The easy thing to say about Sherwood Anderson's autobiography is that it is Sherwood Anderson's best novel. And it is true in a large sense. Sherwood Anderson, as protagonist, reconstructs a drama of self-realization in the midst of the antagonistic forces of American life. Since "the true history of life is but a history of moments, the record of significances rather than mere facts," it is his aim "to be true to the essence of things." Therefore, while his book has "form," in the most modern sense of the word, it is, compared with the usual autobiography, apparently straggling and disorganized. With only the loosest regard for time-relations, he works backward and forward as he pleases, with always a leaning toward parentheses. For he is seeking to bring out the history of his inner consciousness, to characterize the forces that made him a "word-fellow," rather than to depict mere physical events in chronological order.
One may say in the first place that this method, which may prove a little distracting to some readers, operates to give us some of the best writing that Sherwood Anderson has done. The pictures of his boyhood days are clear and serene, never blurred; the portraits of his father and mother and other characters are singularly attractive; and certain dramatic episodes stand out as stories within themselves, as pointed and as moving as any of the stories in Winesburg, Ohio.
Beyond this we necessarily seek to find the composition of the man, and we find it, without any question. The book indicates the part heredity played in the making of this artist: for there was his father, a broken-down signpainter who could more easily tell tales than support a family, a