Anderson, Sherwood

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Anderson, Sherwood

Sherwood Anderson, 1876–1941, American novelist and short-story writer, b. Camden, Ohio. After serving briefly in the Spanish-American War, he became a successful advertising man and later a manager of a paint factory in Elyria, Ohio. Dissatisfied with his life, however, Anderson abandoned both his job and his family and went to Chicago to become a writer. His first novel, Windy McPherson's Son (1916), concerning a boy's life in Iowa, was followed by Marching Men (1917), a chronicle about the plight of the working man in an industrial society. In his best-known work, Winesburg, Ohio (1919), a closely integrated collection of stories, he explores the loneliness and frustration of small-town lives. This work contains perhaps the most successful expression of the theme that dominates all Anderson's works—the conflict between organized industrial society and the subconscious instincts of the individual. In his later novels—Poor White (1920), Many Marriages (1923), and Dark Laughter (1925)—he continues to explore, but generally with less skill, the spiritual and emotional sterility of a success-oriented machine age. Anderson's unique talent, however, found its best expression in his short stories. Such collections as The Triumph of the Egg (1921), Horses and Men (1923), and Death in the Woods (1933) contain some of his most compassionate and penetrating writing. In 1927, Anderson moved to Marion, Va., where he bought and edited two newspapers, one Republican and one Democratic.

See his autobiographical Story Teller's Story (1924) and Tar: A Midwest Childhood (1926); memoirs (1942); letters (ed. by H. M. Jones and W. B. Rideout, 1953); diaries (ed. by H. H. Campbell, 1987); biographies by I. Howe (1966) and K. Townsend (1987); studies by P. P. Appel, ed. (1970) and W. D. Taylor, ed. (1977).

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