web site hit counter The Night in Question - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Night in Question

Availability: Ready to download

A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revea A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revealed in the extenuating, sometimes extreme circumstances of everyday life, and in the complex consequences of their decisions—that, for instance, can bring together an innocent inner-city youth and a little girl attacked, months earlier, by a dog in a wintry park. Yet each story, however crucial, is marked by Mr. Wolff’s compassionate understanding and humor. In short, fiction of dazzling emotional range and absolute authority.


Compare

A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revea A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revealed in the extenuating, sometimes extreme circumstances of everyday life, and in the complex consequences of their decisions—that, for instance, can bring together an innocent inner-city youth and a little girl attacked, months earlier, by a dog in a wintry park. Yet each story, however crucial, is marked by Mr. Wolff’s compassionate understanding and humor. In short, fiction of dazzling emotional range and absolute authority.

30 review for The Night in Question

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Night in Question, Tobias Wolff A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revealed in the extenuating, sometimes extreme circumstances of everyday life, and in the comp The Night in Question, Tobias Wolff A man is shot dead while standing in line at the bank, another is fired for printing an obituary of a citizen as yet undeceased. A young woman visits her father following his nervous breakdown, and a devoted sister is profoundly unsettled by the sermon her brother insists on reciting. Whether in childhood or Vietnam, in memory or the eternal present, these people are revealed in the extenuating, sometimes extreme circumstances of everyday life, and in the complex consequences of their decisions -that, for instance, can bring together an innocent inner- city youth and a little girl attacked, months earlier, by a dog in a wintry park. Yet each story, however crucial, is marked by Mr. Wolff’s compassionate understanding and humor. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه ژانویه سال 2010 میلادی عنوان: شب مورد نظر؛ نویسنده: توبیاس وولف؛ مترجم منیر شاخساری؛ تهران، چشمه، 1388؛ در 147ص؛ شابک 9789643625399؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م داستانهای این کتاب: «اموات»، «شب مورد نظر»؛ «گلوله ای در مغز»؛ «قربانی»؛ «برف»؛ «میلر دیگر»؛ «زنجیر»؛ «رویای لیدی»؛ «شعله ی آتش»؛ نقل نمونه هایی از متن: «دست‌هایم را از روی درماندگی تکان دادم، و سعی کردم نشان بدهم، که کاملا ناراحت و شرمنده‌ ام، اما فایده‌ ای نداشت؛ واقعیت این بود که من هیچ وقت روند معمول را دنبال نمی‌کردم؛ مردم همیشه می‌مردند.، ...»؛ «آدم انتخاب میکند که عاشق شود و برای انتخابش هم دلایلی دارد، درست مثل هر انتخابی که اگر به عمق آن برسی دلایلی دارد؛ یکبار که دلایلت را برای خودت روشن کنی، انتخابهایت را در اختیار خودت خواهی گرفت»؛ پایان نقل؛ «توبیاس وولف»، نویسنده‌ آمریکایی در سال 1945میلادی در آلاباما به این دنیا آمدند؛ ایشان در کنار نویسندگان دیگری همچون «ریموند کارور»؛ و «جان آپدایک»، از بهترین داستان کوتاه نویسان معاصر آمریکایی هستند؛ داستان‌های «وولف» جوایز بسیاری از جمله جایزه «پن / فاکنر»، و جایزه ادبی «لوس‌آنجلس تایمز» را از آن ایشان کرده‌ اند؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    I was familiar with some of these stories from magazines, anthologies like The Best American Short Stories series, and The New Yorker podcast. And I’m a big fan of The Vintage Book Of American Short Stories, which Tobias Wolff edited and which contains some of the best short fiction from the past half a century. (Note to self: I need to finish that book some day and review it properly.) But I’d never read a Wolff book all the way through. My loss. This is a very strong collection of 15 stories. I was familiar with some of these stories from magazines, anthologies like The Best American Short Stories series, and The