Reviews in 200 Words

Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff

In Short Stories on March 26, 2009 at 1:54 am

Tobias Wolff’s characters are creepy, cold and genuine. Only ten of these thirty stories are brand new, but Wolff prefaces the collection by saying that he edited some of the older stories, read: they’re all new, read them again. At the end of each story you’ll wish—for a moment—that it was longer. Each story is like a wrinkled old man at the bus stop who leaks one brilliant line of wisdom, but you know he could talk all night. Wolff’s characters do the things you want to do, like point a gun at a son-of-a-bitch, or drive the truck just a little faster, or rant the truth to a lecture full of unsuspecting students. And then he sits you down with a stack of pancakes, or shows you a boy who refuses to open his eyes because he just doesn’t want to see. “Powder” and “The Night in Question,” remain at the top of my list, but the very short stories, like “Next Door,” force you to picture simple people and wonder about them. “Rich Brother” reads like a fable: timeless and with a slightly off-kilter lesson. Though most of the stories are located in northern California, “Desert Breakdown, 1968,” takes on more of a dream-world-feel. Be careful with these stories, they’ll stick with you, even when you wish they’d let you go.

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