23 stories by Sherwood Anderson, published in 1919. The preface, “The Book of the Grotesque,” explains the author's unifying conception of his characters: “It was the truths that made the people grotesques…. The moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.” In a simple and intense style these psychological portraits of the sensitive and imaginative of Winesburg's population are seen through the eyes of a young reporter, George Willard.
“Hands” is the story of Wing Biddlebaum, who has an innocent passion for caressing living things and is driven from the town because of this misunderstood eccentricity. “Queer” tells of Elmer Cowley, who has grown up on a farm, and is lonely and frustrated in Winesburg, until, obsessed by the idea that he is considered “queer,” he runs away to begin life anew. “Godliness” is a long tale concerned with Jesse Bentley, who prays for a David to help him despoil his Philistine neighbors of their farms and is himself nearly slain by a stone from the sling of the young David, his grandson. “The Strength of God” tells of the religious Rev. Curtis Hartman, who is obsessed with sexual desire until his “cure” after an intense inner struggle, in which he believes that “God has manifested himself to me in the body of a woman.”