Earlier this week, a name came to me, perhaps because we were talking about various authors, or for some unknown reason, but the name kind of popped into my head and I could not remember what he wrote. It would have been easy to just “look it up” as Google dumbs us down and makes everything instantly available and I decided consciously not to do that. I decided instead to exercise my tired, old brain and see how I might come up with it on my own.
For three days, consciously, and unconsciously I’m sure, I tried various associations to see if I might dredge up what he wrote and even why I might have been thinking about it. When it finally came to me, it seemed like a flash of insight although it happened that the title came into my mind a little backwards and over time. What I mean by that is that I got the last part before the first part and then after some time put it all together. For those of you acquainted with American literature it’s probably a no-brainer but for my addled mind it was buried away somewhere in the deeper recesses and I had to find a way to access it.
Calling things up from a storehouse that is chock a block full of all kinds of memories is in itself an interesting exercise and finding something that is still there that has been long forgotten, but still available, is at some level reassuring that I have not lost my mind completely.
We are in the travel mode these days and arrived in Ohio last week to visit my hometown where I grew up, went to school and managed to learn a few things. We saw my brother and some other family members and that visit was probably the stimulus for some of these what might appear to be random thoughts. It was in Ohio, at Miami University, where I took a course in American literature, also a course in sociology, and so Ohio was kind of lodged there in my conscious mind. I did remember some studies by the Lynds, with the fictitious name of Middletown and the town was actually Muncie, Indiana which was thought to be representative of small towns in middle America. There is a Middletown, Ohio but that was not it. There is probably a Middletown in most states.
The Ohio name kept looming large and I thought that if I could just get the first part I would have the title but it just wouldn’t appear. And then, while driving east of Cleveland, it came to me. Was it possible that I was geographically near the town and was there some kind of affinity because of proximity? That would just be very strange but not impossible. You probably noticed that I have not mentioned the author’s name but that’s because I had that all along. What I could not retrieve was the book title. The author was Sherwood Anderson and the novel was Winesburg, Ohio, a group of short stories about small towns. I felt rather smug or proud that I finally got it on my own and by plumbing the depths of a faded memory but it was there. I knew it was there somewhere. It was simply (?) a matter of fishing it out and calling it to mind, the conscious part. You see, I was born and grew up in one of those small towns and there I was, smack dab in the middle of all of it and it was if I knew George Willard personally. I actually did know someone from Clyde, Ohio where Sherwood Anderson grew up.