New Yorker podcast. And I’m a big fan of The Vintage Book Of American Short Stories, which Tobias Wolff edited and which contains some of the best short fiction from the past half a century. (Note to self: I need to finish that book some day and review it properly.) But I’d never read a Wolff book all the way through. My loss. This is a very strong collection of 15 stories. These are clear, urgent tales that often set up moral dilemmas that aren’t easily solved. In the opening story, “Mortals,” a hack journalist who spends most of his time writing obituaries is fired after it’s discovered that he hasn’t been checking whether his subjects are in fact deceased. An encounter with a very-much-alive man holding up his own obituary leads to a meditation on mortality and the well-lived life, with a conclusion that’s refreshingly open-ended. In the timeless story “Two Boys And A Girl,” Gilbert, the narrator, is left to take care of his best friend Rafe’s girlfriend, Mary Ann, while Rafe goes on a fishing trip for a couple of weeks. As you might expect, Gilbert and Mary Ann become more than friends; the ending is surprising yet perfect. In “The Other Miller,” a bored soldier gets pulled from training when his superiors inform him his mother has died. Miller knows they’ve made a mistake – there’s another soldier in the company with the same name – but he goes along with the error for the break from boredom. And as his fellow soldiers express shock that he’s not properly grieving, we learn about his estrangement from his own mother. The ending, another ambiguous one (is he, in fact, the other Miller?) goes deeper than you might imagine. Strained relationships with parents pop up in several stories. No surprise if you recall that Wolff’s best-known book, the memoir This Boy’s Life, chronicled his relationship with his abusive stepdad. In “Powder,” the narrator’s irresponsible father keeps them skiing just a little too long, even though a storm’s coming and the road home is going to be closed off. This night (another "night in question"?) will change the protagonist’s life forever. He knows that after this his parents will split, but he learns a lot about his reckless father and himself, all detailed in a few pages. In the title story, two siblings’ disturbing past with their abusive father is dredged up when the adult sister visits her scarred and manic brother, who’s become obsessed with repeating a sermon to her. And in “Firelight,” the young narrator and his mother are looking for better accommodations – they’re tired of living in bleak boarding houses – and visit an apartment with a fireplace. The boy’s imagination – it’s pretty clear he’s going to become a writer – is stoked by this apartment and the little drama they encounter in it. Wolff knows that life is made up of significant moments that – seen through a genuine artist’s eye – can shed light on destiny. A dog attack at the beginning of the story “The Chain” has major repercussions – it starts off a chain reaction, if you will – in the lives of other people. The brief and much-anthologized story “Bullet In The Brain” begins ordinarily enough, as a jaded book critic is waiting in line at a bank. I don’t want to spoil where it goes, but it defies all rules about story structure and character. Like Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” it contains dark, savage humour and brutal violence, and yet it ends in a moment of pure grace, suspended in time. And one of my favourite stories, “Flyboys,” is a coming-of-age tale about friendship that takes in class differences, death, illness, luck and a small but significant instance of betrayal. It’s one of those stories that defies synopsis, because each detail reverberates with meaning. Like many of the book’s stories, it made me reflect on my own life, how individual moments can open up to suggest the course of an entire life in all its ordinariness and profundity. I’ll definitely be rereading many of these stories, and am going to seek out more of Wolff’s work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Jane Anders

