Sherwood Anderson in The South Suburbs

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 1, 2010 5:20PM

2010_12_1chicagoheights.jpg While there were many dull-as-dishwasher classics forced upon on us during high school English (we're looking at you, An American Tragedy) Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio was decidedly not one of them. We loved it the first time we read it, and we've returned to it again and again. Though perhaps not as revered today as William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway, both of who were briefly mentored by him, Anderson uses a straightforward, naturalistic prose style that's still quite engaging.

As Roger Ebert points out, the consensus always seemed to be that Winesburg, Ohio was unfilmable. Yet the book's ingenious structure, consisting of a loosely wound story cycle which follows a variety of characters in a small town, doesn't sound out of place when you consider masterpieces like Short Cuts or Nine Lives. Well, the point is that it has been adapted to film--and filmmaker Daniel Nearing transplanted the action from turn-of-the-century Ohio to contemporary Illinois. By all accounts, it was a bright idea.

Chicago Heights played at the Siskel during the Black Harvest Film Festival last summer, selling out two screenings and garnering kudos from the likes of Ebert. Now it's scheduled for a return engagement at the Siskel, December 10-16. Alas we have not been able to preview the film in advance, but we're definitely looking forward to catching up with it now. The notion of an African-American cast acting out the longings and frustrations of Anderson's gallery of "grotesques" is fascinating.