Edited by HOWARD MUMFORD JONES
SHERWOOD ANDERSON’S belletrist apprehend like a following novel. But they additionally apprehend like article buttressed and embodied by whatever Anderson’s books had already told us of the writer. Surely there are not abounding added instances in which a man’s belletrist appropriately neatly affirm his works, and his works affirm his letters. A sample branch will allegorize this affectionate accord as able-bodied as a dozen could do. Anderson writes: — “I acquire been to Nebraska, area the big engines are disturbing the hills to pieces; over the low hills runs the affiance of the corn. You wait, baby Brother; I shall accompany God home to the bathed men in the blah rows. My songs shall edge into their hearts and advise them the asceticism of the continued aisles of growing things that advance to the head of the God of men.”
This ability arise from Dark Laughler or from Abounding Marriages, or from a abbreviate story, or it ability alike be a basic agenda for article in MidAmerican Chants. It appears as a amount of actuality in an aboriginal letter to Waldo Frank. Of advance there are readers who do not like epistolary autograph of this sort. It makes them uncomfortable, and they babble article about assuming afore a brainy mirror. But others will acknowledgment aloft the character of appearance in the belletrist with that in the books. Either way, agreeably or unfavorably, what you get is Sherwood Anderson.
There was in Anderson a aggregate of artlessness and subtlety that lies in a apparent Midwestern tradition. You can see it in his distance adjoin New York. In addition letter to Waldo Frank you acquisition the awe of the adolescent of Middle America afore what he conceives to be the ahead of the East. lie alternate from a appointment to New York, he says, abounding with “odd animosity of admiration and humbleness.”
Wander as he might, Anderson charcoal perpetually the afflicted Midwesterner, alternately abhorrent adjoin affairs and award balladry in machines, amusement in American advantageous activity and pitying the black workers, assertive both in the accumulation and in the individual, yet acutely acquainted of the limitations in these adverse concepts. His radicalism was a action of this charge for self-transcendence, and it bidding itself confusedly, as in the vague, ambiguous apologue of Marching Men. His radicalism was never about bread-and-butter or political — not already but abounding times he repudiated the Communists — for it was consistently mystical, the radicalism of the poet, the child, and 1 he pragmatist. I anticipate it still has abundant to say to the appetite afterwards capitalism in our times.
[MAIUON, VIRGINIA, April, 1935]To ROY JANSEN, columnist and freeholder of a bookstore in Pittsburgh.
Dear Roy Jansen: I anticipate the best absorbingly arresting and agitative moment in any writer’s activity charge arise at the moment aback he, for the aboriginal time, knows that he is a absolute writer. Any able writer, any Hemingway, Wolfe, Faulkner, Stein, Dreiser, Lewis — I could name a dozen others, prosemen, I beggarly — will apperceive what I mean. You begin, of course, actuality not yourself. We all do. There acquire been so abounding abundant ones. “If I could address as that man does.” There is, added than likely, some one man you chase slavishly. How alluringly his sentences march. It is like a acreage actuality plowed. You are cerebration of the man’s style, his way of administration words and sentences.
You apprehend aggregate the man has written, go from him to others. You read, read, read. You alive in the apple of books. It is alone afterwards a continued time that you apperceive that this is a appropriate world, fed out of the apple of reality, but not of the apple of reality. You acquire yourself not yet brought annihilation up out of the absolute apple into this appropriate world, to accomplish it alive there.
Copyright 1953, by Eleanor Anderson.
And then, if you are anytime to be a absolute writer, your moment comes. I bethink mine. I absolved forth a burghal artery in the snow. I was alive at assignment I hated. Already I had accounting several continued novels. They were not absolutely mine. I was ill, discouraged, broke. I was active in a bargain rooming house. I bethink that I went admiral and into the room. it was actual shabby. I had no ancestors in the burghal and few abundant friends. I bethink how algid the allowance was. On that afternoon I had heard that I was to lose my job.
I grew desperate, went and threw up a window. I sat by the accessible window. It began to snow, “I’ll bolt algid sitting here.”
“What do I care?” There was some cardboard on a baby kitchen table I had bought and had brought up into the room. I angry on a ablaze and began to write. I wrote, afterwards attractive up — I never afflicted a chat of it afterwards — a adventure alleged “Hands.” It was and is a actual admirable story.
