I followed Matt Freese’s suggestion and bought a copy of Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO. I have not attempted to read it yet because I am in the middle James Joyce’s A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, something I first read as a young man. In past blogs (partly because I was reading about Joyce) I have written about how big of an influence “the Irish genius” has had on me. His many styles…apart from the difficulties associated with the language of FINNEGANS WAKE…are important to me. The lyric nature and rhythm of it all is very satisfying; a good place to start is with PORTRAIT. However this discussion interestingly leads me back to Anderson and Malcolm Cowley’s introduction to the edition I bought of WINESBURG, OHIO (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1992). In his commentary on one of the stories “The Untold Lie” (“the best of the moments” in the book), Cowley wrote “that single moment of aliveness (in the story)…that epiphany, as Joyce would have called it, that sudden reaching out of two characters through walls of inarticulateness and misunderstanding.”
This reference to Joyce and his use of epiphany was an epiphany for me. I admire how Joyce ended each of the stories in the DUBLINERS; and I knew from reading a biography of Joyce that he had written a series of short epiphanies. Yet I had not connected the term with the endings of the DEBLINERS stories. Now it makes sense. I now think each ending was an epiphany for Joyce. How else did he get them so right? Each is different. If I had written them, I wouldn’t have known where to stop and would’ve come up with something less brilliant, unless I too had an epiphany.