Winesburg

In the Know
September 16, 2010

In Winesburg, Ohio, George Willard, “the Ohio village boy,” suddenly “crosses the line into manhood” when he is pierced by a sense of his own finitude. “The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.” Sherwood Anderson’s understanding of sophistication was nothing like our own.

The Fatal Handjob
October 22, 2008

Indignation By Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin, 236 pp., $26) College students today, showered with condoms and tastefully preserving their drunken, tonguetapping escapades on Facebook and MySpace for future in--laws and employers, have no appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who came before, the lusty pioneers of the sexual revolution. They take for granted the blowjobs and easy lay-ups made possible through the guerrilla activities of forgotten combatants in the early, undeclared stages of America's war for erotic independence.

Dark Darker Darkest
January 22, 2007

The Notebooks of Robert Frost Edited by Robert Faggen (Harvard University Press, 792 pp., $39.95) ROBERT FROST'S POETRY is full of actions taken on obscure impulse. A man reins in his horse on "the darkest evening of the year" to watch the woods fill up with snow. Why does he interrupt his journey? "The woods are lovely, dark and deep." Another man hesitates where "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" and takes "the one less traveled by." These poems are so familiar that it is almost painful to quote them. Others less well known are no less driven by impulse.