I wrote the adventure and afresh got up from the table at which I had been sitting, I do not apperceive how long, and went bottomward into the burghal street. I anticipation that the snow had aback fabricated the burghal actual beautiful. There were bodies in the street, all sorts of people, bare ones, active adolescent ones, old beat ones. I went forth absent to hug people, to shout. “I’ve done it. Afterwards all these years I’ve done something.” How did I apperceive I had? I did know. I was bashed with a new drunkenness. I cannot bethink all of the absurd, absurd things I did that evening. I had a little money in my abridged and went into saloons. I alleged men up to the bar. “Drink. Drink to me, men.” I bethink that a prostitute accosted me and that I threw some money adjoin her and ran abroad laughing. It charge acquire been several hours afore I got the adventuresomeness to acknowledgment to my allowance and apprehend my own story.
It was all right, It was sound. It was real. I went to sit by my desk. A abundant abounding others acquire had such moments. I admiration what they did. I sat there and cried. For the moment I anticipation the apple actual wonderful, and I anticipation additionally that there was a abundant accord of admiration in me.
[P.S.] If you use this, will you see that I get copy?
[TROUTDALE, VIRGINIA, August 27, 1938 To GEORGE FREITAG of Canton, Ohio, who entered into accord with Anderson in the summer of 1938 on problems of the adolescent writer. He arise sketches and belief in the Atlantic from 1938 to 1947.
Dear George Freitug: It sometimes seems to me that I should adapt a book brash to be apprehend by added and adolescent writers. This not because of ability on my own part, but because of the experiences, the accurate experiences, I acquire had.
It is so difficult for best of us to apprehend how absolutely and absolutely affairs enters into the arts. For example, how are you to apperceive that absolutely the assessment of the administrator or the annual editor in attention to your work, what is a adventure and what isn’t, agency nothing? Some of my own stories, for example, that acquire now become about American classics, that are put afore accepting in our schools and colleges as examples of acceptable storytelling, were, aback aboriginal written, aback submitted to editors, and aback apparent by some of the alleged outstanding American critics, declared not belief at all.
It is accurate they were not nice little packages, captivated and labeled in the O. Henry manner. They were acutely accounting by one who did not apperceive the answers. They were simple little takes of happenings, things empiric and felt. There were no cowboys or adventuresome agrarian bold hunters. None of the bodies in the tales got absent in afire chastening or went gluttonous the North Pole. In my belief I artlessly backward at home, amid my own people, wherever I happened to be, bodies in mv own street. I anticipate I must, actual early, acquire accomplished that this was my ambience — that is to say, accepted accustomed American lives. The accustomed behavior of the bodies about me, that adulation lasted indefinitely, that success meant happiness, artlessly did not assume accurate to me.
Things were consistently happening. My eyes began to see, my aerial to hear. Best of our American storytelling at that time had anxious alone the affluent and the well-to-do. I was a cheat but not yet a biographer of stories. As I came of a poor family, beforehand men were consistently repeating to me the old saying: —
“Get money. Money makes the adult go.”
For a time I was a laborer. As I had a amore for fast trotting and pacing horses, I formed about chase tracks. I became a soldier, I got into business.
I knew, generally absolutely intensively, Negro swipes about chase tracks, baby gamblers, award-winning fighters, accepted active men and women. There was a violent, alarming man, said to be a killer. One night he absolved and talked to me and became aback tender. I was affected to apprehend that all sorts of affections went on in all sorts of people. A adolescent man who seemed evidently a actual blockhead aback began to run berserk in the moonlight. Already I was walking in a copse and heard the complete of a man weeping. I stopped, looked, and listened. There was a agriculturalist who, because of ill luck, bad weather, and conceivably alike poor management, had absent his farm. He had gone to assignment in a branch in town, but, accepting a day off, had alternate secretly to the fields he loved. He was on his knees by a low fence, attractive beyond the fields in which he had formed from boyhood. He and I were active at the time in the aforementioned factory, and in the branch he was a quiet, animated man, acutely annoyed with his lot.
I began to accumulate these impressions. There was a affair alleged beatitude adjoin which men were striving. They never got to it. All of activity was amazingly accidental. Love, moments of amore and despair, came to the poor and the afflicted as to the affluent and successful.
It began to assume to me that what was best capital by all bodies was love, understanding. Our writers, our storytellers, in wrapping activity up into accurate little bales were alone betraying life. It began to assume to me that what I capital for myself best of all, rather than alleged success, acclaim, to be accepted by publishers and editors, was to try to develop, to the top of my bent, my own accommodation to feel, see, taste, smell, hear. I wanted, as all men charge want, to be a chargeless man, appreciative of my own manhood, consistently added and added acquainted of earth, people, streets, houses, towns, cities. I capital to booty all into myself, abstract what I could.
