Sad and Beautiful and Grotesque (A Report)
By ice rivers
I always hated writing "book reports" because I was taught that they had a format. Naturally, anything that has a format is distractive to me as I concentrate on the format more than the content.
Other kids I knew hated book reports as well but they had a different reason, they hated reading the book that they were "reporting" on so them it was all task/format/done with this goddamned book and dreading the next one etc.
I was talking to a couple of kids yesterday. One was a junior, the other a senior. When I asked them what books they had read in English class this year, they both looked baffled. The junior said that they had read a couple dumbed down versions of "literature" only so that they could use this "study" as ammunition to pass the Regents exam which was the focus of instruction through out the year.
The senior said "oh we don't read books anymore". When I asked him "what do you study in English class".
He answered 'Uh...art and uh..what it means to be human"
I thought to myself that's exactly WHY we read books in high school English. I guess if they can do it some other way, more power to 'em".
Just don't know what it would be.
Maybe book reports finically killed reading as they always threatened to do.
I finally figured out what a book report is.
It's an attempt to convince someone to read a book that the reported likes or to warn folks not to read a book that the reported didn't like.
Part two of that sentence is like the old bromide "I wouldn't go to a party that was low class enough to invite me. Non-readers don't need to be warned not to read.
Readers on the other hand are a different matter.
Part of the reason that readers read so much is that we are constantly figuring out what to read next.
We are open to suggestion and rarin' to go.
I bring all of this up because I'm thinking about Winesberg, Ohio written by Sherwood Anderson.
According to Malcolm Cowley
"The only story teller of his generation who left his mark on the style and vision of the generation that followed....Henningway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck, Coldwell, Saroyan, Henry Miller...each of these owes an unmistakable debth to Anderson."
The book was written in 1919 which will soon, God willing, be celebrating its 100th birthday.
The characters are residents of the late nineteenth century.
We "modern" writers tend to write a lot about characters from the 20th century.
Winesberg Ohio contains 25 stories. The stories can be taken one by one or as a picture of a small town or a picture of the human condition. I tend to look at our condition as sad and beautiful so I share that with Anderson but he adds another important element. He explores grotesque.
Sad beautiful and grotesque....yeah that's about right.
Sad, grotesque beauty has once again thrust itself upon my family.
My son-in-law through a series of trespasses has wallowed in infidelity and would continue to do so unless he was accidentally busted by my grand daughter.
He should have read Winesberg Ohio before he started trespassing and erasing boundaries.
As a result, our entire family is reeling.
This all came to light yesterday, when I was broke and for some reason thinking of Sherwood Anderson.
Today, I have money. I feel better in that regard but beer money only means so much when in the midst of an earthquake.
Boundaries help the sad and beautiful from crossing over to the grotesque.
So, yeah everybody read Anderson if you haven't. Re-read if you have especially the first few pages. I've read them dozens of times and understand them a little more the more I learn about life.
And stay in yo lane
My daughter has five children under 10.