    I've always loved Tobias Wolff's writing but this is the first book of his short stories I've read. These stories pack an enormous punch, full of damaged people and screwed-up families, and horrendous situations that people make worse through selfish and self-righteous actions. Wolff has an incredible gift for depicting the internal monologues of people who are convinced they're doing the right thing in spite of all the available evidence. The best stories in here are often the ones that draw on I've always loved Tobias Wolff's writing but this is the first book of his short stories I've read. These stories pack an enormous punch, full of damaged people and screwed-up families, and horrendous situations that people make worse through selfish and self-righteous actions. Wolff has an incredible gift for depicting the internal monologues of people who are convinced they're doing the right thing in spite of all the available evidence. The best stories in here are often the ones that draw on Wolff's military experience, like "Flyboys" (in which a soldier in Vietnam nearly murders his commanding officer to save a friend from being sent on a dangerous mission), and "The Other Miller" (in which a soldier is told his mother is dead, but decides they got the wrong guy.) There are also a lot of great stories from the viewpoint of kids, coping with the inadequacies and delusional thinking of adults (and Wolff skilfully shows how those kids, in turn, will grow up to be delusional.) The weakest story in the collection, for some reason, is the first one, "Mortals," in which a newspaper writer is tricked into running an obituary for someone who's not dead. Also interesting: this book was published in 1996, and the stories were written in the late 80s and early 90s. It's fascinating to see just how much literary fiction has changed in the past 20 years. Wolff's writing is crisp and strong but feels nothing like the prose you'll find in most literary mags and collections nowadays. He's much more ready to come out and say what his characters are thinking and feeling, even editorializing here and there, and to go a bit over the top in the service of a good moment, than any literary writer nowadays. But every aspiring author, lit or otherwise, should read this, as with all other Wolff.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    I liked this collection - the first one I've read by Tobias Wolff, a writer that I always meant to read but somehow never did. Wolff is mainly a short story author, which is a declining profession in this day and age - instead of being published in various magazines as they were ages ago, short stories seem to be retreating back to literary journals which hardly anybody reads and fat anthologies which people purchase and put on their shelves. There's real perspective of the short story actually I liked this collection - the first one I've read by Tobias Wolff, a writer that I always meant to read but somehow never did. Wolff is mainly a short story author, which is a declining profession in this day and age - instead of being published in various magazines as they were ages ago, short stories seem to be retreating back to literary journals which hardly anybody reads and fat anthologies which people purchase and put on their shelves. There's real perspective of the short story actually disappearing as an art form if it'll continue its slide into obscurity - which I hope will never happen, as literature would be much poorer without it. Most of Wolff's stories in this volume are concerned with childhood and growing up, with one focused on war; in another story a man bites dog for an actual good reason, which I think is the first time I saw it happen in any medium or fiction (and non-fiction as well). Interestingly, most reviewers here on GR seem to favor the closing story, Bullet in the Brain which I thought had a wonderful idea - a man seeing his whole life flash by - but was also the gimmickiest of them all, and didn't really work for me. There are other stories in this collection which are far stronger. Here are my contenders: "Casualty", about two young men in the army who are nearing their tour in Vietnam; one of them cannot stop needling the new, insecure commander, who in turn schedules him on dangerous patrols - usually spared for those who are about to go home. What struck me in it is the fact the guy genuinely can't stop himself from prodding his superior, even though he is completely aware of the possible consequences. I knew people like that and things didn't usually end up well, but the ending to this story I'll let you discover for yourselves. "The Other Miller" is the other way story in the collection - about a boy who joins the army to punish his mother for remarrying, with his plan turning out not quite how he imagined it to do. The story with the dog-biting-man is titled "Chain", where a father has to literally bite a dog which has attacked his daughter to make it let go. Later, a friend first advises him to kill the dog, and then offers to do it himself, which begins a cycle of violence and search for personal satisfaction. There is a sense of sadness and loss which permeates through these stories, including the two which I think are the best in the whole volume - the opening story, "Mortals", and the one nearing the end, "Firelights". In "Mortals" a man is sacked from his job at the local newspaper for writing an obituary of a person who is still alive - Wolff employs plenty of humor and an O-Henry-esque twist near the end, but the story's essential theme is that of loneliness and the need to connect with others. It is ironic, but also inherently sad, as the characters in this story perhaps will never be able to create these connection, and the ones which were there once have eroded a long time ago. The other story is "Firelight", which features a mother who was abandoned by her husband, and now struggles to survive with her only son. To stay afloat they often have to move, from one boarding house to the other, never setting roots in one place and constantly living on suitcases - but she refuses to give up. To maintain a pretense of a good life, she takes him on tours of apartments to rent that they are always considering, but could never afford - something they both know but refuse to admit. One cold evening they visit an apartment inhabited by a university professor, his wife and their teen daughter. The boy becomes mesmerized by the warmth of the warm firelight in the living room and falls into a trance, imagining himself in the coziness and comfort of this home - as a part of a large, happy family. But his experience breaks the spell, and he soon senses the bitterness of the professors who has been denied tenure at the university, and can't find a new position at other colleges; Like the boy, he also has to move and give the apartment up to others who can afford it. At the end of the story, the narration shifts into the boy's later years, when he is the owner of his own home and sits by his own fire, married and with two children; he is content with his life, yet the childhood fear is still firmly within him; he remembers how he had to leave the warm embrace of the firelight for the cold and indifference of the boardinghouse, and is afraid that one day he might wake up and see that his present existence had been just a dream. This is a touching story which shows how a lost childhood continues to haunt the adult, never giving him a chance to outgrow old fears. I'm looking forward to reading more of Tobias Wolff's short fiction, hoping also to one day have a firelight which I will be able to call my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I read The Night in Question over a few weeks, one story at a time. So some of the stories are already hazy in my mind. But I do remember that I looked forward each time to picking up this collection and once I started the story, I needed to finish it right then. Wolff is a short story master and this collection is consistently good - perfectly paced and very satisfying.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3 stars A book of short stories. Some were very good, some had you scratching your head wondering what you just read and others made no sense. I think my favorite of the 15 stories was the very last. A man impatiently waiting in line at the bank realizes that the bank is being robbed. He cannot stay silent when told to do so. He ends up one on one with one of the robbers. He still will not comply. A bullet is put in his head. The rest of the story describes exactly what he thinks prior to death. 3 stars A book of short stories. Some were very good, some had you scratching your head wondering what you just read and others made no sense. I think my favorite of the 15 stories was the very last. A man impatiently waiting in line at the bank realizes that the bank is being robbed. He cannot stay silent when told to do so. He ends up one on one with one of the robbers. He still will not comply. A bullet is put in his head. The rest of the story describes exactly what he thinks prior to death. Did his life flash before his eyes? Strange little story. I am not sure that I have ever read Tobias Wolff before. Not being a great fan of short stories, I will reserve judgement until I have read a full length novel by him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Timberlake

