Monday, March 23, 2009

The Night in Question - Tobias Wolff

Author of This Boy's Life, Wolff is a creative writing professor in the English department at Stanford whose writing is very dear to me. His writing is straight-forward and engaging, with characters who end up in situations that are not quite always what they seem, yet still always strangely familiar. This collection of short stories does not have a single narrative theme or subject matter - but rather is a collection of writing Wolff has earlier published in magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic. My favorites included "The Other Miller" about an American soldier in Vietnam who is told that his mother has recently passed away. The title suggests the mistake that has occured, and while the twist in the story is predictable, Wolff still manages to instill a sense of dread in the reader - the inescapable train wreck that cannot be avoided. Another story featuring a boy left home with his best friend's girlfriend presented the ubiquitous story of betrayal and love, told in a fresh way. When it comes to collections of short stories, I often want to read them here and there - to save the collection so it is not over all at once. But, as I expected, once I reached the end of one, I felt compelled to move on to the next. There is nothing flashy or ostentatious about Wolff's stories, but they manage to be both familiar and uncomfortable in a very insightful way.

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