I keep at my elbow, while I do my job, among other favorites – my crumbling, evergreen-colored, clothbound, 1921 edition of – oh, how I love it! – The Triumph of the Egg by Sherwood Anderson. It was surely prized, too, by Frank Wilson Hachtel – who painstakingly, yet elegantly, signed his name in ink on its title page in January, 1922 and then signed it once again at the top of page one above the poem ‘The Dumb Man.’

The subtitle of the book is: A Book of Impressions from American Life in Tales and Poems – and, yes – this work is quintessentially American.

William Faulkner claimed that ‘Anderson was the father of all my works – and those of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc . . . He showed us the way.’

‘What I wanted,’ Sherwood Anderson wrote, ‘for myself most of all, rather than so-called success . . . to be praised by publishers and editors, was to try to develop, to the top of my bent, my own capacity to feel, see, taste, smell, hear.’

The Penguin paperback volume (1992) – that I also own – is entitled The Egg and Other Stories. It includes additional classics such as ‘Death in the Woods.’ And, this is surely a magisterial title…but many of the other titles are crazed and they seem to belong to our own era, for example: ‘There She Is – She Is Taking Her Bath,’ ‘Mrs. Wife,’ ‘For What?’ ‘Fred.’

I am not always so clever at characterizing text – and would find it painful to fail on behalf of these stories I cherish. So instead I will share certain favourite passages – what we have the space for:

 

From ‘There She Is – She Is Taking Her Bath’

‘If I could only decide whether or not I am a fool, a man turned suddenly a little mad or a man whose honor has really been tampered with, I should be quite all right.’

 

From ‘The Egg’

‘Most philosophers must have been raised on chicken farms. One hopes for so much from a chicken and is so dreadfullly disillusioned . . . They are so much like people they mix one up in one’s judgments of life.’

 

From ‘An Ohio Pagan’

‘He sang beautifully but he also played stoutly and beautifully the part of a man.’

‘The fat boy wore heavy overalls and his legs rubbed against each other. The rough cloth made a queer creaking sound. He spoke passionately. ‘I would like to hold a woman, tight, tight, tight,’ he said.’

 

From: ‘Mrs. Wife’

‘The doctor told the story. He got very quiet, very serious speaking of it. I knew him well, knew his wife and his daughter. He said that I must know of course that in his practice he came into intimate contact with a good many women. We had been speaking of the relations of men and women. He had been living through an experience that must come to a great many men.’

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