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Back in the World: Stories Paperback – October 1, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wolff (PEN/Faulkner winner for The Barracks Thief offers tales in the classic mode, maintaining unity of time, place and action. His characters and their dilemmas become recognizable in a few pages. "The voice is crisp, the words are simple, the talk is laconic and everyday, but the questions these 10 stories pose are terrifying ones about good and evil," PW found.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

LJ's reviewer hailed Wolff's collection of short stories as "a brilliant examination of life for those who can stand its grimness" (LJ 10/15/85).
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767961
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,112,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
These are great stories, complex psychological studies, all woven into page-turning narratives by a writer who doesn't write to show off his linguistic skills (of which he has many), but to get the reader completely absorbed by the stories without being distracted by verbosity and other annoyances writers too often use to gain attraction for themselves. Wolff is too profound a writer to rely on gimmicks of any kind. Here are some highlights of the collection:

"The Rich Brother": Two brothers, one rich and arrogant, the other a poor drifter, both blame each other for their problems when in fact both are blind to their own pride and their own neediness which makes them need to rival against the other as a distraction from their empty lives.

"Desert Breakdown, 1968": A spoiled brat, now married to a beautiful pregnant woman, has fantasies of leaving his wife to be a single hedonist. He also loathes his parents who have spoiled and enabled him all his life. His delusions catch up with him in a way that I'll leave for the reader to discover in this excellent story.

"The Missing Person": A spiritual cousin to the drifting brother in "The Rich Brother," Leo is a waif afraid of women who sublimates his fears by joining the priesthood where, in an ironic twist, he meets a Trickster and becomes a corrupt hustler upon which, through too many twists of events to chronicle here, he finds his real self.

"Say Yes": A naive young house wife realizes that her husband is a racist and that racism can't be compartmentalized. His racist views contaminate all other aspects of his personality and he must therefore re-invent himself or suffer his wife's contempt and perhaps worse.

These stories are mostly gems, wrought with irony, tales of folly, people's misguided attempts at redemption, predatory tricksters wreaking havoc on the lives of others. His best stories are more richly packed with themes and ideas than most novels.
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Format: Paperback
This book is great. What else would you expect from Mr. Wolff. I find his stories refreshingly unique. This man could write about getting your oil-changed and make it interesting. This is a must read for anyone interested in the works of the so-called "Dirty Realists." Also read Ford's Rock Springs and anything you can get a hold of by Raymond Carver. These men write about our lives, not the lives we all wish we had. Wolff is an in-your-face writer that punches home all his points with clear language and just hard writing. Also check out In The Garden of the North American Martyrs and The Night in Question--other collections of his.
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Format: Paperback
As if "The Night In Question" wasn't good enough, I went and bought "Back In The World." Just the first story alone could be printed ten times in between two covers and you'll read it different every time. There is this girl who likes to shop lift, works in a theatre, goes home to her little brother. It's us, beautifully written and immaculately realized. Tobias Wolff is gold and everything he touches turns just the same. Read this, then "The Night In Question" and then read "This Boy's Life." Read his made up words and then read his personally inspired words and found out just what he had to go through, how he triumphed over adversities to become the best short story writer out there today.
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By A Customer on April 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
I can't believe that I am the first person to review this book. Read this book!!! Beautiful stories, some of which brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Wolff is a great writer, who deserves the serious reader's attention.
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Format: Paperback
With his second collection of short stories, Tobias Wolff delivers literature even more penetrating than In the Garden of North American Martyrs. Wolff has a genuinely sharp eye for the intricacies of human lives. Every story in Back in the World is unique and moving. The subject matter ranges from teenage life, to war stories, to realistic slices of everday life. The endings of the stories often come out of nowhere, yet they have the precise amount of impact to satisfy the reader. I strongly recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have never read Wolff before.
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Format: Paperback
In these stories Tobias Wolff is wonderful at portraying moments in human life. After years of not reading much short fiction, this book turned me back onto short stories -- it's still one of the collections of short stories I like most. Wonderful.
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Format: Paperback
I see Wolff, and Richard Ford as well, as an extension of the Carver School of Writing. While Wolff seems to deal primarily in an extended minimalism, we also see similar characters in similar situations. The outcomes, the messages of each story, reveal something different, but it all seems familiar. I have the feeling that I could read a dozen of these stories in one sitting, enjoy the process, but be left with little more than the unified feeling the stories bring. In this way, though, the stories are comfortable, and greatly inspiring. Sometimes we are most inspired by what falls short. The crisp writing arouses my interest in words, and where the stories don't go the way I would want them I find jumping-off points.
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