Day’s Dying’ by William Eastlake
- ‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler
- ‘Mammon And The Archer’ by O. Henry
Death In The Woods by Sherwood Anderson, 1926
The magic trick:
Having the narrator explain what the story means to him
Sherwood Anderson famously was an early supporter of both Hemingway and Faulkner. They each looked up to him and drew influence from his work. “Death In The Woods” makes a pretty good case as such source material. It has both the melodramatic melancholy of Faulkner and the sparseness of language of Hemingway.
The most interesting aspect is the way the narrator not only tells the events of the story, he also explains how he came to know about them and what they mean to him. It reminds me a little of historiography – the study not only of history but how that history has changed and been reshaped and written over time.
It gives the reader two different levels to analyze. We can consider the internal story the narrator is telling about the woman who freezes in the woods, and we also can think about his interpretation of the events. And that’s quite a trick on Anderson’s part. No wonder he influenced two of the greatest writers of the century.
The scene in the forest had become for me, without my knowing it, the foundation for the real story I am now trying to tell. The fragments, you see, had to be picked up slowly, long afterwards.
Things happened. When I was a young man I worked on the farm of a German. The hired-girl was afraid of her employer. The farmer’s wife hated her.
I saw things at that place. Once later, I had a half-uncanny, mystical adventure with dogs in an Illinois forest on a clear, moon-lit Winter night. When I was a schoolboy, and on a Summer day, I went with a boy friend out along a creek some miles from town and came to the house where the old woman had lived. No one had lived in the house since her death. The doors were broken from the hinges; the window lights were all broken. As the boy and I stood in the road outside, two dogs, just roving farm dogs no doubt, came running around the corner of the house. The dogs were tall, gaunt fellows and came down to the fence and glared through at us, standing in the road.
The whole thing, the story of the old woman’s death, was to me as I grew older like music heard from far off. The notes had to be picked up slowly one at a time. Something had to be understood.
The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.
- ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time’ by Peter Taylor
- ‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren
- ‘Babylon Revisited’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- ‘Upon The Sweeping Flood’ by Joyce Carol Oates
- ‘Good Country People’ by Flannery O’Connor
- ‘My Old Man’ by Ernest Hemingway
- ‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson
- ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin
- ‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas Wolfe
- ‘Double Birthday’ by Willa Cather
- ‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner
- ‘The Magic Barrel’ by Bernard Malamud
- ‘No Place For You, My Love’ by Eudora Welty
- ‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin
- ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cheever
- ‘O City Of Broken Dreams’ by John Cheever
- ‘A Day In The Open’ by Jane Bowles
- ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson
- ‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford
- ‘The Lost Phoebe’ by Theodore Dreiser
- ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
- ‘How Beautiful With Shoes’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
- ‘The Little Wife’ by William March
- ‘A Distant Episode’ by Paul Bowles
- ‘The Faithful Wife’ by Morley Callaghan
- ‘The Golden Honeymoon’ by Ring Lardner
- ‘Resurrection Of A Life’ by William Saroyan
- ‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey
- ‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker
- ‘The Survivors’ by Elsie Singmaster
I’m A Fool by Sherwood Anderson, 1922
The magic trick:
Using a first-person voice to catch the narrator in contradictions that expose just how big a fool he really is
This is a brilliant little story. Anderson’s narrator thinks he’s telling a story about how he once lost the chance at the girl of his dreams. He blames himself for getting drunk and lying to the girl about his background. As the title indicates, he considers himself a fool. Amazing thing is Anderson exposes him as a fool but for an entirely different set of reasons.
By telling the story in first person, Anderson allows his narrator’s insecurities and selfishness to shine. Consider that the narrator vehemently criticizes both the educated for looking down on those who work in the horse business, and anyone who “puts on airs” and pretends to be someone of a higher social status, only to wind up looking down (literally from the grandstand) on those in the horse business as he passes out fancy cigars and pretends to be a rich horse-owner from another city. He says he blames himself, but in the telling of the story, it’s clear that he still blames others for his misfortune.
In essence, the narrator is telling a story of humility and contriteness, but winds up only coming off as clueless, immature, and exceedingly egotistical. And that’s quite the trick on Anderson’s part.
I’ve always thought to myself, Put up a good front, and so I did it. I had forty dollars in my pocket and so I went into the West House, a big hotel, and walked up to the cigar stand. “Give me three twenty-five cent cigars,” I said. There was a lot of horse men and strangers and dressed-up people from other towns standing around in the lobby and in the bar, and I mingled amongst them. In the bar there was a fellow with a cane and a Windsor tie on, that it make me sick to look at him. I like a man to be a man and dress up, but not to go put on that kind of airs. So I pushed him aside, kind of rough, and had me drink of whiskey.