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The Book of the Grotesque

Posted by StarMountainKid , 03 June 2012 · 526 views

The following is a short excerpt of the book, "Winesburg, Ohio", by Sherwood Anderson, Chapter One: The Book of the Grotesque. It is in the public domain.

...the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he drew somewhat sleepy, but still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young, indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes....they were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques.

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some were amusing. some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed, he made a noise like a small dog whimpering.

For an hour the procession of the grotesques passed before the eyes of the old man. And then, although it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed to write. Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind, and he wanted to describe it. At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end, he wrote a book, which he called, "The Book of the Grotesque". It was never published, but I saw it once, and it made an indelible impression on my mind.

The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before.The thought was involved, but a simple statement of it would be something like this:

That in the beginning, when the world was young, there were a great many thoughts, but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths, himself.  And each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths, and they were all beautiful. The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you all of them.

There was the truth of virginity, and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and extravagance, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths, and they were all beautiful. And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up the truths, and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them. It was the truths that made the people grotesques.

The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque, and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

This subject would become so big in his mind that he himself would be in danger of becoming a grotesque. He didn't, I suppose, for the same reason that he never published the book. It was the young thing inside him that saved the old man.

Sounds like a story I wanna read.

This book sounds like a tale of people who dont see the forest from the trees, each hugging one's own tree when the forest around them receives no love from them.
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Jun 03 2012 07:22 PM
"Winesburg Ohio" is a series of short stories by Sherwood Anderson. It's also a free audio book from: https://catalog.librivox.org/
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