    I feel like I'm probably missing the real point here, or at least, not catching all of the meaning, but what I got from this was the critic's lack of interest in things he once enjoyed, causing him to see cliche in everything- and that's what kills him. I'm not even sure if I can explain what I mean well. I was just taken by the idea that he hates all of these things because they are tired and typical and predictable, but it's when the bank robbers are spitting out horribly cliche phrases that h I feel like I'm probably missing the real point here, or at least, not catching all of the meaning, but what I got from this was the critic's lack of interest in things he once enjoyed, causing him to see cliche in everything- and that's what kills him. I'm not even sure if I can explain what I mean well. I was just taken by the idea that he hates all of these things because they are tired and typical and predictable, but it's when the bank robbers are spitting out horribly cliche phrases that he's able to "enjoy" it again. He laughs, and that's what gets him killed. And even as he's dying, he's not remembering the things people normally "remember", he fixes on a time when someone's speech went off the track and surprised him. I don't know, I really think I'm probably missing a bigger meaning here, but even with what I'm taking away from this short story, I give it four stars. I think it was well written, and it certainly makes you think, as there's not a clear meaning the first time reading it (at least not to me).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hákon Gunnarsson

    The plot of this short story goes something like this: a man who is in a bank when it gets robbed at gun point is so jaded that he has a hard time taking it seriously. If I'm ever in a bank that gets robbed at gun point, I really hope I will not be standing next to anyone like this character. He is among the most annoying character I have come across, but I do like the story. I think it is pretty good. It gives the reader a story that is well beyond its word count. The main character wasn't alwa The plot of this short story goes something like this: a man who is in a bank when it gets robbed at gun point is so jaded that he has a hard time taking it seriously. If I'm ever in a bank that gets robbed at gun point, I really hope I will not be standing next to anyone like this character. He is among the most annoying character I have come across, but I do like the story. I think it is pretty good. It gives the reader a story that is well beyond its word count. The main character wasn't always the person he has become when he ends up in that situation, and we get a glimps into who he was before, into his past.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    Loved this collection of short stories. I kept thinking of how much of it reminded me of other narratives that I have enjoyed--"Smorgasbord" reminded me of Lorrie Moore, with its weird, unexplained quirkiness and strong femininity, "The Chain" recalled a Coen brothers script, and "The Life of the Body" felt like a George Saunders story (though this last comparison should not be too surprising, given that Wolff served as a mentor to Saunders). Really good stuff, and better than the long-form memo Loved this collection of short stories. I kept thinking of how much of it reminded me of other narratives that I have enjoyed--"Smorgasbord" reminded me of Lorrie Moore, with its weird, unexplained quirkiness and strong femininity, "The Chain" recalled a Coen brothers script, and "The Life of the Body" felt like a George Saunders story (though this last comparison should not be too surprising, given that Wolff served as a mentor to Saunders). Really good stuff, and better than the long-form memoir/fiction of his that I have read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick Strong

