Portraits from Our Past:
Southwest Virginia Authors
Sherwood Anderson (1876 - 1941)


On November 3, 1927, a curious three-paragraph story appeared in the Smyth County News, a weekly newspaper published in Marion. Located between accounts of the local high school football game and an advertisement was the headline "Fooled Again." The story read: "Your new editor came into town Monday. Children prancing in the streets at night, dancing, song, laughter, cheers. Girls and boys in fancy costumes. Fool that I am. I thought it was because all Marion was so glad the new editor had arrived. It was only Halloween." The new editor was Sherwood Anderson, one of the most important American writers of the 20th century. He was already world-famous when he bought the Republican oriented Smyth County news and its sister paper the Marion Democrat.

Anderson was born on September 13, 1876 in Camden, Ohio. He served as a volunteer in the Spanish American War, after which, he completed high school in Ohio. This led to a series of jobs including a copywriter for a Chicago advertising agency and chief owner and manager of a paint factory. In 1910, Anderson's first book Windy McPherson's Son was published which received much critical praise. This was quickly followed by two more novels Marching Men and Mid-American Chants. During this time, Anderson became disillusioned with his entrepreneurial life and began writing full-time. In 1919, Anderson published his masterpiece, Winesburg, Ohio, a collection of short stories about a fictional small town, and in 1925 Dark Laughter, his only best selling novel.

Throughout his lifetime, Anderson published eight novels, four collections of short stories, three books of poems and plays, more than 300 articles, reviews, and essays, and three volumes of autobiographies. What caused one of the best-known writers of his day to take up the life of a country newspaper editor? Anderson wrote that he "had grown tired of city life and wanted the quiet intimacy of life in a smaller place….he wanted to get back into closer association with all kinds of people in their everyday lives." In his memoirs, Anderson explains his writing style and word choice, "There was a language of the streets, of American towns and cities, of the factories and warehouses where I had worked". Sherwood Anderson wrote stories of the American experience that all people could appreciate.


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