Herbert Asbury (essay date 1926)
SOURCE: "The American Interior," in New York Herald Tribune Booh, October 3, 1926, pp. 6-7.
[An American journalist and author, Asbury published works about the operations of the underworld in Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In the following essay, he examines the characters and the major themes of Iowa Interiors.]
[The stories in Iowa Interiors] are the first of Miss Suckow's shorter works to appear in book form, and reading them is, to me, like meeting a host of old and not very desirable acquaintances, for I was born and reared among just the sort of people with whom she has concerned herself. I know of no other writer who can portray so clearly the hideous drabness of existence on the farms and in the hamlets of the American interior, or who can so faithfully set down the petty selfishness or the vicious current of hatred which dominate human intercourse in the corn country. Her characters are terribly authentic, and in recounting their trivial doings she paints a brilliantly cruel picture of the utter futility of life which is bounded on one side by a row of corn and on all others by intolerance and stupidity. The people of whom she writes are born, they spend their lives in dreary, soulshattering toil and in a fuming, fretful worry, and then they die, without having caught more than a fleeting glimpse of a beauty of living which they can neither capture nor understand. And not understanding, they inveigh against it, and damn with gossip those who strive to find it.
It is generally the custom of those who would write about humanity beyond the Alleghenies to proclaim that the small town or country woman is obsessed by sex, and that her whole life is a constant torment because of Freudian inhibitions. But Miss Suckow, knowing whereof she writes, puts sex in its proper place, which is one of relatively small importance. There is sex in her stories, to be sure, just as there is sex in the corn country, but in these tales it is secondary to and almost submerged by a fearful dreariness which not even passion can overcome. The truth is that the farm woman of the Middle West has no time to worry over sex; even in its romantic aspects it is a negligible quantity in the life of a woman who must clamber out of bed at daybreak to cook breakfast for a horde of hungry farm hands, and who must...
(The entire section is 980 words.)