    I discovered this collection of short stories in the small library in my co-op's laundry room, and what a happy chance meeting it has been. Every story in this collection made me say to myself: Damn, I wish I could write like that! Clear, unpretentious, economical, wry, emotionally authentic, and with unexpected twists and developments that knocked me on my mind's ass and made me think about the stories for hours after reading them. The last story in the book, Bullet In The Brain, stays with me I discovered this collection of short stories in the small library in my co-op's laundry room, and what a happy chance meeting it has been. Every story in this collection made me say to myself: Damn, I wish I could write like that! Clear, unpretentious, economical, wry, emotionally authentic, and with unexpected twists and developments that knocked me on my mind's ass and made me think about the stories for hours after reading them. The last story in the book, Bullet In The Brain, stays with me every day since I finished it. Its context switch from describing an episode in the afternoon of a book critic - given to savaging his subjects and the people around him with biting sarcasm - to an event presented with unexpected and almost unbearable poignancy, and that makes sense in further defining his character, practically took my breath away. Very highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tiana Dalichov

    Absolutely brilliant. Thought-provoking and very well written. Read this quite a few times before I finally rated it on here, because it is that mind-blowing. The emotions and memories that Anders experiences during those last moments of life were so well articulated. Bravo!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Man bites dog. Of course the pooch had it coming. In noted memoirist and short story master Tobias Wolff’s third collection of stories, that particular nibble leads to a sequence of events that would have made O Henry nod in appreciation. And this should come as no surprise. Wolff has won three O Henry awards for his short fiction. In addition he has won a Pen/Faulker, a Story Prize and Rea Award. His work is mentioned in the same breath as that of Raymond Carver. They were both on the Syracuse Man bites dog. Of course the pooch had it coming. In noted memoirist and short story master Tobias Wolff’s third collection of stories, that particular nibble leads to a sequence of events that would have made O Henry nod in appreciation. And this should come as no surprise. Wolff has won three O Henry awards for his short fiction. In addition he has won a Pen/Faulker, a Story Prize and Rea Award. His work is mentioned in the same breath as that of Raymond Carver. They were both on the Syracuse University faculty at the same time so maybe it was something in the water. Wolff is best known for his memoir, A Boy’s Life, and his personal experience informs his stories. One features a sadistic father. In another a mother and her son move from city to city, living in boarding houses, never really settling down. We see a small piece of military life. Another is set in a boarding school much like the one Wolff attended. He knows of what he writes when depicting such lives, such places, such circumstances and it comes across. The title story contains the following line:No one should be alone in this world. Everyone should have someone who kept faith, no matter what, all the way. That sentiment permeates the stories in this masterful collection. Many of his characters suffer from loneliness, a sense of isolation, guilt or regret. A man’s act of revenge goes horribly wrong. Another man recalls a magical moment from his childhood and incorporates it into his adult life in a story that looks at the elements of happiness. Want to know what the world thinks of you? One of Wolff’s characters finds a unique way to ascertain his standing. A soldier places himself in peril by his compulsion to mouth off. An adolescent boy wants to be with a particular girl, and gets a chance to try, but can he really rise in stature from what he is, from how she really sees him? A woman and stepdaughter step outside their isolation from each other, briefly. A dying man sees his life flash by. A woman uses guilt to hold on to a friend in danger of leaving. Connections are lost, sought, endangered or never made. Stylistically, the stories in this collection vary from linear narrative to a mixing of past and present (usually adults looking back on the follies, horrors, or fond memories of youth), from first person narrative to third person. Wolff uses O Henry-like twists in some while other stories primarily show a slice of life, and usually not a particularly happy life. Sadness, loneliness, regret, struggling with moral decisions all live here. There is the odd sign or symbol of hope. There is a laugh or two to be had, but most smiles will arise from the dark irony of several of Wolff’s endings. If there were many literary references here, they went over my head. One sort-of exception is an overt shout out to Richard Brautigan in the story Mortals. But I did not really understand what Wolff meant by it, so maybe it passed by alongside my head instead of completely over it. This work is enjoyable for the strength of its portraits. We see lives in moral peril and sometimes physical peril as well. I found the stories satisfying, even if I did not always feel that I was quite grasping what was intended. So if that is acceptable to you, or more likely, if you are more perceptive and clever than I and see the elements that may lie in shadow to me, this is a strong, worthwhile read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mahek