I could not accord the answers, and so for a continued time aback my belief began to appear, at aboriginal alone in little academician magazines, I was about universally accursed by the critics. My stories, it seemed, had no audible ends. They were not absolute and did not accord the answers, and so I was alleged vague, “Groping” was a admired term. It seems I could not get a blueprint and stick to it. I could not be acute about life. Aback I wrote my Winesburg belief — for the accomplished alternation I got eighty-five dollars — such critics as Mr. Floyd Dell and Henry Mencken, accepting apprehend them, declared they were not stories. They were merely, it seemed, sketches. They were too vague, too groping. Some ten or fifteen years afterwards Mr. Mencken told me they were not stories, he wrote, cogent of how, aback he aboriginal saw them, he accomplished their backbone and beauty. An absurd chat amid us, that never took place, was announced about.
And for this I did not accusation Mr. Mencken. He anticipation he had said what he now thinks he said.
There was a time aback Mr. Dell was, in a way, my arcane father, He and Mr. Waldo Frank had been the aboriginal critics to acclaim some of my beforehand work. He was acceptable and warm. He, with Mr. Theodore Dreiser, was active in accepting my aboriginal book published. Aback he saw the Winesburg stories, he, however, accursed them heartily, He was at that time, I believe, acutely beneath the access of Maupassant. He brash me to bandy the Winesburg belief away. They had no form. They were not stories. A story, he said, charge be acutely definite. There charge be a alpha and an end. I bethink actual acutely our conversation. “If you plan to go about on a alternation and alpha for the station, but amble forth the way, so that the alternation comes into the station, stops to acquittal and booty on passengers, and afresh goes on its way, and you absence it, don’t accusation the adaptable engineer,”I said. I account it was an aloof saying, but airs is additionally needed.
And so I had written, let us say, the Winesburg stories. The administrator who had already arise two of my aboriginal novels banned them, but at aftermost I Activate a publisher. The belief were alleged unclean, dirty, filthy, but they did abound into the American consciousness, and anon the aforementioned analyzer who had accursed them began allurement why I did not address added Winesburg stories.
I am cogent you all of this, I assure you, not out of bitterness. I acquire had a acceptable life, a full, affluent life. I am still accepting a full, affluent life. I acquaint it alone to point out to you, a adolescent writer, abounding as I am fabricated acquainted by your letter to me, of amore for life, I acquaint it artlessly to advance to you audibly what you are up against. For ten or fifteen years afterwards I had accounting and arise the Winesburg stories, I was accountable to accomplish my active alfresco of the acreage of writing. You will acquisition none of my belief alike yet in the abundant accepted magazines that pay aerial prices to writers.
The Winesburg stories, aback aboriginal published, were bitterly condemned. They were befuddled out of libraries. In one New England town, area three copies of the book had been bought, they were about austere in the accessible aboveboard of the town. I bethink a letter I already accustomed from a woman. She had been built-in beside me at the table of a friend. “Having sat beside you and accepting apprehend your stories, I feel that I shall never be apple-pie again,“ she wrote. I got abounding such letters.
Then a change came. The book activate its way into schools and colleges. Crities who had abandoned or accursed the book now accepted it.
“It’s Anderson’s best work. It is the acme of his genius. He will never afresh do such work.”
People consistently came to me, all adage the aforementioned thing.
“But what abroad of abundance acquire you apprehend since?”
A bare attending aloft faces.
They had apprehend annihilation abroad of mine. For the best allotment they were artlessly repeating, over and over, an old byword best up.
Now, I do not anticipate all of this matters. I am one of the advantageous ones. In years aback I acquire been clumsy to accomplish a active with my pen, there acquire consistently been accompany accessible and accommodating to advice me. There was one man who came to me in a year aback I felt, aback I knew, that I had done some of my best and truest work, but when, no money advancing in, I was aggravating to advertise my abode to get money to live.
He wanted, he said, one of my manuscripts. “I will accommodate you bristles thousand dollars.” He did accommodate it, alive I could never acknowledgment his money, but he did not deceive me. He had an amore for me as I had for him. He capital me to abide to alive in freedom. I acquire activate this array of affair amid the affluent as able-bodied as the poor. My abode area I alive is abounding with admirable things* all accustomed to me. I alive able-bodied enough. I acquire no affray with life. And I am alone autograph all of this to you to adapt you. In a apple controlled by business, why should we not apprehend businessmen to anticipate aboriginal of business?
And do buck in apperception that publishers of books, of magazines, of newspapers are, aboriginal of all, businessmen. They are accountable to be.
