Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"It was many years ago that I became what I'm."

here's something that might surprise quite a number of people who know me. i have a top 5 list of favorite writers and Sherwood Anderson is on that list. Sherwood Anderson was an American writer born 100 years ago this year, whose most important work were fantastic short stories whose awesome technique critics tried to denigrate by declaring that he was simply writing like how people talk.

that, by the way, writing like how people talk, is no easy feat. Mataachi tried it out and no one understood where that was going! the early Bad Idea pieces in Sunday Vision Magazine by Ernest Bazanye were full of swooping bits of how yuppy Kampalans speak and readers lapped up that stuff without knowing exactly why. Without consciously realizing it, readers were besotted with the column because it was reflecting them. it's not an easy feat and Anderson did it over and over. unlike the crapping critics who like to say the best of anderson ended with WINESBURG, OHIO (1919), the master was still doing it when he comically died from swallowing a toothpick (i think!) in 1941.

i have an old copy of collected New Yorker stories from i believe 194something and there are two great Anderson short stories about old men and missing your life. the old man story is Lolita set in New York and the realization that with age comes a diminishing of physical beauty that is tragically not matched by a corresponding loss of interest in beauty and especially beauty in women. i'm not even doing that story justice here! there is a line towards the end of the story that hints at how that old man first feels an old man that afternoon, how he really knows for the first time that he is old man. and being old, you know, is like being in another country. it is a story that will make you catch your breath as you read. and there is not a single word a Ugandan primary school pupil cannot read and understand.

now try and imagine what it feels like to read story after story like that. WINESBURG, OHIO is that treat. i first read WINESBURG, OHIO when i joined Makerere University back in 2002, the first book i borrowed from the university library and for days i wandered around the university campus dazed. i never expected to connect with a provincial boy from an america of 80 years ago! the boy George Willard who is the connecting thread of the Winesburg stories. i own a precious, battered copy of WINESBURG, OHIO. if i'm going to be away more than two days from my home library, along with my Keats' Collected Poems i never travel without my WINESBURG, OHIO. night sleeping is difficult without these two books within arm's reach for me.

there's a story called Hands in WINESBURG, OHIO. have you ever listened to Sting's 'Moon over Bourbon Street'? 'Moon over Bourbon Street' is exactly what Hands is about and more. it is the story of the downfall of pee wee Harman, Michael Jackson, Benjamin Britten and others before these tragedies unfolded. it is about...i can't do Anderson justice!

i'm blogging this early because someone sent me an email putting me to the stake about my promise to write something commemorative about Anderson and he's still waiting... and that is not the only writing project i have whetted his appetite with and not come through with, he adds. i have never blogged about Anderson because i can never do him justice. really, this is not false modesty.

i just realized that this is going to be like my second post in two days and i'm wondering what's up? it's not that i don't have what to do. my editor is actually glaring at me as i type this. i just can't seem to stay away from my blog this week! do you guys think i'm over blogging?

"I'm Anderson."


countryboy said...

this is my confession: i've never heard of or read anderson. how sad. in which case iwaya comes in handy: i must read anderson. i must borrow that book for writers who write like the way people speak are a gem. indeed. and they must be read. so, when i ring you one of these days,u should be at large with the book. till then, nice blogging!!

Darlkom said...

Firstly, you can never blog too much, infact, bog twice a day if your posts are going to be this enlightening.
Secondly, I wish I could have had one hour walking around campus dazed, I never even entered the library...ever!

Just Rich said...

There is no such thing as "overblogging"; if you got something to say, say it. We wont live forever.
I know it's a typo and a silly one but i am a silly ass mofo. In Darlyne's comment: "bog twice a day if your posts are going to be this enlightening."
"Bog"; that takes me back. Aaah, what happened to the good times?

Iwaya said...

I think when we are talking about Makerere University, what we should ask is HOW MANY PEOPLE ever entered or used the library? the situation is THAT BAD!

i have a good friend who only ever used to go into the library when he was hiding out from a stalker girlfriend of his. she could never think of looking for him there!