    There was an interesting scene of discussion about this story in the recent episode of a meditative tv show called "Rectify", where the wise and thoughtful protagonist, who has befriended himself with books during his relatively endless time in a prison, defends why Tobias Wolff's "Bullet In The Train" is so close to him that he has memorized it. His very lines in the episode, and I quote this not just in praise of this story or the show, but to make a note about how a story can salvage a life: There was an interesting scene of discussion about this story in the recent episode of a meditative tv show called "Rectify", where the wise and thoughtful protagonist, who has befriended himself with books during his relatively endless time in a prison, defends why Tobias Wolff's "Bullet In The Train" is so close to him that he has memorized it. His very lines in the episode, and I quote this not just in praise of this story or the show, but to make a note about how a story can salvage a life: "Well, it was... it was during a period of my life where I was having some difficulties dealing with the passage of time in a traditional sense. And since Mr. Wolff's short story deals partly with the bending of time, well, in memorizing it, or in taking the action of memorizing it, I, too, was able to bend time, in a way. Or at least experience it... differently."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    All because of "Bullet in the Brain." The first time I encountered this story was at a Tobias Wolff reading, and those were shimmering minutes (especially the last half of the story). A few years later I was lucky enough to see the premiere of Word for Word's theatrical (and word-for-word) adaptation of the piece. I think of this story often, and it reminds me again and again to be present, to be present, to be awake and to enjoy. All because of "Bullet in the Brain." The first time I encountered this story was at a Tobias Wolff reading, and those were shimmering minutes (especially the last half of the story). A few years later I was lucky enough to see the premiere of Word for Word's theatrical (and word-for-word) adaptation of the piece. I think of this story often, and it reminds me again and again to be present, to be present, to be awake and to enjoy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rosaleen Lynch

