Sherwood Anderson is a singular writer whose most famous and characteristic work is this collection (or cycle) of short stories. There's nothing else quite like it, though the list of those influenced by him is long and illustrious: Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, etc.—I would push it even further into the future and include Raymond Carver too. But though you can feel the echoes in these and other writers, no one I know wrote stories like these. The closest analogue in American literature might be the Spoon River Anthology collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters. Anderson's stories have an air of discovery, even naivete, that is so unself-conscious that reading them almost feels like prying sometimes. The stories are connected by place—see title, noting that the real-life Clyde, Ohio, and not Winesburg, is the setting. They are also connected by a peripheral character who haunts the edges of most of them, a young man named George Willard. They aren't really stories at all, except in the sense of those told by firelight. They are more like meditations on and riffing off of the lives of a parade of isolated individuals who inhabit the town. "What about that Wing Biddlebaum?" someone might say in the darkness across the fire. "What about that Louise Trunnion, Seth Richmond, Wash Williams?" And Sherwood Anderson nods his head and thinks a minute and then starts to talk about each one. But it gets even more intimate than campfire stories, as Anderson probes deep for details almost not assembled, coming back to him in a jumble. Most of the stories are fragments of such recollections, sometimes amounting to nothing, sometimes amounting to a great deal. It's probably the elder George Willard who is telling these stories. It's autobiographical enough that way. But it's only incidentally about George—he's mostly just gossamer that somehow binds. The characters are stunted but that also includes George, the youth and the elder, hence it also includes Anderson himself, whether or not he understood that, which I think it's plain he didn't, even if the point of view bears some whiff of confession, judgment, and/or withering pity. The author is not exempt, whether it is George or Sherwood. Nor is the reader, of course, who may be forgiven some impatience with the simple dolts and fools who populate these stories. We are all citizens of Winesburg, Ohio, and have been from the minute we read a single one of these amazing stories.