Theater: Tarnished Spoon

Spoon River. There are three fixed ideas that Americans like to entertain about small towns: 1) they are bucolically idyllic, 2) they stunt, thwart and twist people's lives, 3) they harbor an incredible amount of sexual hanky-panky behind their primly drawn curtains. If any one book by any one man may be said to have fostered these notions, it is Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, which first appeared in 1915. Masters, who died in 1950 at the age of 81, was a Chicago lawyer-turned-poet who had grown up in Petersburg and Lewistown, 111. In Masters' book, 244 small-town dead...

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