Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Six Degrees of Sherwood Anderson

This week as I've been writing the paper I'll deliver at the ASLE conference in South Carolina next week (goal #2 in my summer academic task list), I've been repeatedly distracted by a network of relationships linking the authors whose works I'm analyzing. Someone ought to invent a version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, only instead of movie stars, it would link literary figures--call it Six Degrees of Sherwood Anderson because the author's four marriages link him to other American authors whose numerous liaisons make for plenty of connections.

Here's an example: Sherwood Anderson's second wife was Tennessee Mitchell, the former mistress of Edgar Lee Masters (yes: that makes her Masters's mistress), whose first wife was distantly related to the Revolutionary War hero for whom the street outside my office was named. Masters's Spoon River Anthology features an epitaph for Ann Rutledge, a sweetheart of the young Abraham Lincoln, whose campaign biography was written by William Dean Howells, who was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, where the poet James Wright was later born, who studied under Theodore Roethke, who wrote "The Waking," my favorite villanelle about a guy with a hangover. Further, Edgar Lee Masters had a very brief and unsatisfying fling with Edna St. Vincent Millay, who also had an affair with Edmund Wilson, who was a good friend (or possibly a lover) of Dawn Powell, whose novel Dance Night is set in roughly the same part of Ohio as Winesburg, Ohio, written by Sherwood Anderson--and so we come full circle.

This could go on all night--but don't let me have all the fun. You try some.

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