Sherwood Anderson (September 13, 1876 – March 8, 1941) was an American writer, mainly of short stories, most notably the collection Winesburg, Ohio. His influence on American fiction was profound; his literary voice can be heard in Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, and others.
He was born in Camden, Ohio, the third of Erwin M. and Emma S. Anderson's seven children. After his father's business failed, they were forced to move frequently, finally settling down at Clyde, Ohio in 1884. Family difficulties led his mother to begin drinking heavily, and his father died in 1895. Partly as a result of these events, Anderson was eager to take on odd jobs to help his family, earning him the nickname "Jobby", leaving school at 14.
He moved to Chicago near his brother Karl's home. He worked as a manual laborer until near the turn of the century, when he enlisted in the United States Army and was called but did not see action in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. After the war in 1900, he attended Wittenberg Academy in Springfield, Ohio. Eventually he secured a copywriter job in Chicago, where he was highly successful. In 1904, he married Cornelia Lane, the daughter of a wealthy Ohio family.
He fathered three children while living in Cleveland, Ohio, and later Elyria, where he managed a mail-order business and paint manufacturing firms. In November 1912, he went missing, but reappeared four days later after having a mental breakdown. He described this as "escaping from his materialistic existence", which garnered praise from many other writers, who used his "courage" as an example. He moved back to Chicago, working again for the publishing and advertising company.
In 1914, he divorced Cornelia Lane and married Tennessee Mitchell. That same year, his first novel, Windy McPherson's Son, was published. Three years later, his second major work, Marching Men, was published. However, he is probably most famous for his collection of works, which he began in 1915, known as Winesburg, Ohio. His themes are compared to those of T. S. Eliot and many other such modernists.
Although his short stories, especially those mentioned, were very successful, he felt the need to write novels. In 1920, he published Poor White, a rather successful novel. He wrote various novels before divorcing Mitchell in 1922 and marrying Elizabeth Prall, two years later.
In 1923, Anderson published Many Marriages, the themes of which he would carry over into much of his later writing. The novel had its detractors, but the reviews were, on the whole, positive. F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example, considered Many Marriages Anderson's finest novel.
Beginning in 1924, Anderson lived in the historic Pontalba Apartments (540-B St. Peter Street) adjoining Jackson Square in New Orleans. There he and his wife entertained William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and other literary luminaries. Of Faulkner, in fact, he wrote his ambiguous and moving short story "A Meeting South," and, in 1925, wrote Dark Laughter, a novel rooted in his New Orleans experience. Although the book is now out of print (and was satirized by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Torrents of Spring), it would be Anderson's only best-seller.
Anderson's third marriage also failed, and Anderson married Eleanor Copenhaver in the late 1920s. They traveled and often studied together. In the 1930s, he published Death in the Woods, Puzzled America (a book of essays), and Kit Brandon, which was published in 1936.
He dedicated his 1932 novel Beyond Desire to Copenhaver. Although he was much less influential in this final writing period, many of Anderson's more significant lines of prose were present in these works, which were generally considered sub-par compared to his others.
He died in Panama of peritonitis after swallowing a toothpick at a party, aged 64. Sherwood Anderson was buried at Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia. His epitaph reads, "Life Not Death is the Great Adventure".
Anderson's final home, known as Ripshin, still stands in Troutdale, Virginia, and may be toured by appointment.
"Realism in so far as it means reality to life is always bad art."
"That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were truths and they were all beautiful."
"Everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified."
"Few know the sweetness of the twisted apples."
"My freedom sleeps in a mulberry bush. My country is in the shivering legs of a little lost dog."