Friday, March 15, 2013

Certain Things Last

Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941)
From Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories

Detail from Chicago Street Scene, undated oil on canvas by American artist William Clusmann (1859–1927). Image courtesy of M. Christine Schwartz Collection.
Although “Certain Things Last” was probably written by Sherwood Anderson in the 1920s, it remained unpublished until it was rescued from his papers and included as the title story in a collection of his stories in 1992—five decades after his death. The late Charles E. Modlin, the editor of that collection (and, at the time, one of the trustees of the Sherwood Anderson Literary Estate Trust), singled out the story in an introduction:
Anderson criticized the writers of popular fiction that pandered to the public’s desire for adventure, romance, or moral uplift. . . . He maintained instead that fiction should take on a natural form that, instead of distorting life, captures it honestly. While art is distinct from real life, “the imagination must constantly feed upon reality or starve.” This is the essential point in “Certain Things Last” . . .
The novelist Ben Marcus recently elaborated on the uniqueness of Anderson’s fiction and, in particular, this story:
What makes Sherwood Anderson’s stories so special (when you read the stories in Winesburg, Ohio, for instance) is the way he extracts from the ordinary something so uncanny, so sublime, so extraordinary . . . and that defines him as a writer. It’s his ability to work with the plain encounter and to record the way it feels simply to be a person in the world. In “Certain Things Last,” he’s giving, in a sense, the most candid, honest, and searching interview a writer could give. . . . It’s an amazing example of metafiction—in other words, “fiction about fiction,” that reveals the process of the writer: a writer talking about craft.
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For a year now I have been thinking of writing a certain book. “Well, tomorrow I’ll get at it,” I’ve been saying to myself. Every night when I get into bed I think about the book. . . . If you don't see the full selection below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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