The Farmers' Daughters: Collected Stories

The Farmers' Daughters: Collected Stories

The Farmers' Daughters: Collected Stories

The Farmers' Daughters: Collected Stories

Excerpt

Although I have met him only once or twice, I feel that I am a friend of William Carlos Williams. This is nothing for him to acknowledge or reject—it is simply because he is so human. I was always attracted by the legend of the small-town doctor who was yet, intellectually, a man of the world and who avoided a “money practice” with the instinct of an artist for whom the unsuccessful were the most rewarding. He had none of the “complacency that comes to so many men following the successful scamper for cash,” a phrase of his own in “Old Doc Rivers.” He has never wanted to save a person because he was “a good and useful member of society. Death had no respect for him for that reason, neither has the artist.” So Dr. Williams says somewhere. But “the actual calling on people, at all times and under all conditions… when they were being born, when they were dying, watching them die … has always absorbed me. I lost myself in the very properties of their minds.” Not all his stories, by any means, deal with a doctor’s patients; but many of them are concerned with the “Wops of Guinea Hill,” with the Italians and Polacks who were factory workers, or old German harness makers; and his compassionate absorption in them is reflected with masterful art in these candid stories or, more often, sketches.

Dr. Williams has the advantage, rare in these provisional times, of what Henry James called “saturation,” the result of a lifelong immersion in the life of a single neighborhood, the New Jersey towns of Rutherford, Paterson and Passaic. He has never moved away from “Nine Ridge Road,” a landmark for his visitors and correspondents, and this gives him the authenticity of Sherwood Anderson, in . . .

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