October 21, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
48°F
test

New honor for famed author, former Elyrian Sherwood Anderson

The late author Sherwood Anderson, who once lived in Elyria, is featured in the latest edition of the (London) Times Literary Supplement after publication of his collected stories by the Library of America.
The new recognition for Anderson — author of “Winesburg, Ohio” — pleases staff at the Lorain County Historical Society.
It also tickles fans like Herald McAlpin of Elyria, who will eagerly order the book, “Sherwood Anderson Collected Stories.”
“I’ve read him a lot,” said McAlpin, 85. “I’m cynical by nature and so was he.”
It was here in Elyria that Anderson, married and the father of three young children, had one of the most famous breakdowns in literary history on Nov. 28, 1912.
Anderson, then 36, was in the middle of dictation to his secretary at the Anderson Manufacturing Co. when he left the building and walked 30 miles along the railroad tracks to Cleveland.
He resurfaced a few days later, eventually closing his business and devoting his life to writing.
Anderson had “left business for literature,” according to The Sherwood Anderson Foundation, a non-profit trust created by his family to mentor other writers.
Anderson, who got his start writing advertising copy in Chicago, influenced writers ranging from Hemingway to Ray Bradbury.
The article in the London Times about Anderson was written by Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for The Washington Post who received his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College.
Dirda labels Anderson “the creator of the modern short story” and quotes those he influenced, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
A few years ago, Elyria had a Sherwood Anderson Literary Society that met at the historical society, according to historical society executive director Bill Bird.
Before giving up business for literature, Anderson’s company sold a product called “Roof-Fix,” whose mark-up was a whopping 500 percent, according to Bird.
“He abandoned that life to follow his passion,” Bird said. “Elyria was pivotal in his writing career.”
After the infamous railroad walk, Anderson was found in Cleveland “dazed and unable to give his name or address,” according to the Dec. 2, 1912, edition of The Evening Telegram, a predecessor of The Chronicle-Telegram.
The next day’s paper reported his mental condition had improved, according to Bird.
While his childhood home of Clyde is generally believed to have been the inspiration for the fictional Winesburg, Bird said there also are traces of Elyria in the book.
Bird said Anderson once lived in the former Gray Apartments on Second Street, where the new Taco Bell is in downtown Elyria, and he also lived at 229 Seventh Street.
It was while he lived on Seventh Street that he would often escape to write in a locked, third-story attic or in his screened-in porch in the summer, according to Bird.
He wrote the basis for two novels while in Elyria, “Windy McPherson’s Son” and “Marching Men,” according to the society.
The thrice-married Anderson died in Panama on March 8, 1941, of peritonitis after swallowing a toothpick in an hors d’oeuvre, according to the Sherwood Anderson Literary Society.
Dirda’s story in the (London) Times, which covers two pages, quotes the headline from his obituary in The Chronicle-Telegram that read “Sherwood Anderson, Former Elyria Manufacturer, Dies.”
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.