October 23, 2017
"Elyria Manufacturer Dies"On this day in 1941 Sherwood Anderson died in Panama at the age of 64, of peritonitis brought on by swallowing a toothpick in an hors d'oeuvre. The most highly-regarded of Anderson's two dozen novels and story collections is Winesburg, Ohio (1919). Almost as well-known as any of his books is the story of how, on a winter's night in 1912, the 36 year-old Anderson threw over his life as a successful businessman in Elyria, Ohio for a writing career. In the middle of giving dictation to his secretary at the paint and roofing products factory he owned -- home of the "Roof-Fix Cure for Roof Troubles" -- Anderson stood up and walked out, surfacing in a disoriented state four days later in Cleveland. Though this was not quite the life-reversing moment it was later played up to be -- Anderson had been struggling with his writing for some time, and afterwards he did not totally give up business -- he would thereafter dedicate himself to literature, and to escaping the hypocritical, "Babbitt" life to which he felt condemned. Ahead lay nervous breakdowns, bankruptcy, and numerous wives -- it was while on a South American tour with his fourth that he died -- but so did becoming, as Faulkner put it, "the father of my generation of American writers."
Many of the Winesburg stories concern small town characters afflicted by the same claustrophobia as their creator. This is from "An Awakening":
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