I recently bought a (relatively) new book by American author Tobias Wolff, called “Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories.”
I am a fan; I have read every book Wolff has published. Wolff is best known as the author of “This Boy’s Life,” a memoir of his days growing up in the Pacific Northwest. It was made into a movie with Robert DeNiro, who plays Dwight, Wolff’s abusive stepfather.
I had the privilege of hearing Wolff give a reading in the late 1980s, and asked him afterwards whether he was worried about Dwight attacking him in retaliation for the brutal was the book portrays him. (Dwight has since died.) Wolff said that he wasn’t, really — but not because Dwight wasn’t a violent man; he was. Wolff wasn’t worried because in the entire time he had lived with Dwight, he had never once seen Dwight pick up a book. So he figured Dwight had no idea the book had even been published.
The new book has 21 of Wolff’s previously published stories, and 10 new ones. This excerpt from a Publisher’s Weekly review captures the essence of the collection and of Wolff’s style:
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.
In a “Note from the Author” Wolff says that he has taken the liberty of improving the old stories if he saw ways to do so. I’m alternating between reading new stories and rediscovering old ones.
I don’t know how many of you are Wolff fans, but if you enjoy fiction where every word means something and every observation and portrait rings true, Wolff is your man. He’s one of the best writers in the world, in my estimation, and a new book by him is something to celebrate. Pick it up at Amazon here, or get it at your favorite bookstore.