Bowdoin Reads

Kevin Johnson is reading...

Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories
by Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is a prolific writer of contemporary short fiction. Though, most readers are familiar with his memoir This Boy’s Life (which will endure as a masterpiece). In any genre, Wolff cuts to the bone. His prose is bright and precise. The characters in his short stories are most often in the process of shedding illusions, exposing fresh and raw flaws or triumphs. I’m drawn to Wolff’s writing for a number of reasons, but two in particular stand out. First, Wolff is particularly adept at exploring the continual desire to reinvent ourselves. Like Fitzgerald, Wolff has a keen ability for displaying the revelatory moment: the young man succumbing to his baser morals, the sibling trying to pry himself out of a hole, the liar trying to be true to himself, the professor unburdening herself with the lecture she always wanted to deliver. I am also particularly interested in understanding the entire body of work of Tobias and his brother Geoffrey Wolff. The two brothers were separated by their divorcing parents early in life. Both followed different paths to become writers, both writing fascinating memoirs (Geoffrey’s memoir, Duke of Deception: Memories of My Father, is an unparalleled portrait of a parent), both mastering the art of fiction. It’s not sibling rivalry I’m after. It’s how two like-minded and thoughtful brothers skillfully reveal humanity’s comic and tragic ways and means.

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