Sunday, September 22, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 152: Sherwood Anderson, Certain Things Last (#167)

Sherwood Anderson, "Certain Things Last" (1992) from Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories:

Posthumously published pieces have an uphill battle with me; works loved by Ben Marcus, ditto, since I found his book The Flame Alphabet so poorly done. This piece feels to me like something that Sherwood Anderson wrote as a throat-cleaning exercise, the sort of "I'm not sure what to do now, I'll just play with this piece about the difficulty of writing." This might be of interest to people studying Sherwood Anderson, but I don't find it illuminating as a reader.

"Certain Things Last"--titled after one of several good lines in the piece--is just seven pages of the narrator noting that it's hard to write a book because it's hard. Here's an idea or a feeling--the look of desperation in the eyes of a shepherd who has abandoned his flock to come into town but doesn't seem to know why--but how can the writer ever put that feeling into a story? Other writers pretend to know things they write about, like the idea who wrote a story about Paris but went to New Orleans for research. But his narrator is like a racehorse who is too excited and so can't really race.

The most interesting section to me is the end, where the narrator records this time when he was waiting for a woman and observing the Italian-American neighborhood of the city and thinking about life in Italy. There's something almost Calvino-ish in this one moment of fantasy and the difficulties of that fantasy.

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