    Jaded and critical we can lose our patience with the world and the joy with it. Language for the writer can lose its novelty and spark and become lifeless unless a metaphorical bullet in the brain clears the way through the debris of cliche, banality and routine to find those words that give our thoughts and lives meaning.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    These stories failed to leave an impression on me. There were a few that stood out from the lot, such as "The Other Miller", or "The Night in Question", but even from those I expected more. The writing felt unnatural, overly polished. Quite disappointed by the book. These stories failed to leave an impression on me. There were a few that stood out from the lot, such as "The Other Miller", or "The Night in Question", but even from those I expected more. The writing felt unnatural, overly polished. Quite disappointed by the book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Hmm. I don't know. I really don't. These stories are all well-written; Wolff has poise, control, restraint, his characters are efficiently and fully formed, the situations are both believable and resonant/touching, and he doesn't (for the most part) rely on style or unorthodox voice to drive his stories (not that there would be anything wrong with doing so). And yet, though. I think the problem I had most often with these stories was that so often he creates such a compelling context/etc. for th Hmm. I don't know. I really don't. These stories are all well-written; Wolff has poise, control, restraint, his characters are efficiently and fully formed, the situations are both believable and resonant/touching, and he doesn't (for the most part) rely on style or unorthodox voice to drive his stories (not that there would be anything wrong with doing so). And yet, though. I think the problem I had most often with these stories was that so often he creates such a compelling context/etc. for the reader, invests us in the characters, makes us care, blah, and then just completely leaves the story behind, leaves so many questions unanswered, basically leaves the reader hanging for the sake of dramatic tension, and for the sake of a sometimes gorgeous/poetic concluding paragraph or sentence. (This last point isn't always the case, though. "Powder," one of the stories whose context engrossed me more than others, ends with a total cliche: "If you've never driven in powder, you've never driven." which completely wrecked, for me, everything Wolff had worked so hard to create.) That tactic of leaving things unresolved is pushed too far for me to accept. A successful story (or novel) should, I think, resemble life in that not everything should be nice and tidy and resolved by the end; unless a story is working toward some sort of epiphany or moral or whatever, it's totally OK to leave the reader hanging a bit. Infinite Jest is an obvious and overt example of this. I just felt like Wolff leaves too many of his stories with too many unanswered questions and unresolved tensions. As in like why create these situations if you're just going to leave them dangling in the end; his refusal to tie so many things up seems to imply that it doesn't matter whether or not they're tied up, ever, which makes me, the reader, think: Why do I even care. As in, why am I even reading this. Some of the tales are overtly moralizing, like "Chain," whose cliched and simplistic moral is: Violence begets violence. Which, if you can say it in three words, say it in three words. If you're going to take up almost twenty pages of my time, tell me something more. "Lady's Dream" is the one story that seems to rely on style more than just story/character, and it seemed a bit anomalous to me. Nothing really stuck. Again, though, on a sentence level, the collection is excellent. Tonally, it kept reminding me of Pigeon Feathers, maybe because it often deals with youth, but also because of the poise and reserve I mentioned earlier. The last two stories are, I thought, the best, though "Firelight" still runs into that problem of leaving the reader hanging at the end for the sake of that poetic/etc. ending. It's hard to say anything bad about "Bullet in the Brain," though. This is a classic. I'm definitely still not convinced that Wolff is up my alley, despite his being constantly associated with Carver and Ford. I'll keep trying.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    A very short story about a man in the queue of a bank who out of sheer bloody-mindedness takes on the sociopath robbing the bank and gets a bullet in the brain for his trouble. The man is not a pleasant man. In fact, his actions are those of an idiot but that is not the point of the story. What Wolff is doing is describing an angry unconscious suicide. The writing is superb even if the final paragraphs do not quite explain anything very much. The ending is just an ending - the path to the ending A very short story about a man in the queue of a bank who out of sheer bloody-mindedness takes on the sociopath robbing the bank and gets a bullet in the brain for his trouble. The man is not a pleasant man. In fact, his actions are those of an idiot but that is not the point of the story. What Wolff is doing is describing an angry unconscious suicide. The writing is superb even if the final paragraphs do not quite explain anything very much. The ending is just an ending - the path to the ending is what matters. There is not a lot of 'why' in this story, just the imaginative presentation of something no writer can actually claim to have experienced and so write about with authenticity - sudden death. The death itself is not the point, the suicidal bloody-mindedness is and it is this that is drawn masterfully.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Olivia-Savannah

    The character is a bit snobbish, and not taking anything seriously, but you still become endeared to him by the end of the short story. I loved the transition from humor to seriousness. I loved that in a few moments of this main character's life we get to see the span of his lifetime - the author knew how to perfectly compress time within time. I didn't really like the final line... it seemed too incomplete to me, but upon reading the story again I can see how it suits. I love how we as readers The character is a bit snobbish, and not taking anything seriously, but you still become endeared to him by the end of the short story. I loved the transition from humor to seriousness. I loved that in a few moments of this main character's life we get to see the span of his lifetime - the author knew how to perfectly compress time within time. I didn't really like the final line... it seemed too incomplete to me, but upon reading the story again I can see how it suits. I love how we as readers get to see what was 'not' remembered as well as what he did remember. Again, it plays with time; we as readers get more time with this character than he gets with himself in the story. It had a good plot and it intrigued me. But at the same time, I'm only rating it three stars because it wasn't entirely my cup of tea. It didn't move me enough or shake me enough for me to love it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    A. Dawes

