Proust Among the Buckeyes

Originally published in 1963 by the Ohio State University Press, Ohio Town quickly drew a near-cult following that Harper & Row would now evidently like to amplify in the wake of Santmyer's best selling " . . . And Ladies of the Club." This personal diary of a small, Midwestern town's evolution can be best summed up in Santmyer's own words: "There is pleasure in what can be remembered."

The strength of the book is in the subtlety of her memories, in an arresting tension that hovers between celebration, elegy, and wholesome nostalgia. Whether or not we are of her generation, her reminiscences strike familiar and universal chords, and the fictionalized history of Xenia, Ohio, becomes a stroll through American history. Santmver focuses each chapter on a different aspect of the town—courthouse, main street, library, cemetery, church, school, opera house, and railroad—and then leisurely meditates on the people and events that mark each place in her memory. She concludes that there is an "inexhaustible richness and complication of ordinary daily life" that constitutes "the hard, sometimes bitter but always rewarding experience of being men and women."

Her portraits of some of the town's people form a memorable gallery of quintessentially American men and women. Whereas Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (to which this has been...

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