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Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 25, 2008
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Wolff's first story collection, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs (1981), was a major salvo in the short story renaissance that included Raymond Carver. The 10 spare, elegant new stories here, collected with 21 stories from Wolff's three previous collections, are as good as anything Wolff has done. In most, there is a moment of realization, less a startling epiphany than a distant, gradual ache of understanding, that changes how the character looks at the world. The retired, 41-year-old female Marine of A Mature Student, compares her female professor's experiences in Communist-era Prague and her own son's service in Iraq. Deep Kiss movingly chronicles the fractious results when a teenaged boy, infatuated with a promiscuous classmate, neglects to bond with his dying father. A hilarious description of a brash, ignorant thug in Her Dog shows Wolff's gift for demotic speech. In an author's note, Wolff says that since he has never considered any of his stories sacred texts, he has edited some clumsy or superfluous passages in earlier works. In all the stories, Wolff expertly uses irony and empathy to explore facets of contemporary life. (Mar.)
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A long-recognized master of the short story genre, Wolff brings together 21 favorite stories culled from three previous collections and adds, for this occasion, 10 new stories never before gathered in book form. This retrospective of his three-decades-long career testifies to the short story being his natural agent for personal expression. The opening story, “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs,” a widely acknowledged masterpiece, satirizes academe, specifically the pretensions inherent in professorial posturing, at the same time sensitively understanding a college professor who gets her quiet revenge against merciless colleagues. Wolff’s understanding of the tender aspects of character surfaces in another masterpiece, “Soldier’s Joy,” which is set on a military base, and, in parallel with the previously discussed story, pecking order rules the day and everyone’s life. In any story, in all of them, Wolff dexterously probes, in immaculately clear prose, the core of ordinary people’s passions and vulnerabilities. --Brad Hooper
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Top customer reviews
Mr. Wolff writes about relationships, the "shakiness" of families, young love, betrayal, characters who are down and out although they seldom whine-- in a word often decent people. One of my favorite stories is "The Night in Question," a beautiful moving account of a brother and sister who had an abusive father. The siblings are worlds apart because the brother has gone off the deep end with religion but still so close because of their love for each other. It bears reading again and again.
Wolff's seamless transparent prose is for the most part free of metaphor although older people have "wintry smiles" and a "wide woman" on a bus has flesh under her arms that "swings like hammocks." These stories are not for the lazy reader for they are as subtle and complex as anything Henry James ever wrote although Mr. Wolff certainly is a master of the short story himself.
These stories are short-short (more in the length tradition of Barthelme than Carver), but you will be amazed on the clarity, load of the subject, conciseness, and impact. The tone and style can shift between stories as well--humurous to morose, declarative to imperative, relaxed to upfront, 'heavy' themes to moderate/light--perhaps testifying to how careful Wolff plans, writes, edit, and re-edit his stories before publishing. The craftiness or perhaps sheer natural talent of Tobias Wolff in working with shorts is astounding. He makes it look easy.
Read BULLET IN THE BRAIN first, then follow with Hunters in the Snow and The Liar.; you'll immediately be paid back of the book's total price.
A must to all litterature lovers. Lucien Castier