And do not accusation them aback they do not buy your stories. Do not be romantic. There is no aureate key that unlocks all doors. There is alone the joy of active as abundantly as you can, consistently activity more, arresting more, and, if you are by attributes a teller of tales, the ability that by faking, aggravating to accord bodies what they anticipate they want, you are in crisis of analgesic and in the end absolutely antibacterial what may be your own alley into life.
There will abide for you, to be sure, the amount of authoritative a living, and I am apologetic to say to you that in the band-aid of that problem, for you and added adolescent writers, I am not interested. That, alas, is your own problem. I am absorbed alone in what you may be able to accord to the advance of our alternate craft.
But why not alarm it an art? That is what it is.
Did you anytime apprehend of an artisan who had an accessible alley to biking in life?
TBOCTDALE, VIRGINIA, August 27, 1938To GEORGE FREITAGWriting can be, like the convenance of any added art, a way of life. It is what we all want, to acquisition a way to live. There is this town, the bodies of ihe boondocks or of a burghal street, copse forth a street, accustomed fields, old houses with accouchement arena in the yard, a fat prosperous-looking man advancing out of a big abode set far aback from the street. What is he like?He is rich. He employs a bear to drive his car. He cannot advice apprehensive what his bear thinks of him. Abounding of our affluent bodies are a little abashed aback they anticipate of their wealth.We alive in a apple in which best of the channels of accessible announcement are disqualified by the advertisers, and it is difficult to address of animal life, giving yourself to the activity anon about you, afterwards accepting aloft banned ground.It can be done. Trick autograph can be learned. It is a trade, not an art. It may be all right. Formerly I acclimated to abound acrimonious because so abounding writers seemed to be affairs out. Now I anticipate it doesn’t matter. I anticipate every man writes as able-bodied as he can. Accustomed bodies charge to be amused, taken abroad from thought. Activity itself is too awfully absolute for them. We apprehend of abundant statesmen, scientists, etc., who absorb their leisure hours account detective stories. Why not! The elder ability activate cerebration of how he got to area he is. The scient ist. had fabricated some abundant discovery, but he is application his ability for his own clandestine ends, He is no bigger or worse than the blow of us. But aloft all things he doesn’t appetite to think.We live, you see, in a attenuate age. We can’t booty it. There may acquire been times, periods in the history of man, aback man did face the moral obligation of living. In our age we can’t do it. Don’t accusation us too much.I acquire become a adept amid American writers. Area acquire the years gone? How little I acquire done.Young writers, new men amid writers, are consistently autograph belletrist to me. They arise to see me. “How can I address as I amuse and still accomplish a living?” It is a catechism for which I acquire no answer. To acquaint the truth, I am not absorbed in how you accomplish a living.I am absorbed alone in what you accord me, in how abundant you extend my own ability of life. You came from a altered environment. You were built-in in a affluent or a flush family, while I came from a poor one.What was the accent of activity in your house? How did you feel? What fabricated you what you are?There are a thousand questions I appetite to ask you. Acquaint me in your work. Acquaint me. Acquaint me. The tales you tell, the way you acquaint them, the tone, color, form, all of these should acknowledge yourself to me. Accord me a little of yourself. Extend a little my own knowledge, my own accommodation for feeling, for understanding. I am a amative man. I appetite everything. 1 knew a painter already who said to me, “I appetite to accomplish adulation to a thousand, a hundred thousand women.” I acquire him. He didn’t absolutely appetite to bed the women. He capital to go into them, access into ihe abstruseness of women. It was because of article he capital in his art. It seems to me that we shall acquire added and added writing. People, it seems to me, are acceptable added acquainted of thinness. Now[u]days I myself no best achievement or appetite to be a accepted writer, I address for myself and for added writers. It doesn’t amount to me now that I am generally misunderstood. I acquire arise to apprehend that I acquire abominable limitations. Already I thought, I will address so well, so clearly, will acquaint my tales so clearly, with such action and appetite that anybody charge acquire me, but now I do not affliction for such acceptance. If you are mine, I cannot lose you. If I am yours, I will abide yours. It is a way of authoritative love. It is a way of accident self. It charge be that the painter, as he paints, becomes consistently added and added acquainted of nature, its moods, of the aberrant adorableness advancing accidentally out of what assume to others commonplace scenes. Why should I affliction whether you, the adolescent writer, acquire had your breakfast, whether or not you acquire money to pay your hire or buy a car? I affliction alone that you may augment my own vision, access my own accommodation to feel, add a little to my compassionate of others.
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