    One of the all time great short stories. The protagonist is a pompous art critic whose mind finds flaws in the ceiling fresco of a bank during a dangerous hold up. The story then segues into the protagonist's childhood; but it's not all baseball, it's also about language and grammar and it illuminates the irritating arrogance in those who judge others (like us who review books on Goodreads...). 'Bullet in the Brain' is a courageous story that sticks it up to pedantic critics. Wolff's underlays h One of the all time great short stories. The protagonist is a pompous art critic whose mind finds flaws in the ceiling fresco of a bank during a dangerous hold up. The story then segues into the protagonist's childhood; but it's not all baseball, it's also about language and grammar and it illuminates the irritating arrogance in those who judge others (like us who review books on Goodreads...). 'Bullet in the Brain' is a courageous story that sticks it up to pedantic critics. Wolff's underlays here in this clever story mean that he's at his majestic best.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

    All of Wolff's stories, with the exception of maybe three, are exquisitely crafted. Putting on my pompous hat, I'd say Wolff masterfully distills the essence of the hidden miracles of everyday experience, effectuating something wonderfully blah blah blah, etc. etc. Gems include: "Two Boys and a Girl," "Smorgasbord," the eponymous story, "Firelight," and the first one about the obits writer. I'd even name the last one as a gem, too, if I were to re-read it. All of Wolff's stories, with the exception of maybe three, are exquisitely crafted. Putting on my pompous hat, I'd say Wolff masterfully distills the essence of the hidden miracles of everyday experience, effectuating something wonderfully blah blah blah, etc. etc. Gems include: "Two Boys and a Girl," "Smorgasbord," the eponymous story, "Firelight," and the first one about the obits writer. I'd even name the last one as a gem, too, if I were to re-read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    mattu

    This is the best short story ever written. It may be that I've been biased by both a TC Boyle reading (on a New Yorker podcast some 10 years back, or so it seems) and a dramatic presentation by Tom Noonan that has haunted me for nearly as long. Even so, the story stands repeated readings and assorted interpretations while losing none of its power and poetry. It is, in fact, a flawless example of the art of the short story. This is the best short story ever written. It may be that I've been biased by both a TC Boyle reading (on a New Yorker podcast some 10 years back, or so it seems) and a dramatic presentation by Tom Noonan that has haunted me for nearly as long. Even so, the story stands repeated readings and assorted interpretations while losing none of its power and poetry. It is, in fact, a flawless example of the art of the short story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sherri Brooke

    This is my all-time favorite piece of writing. If the biggest challenge of the short story medium is to tell a great story in the most efficient way, where every single word is necessary and meaningful, Bullet in the Brain epitomizes what a short story can and should be. Tobias Wolff's writing is beautiful, eloquent, expressive but succinct. The story is short enough that I won't try to summarize it - just read it. I've read it hundreds of times and it gives me chills every single time. This is my all-time favorite piece of writing. If the biggest challenge of the short story medium is to tell a great story in the most efficient way, where every single word is necessary and meaningful, Bullet in the Brain epitomizes what a short story can and should be. Tobias Wolff's writing is beautiful, eloquent, expressive but succinct. The story is short enough that I won't try to summarize it - just read it. I've read it hundreds of times and it gives me chills every single time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ev.

    Best short story of all time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    REVIEW I had never heard of Tobias Wolff before randomly finding this book in a thrift store, but a little internet research pre-read told me I should have. It turned out he was heavily lauded and showered with awards and adoration, and also published some semi-classics, such as In Pharoah's Army. Fortified with this information, I actually held off on the book, secure in the fact that it would be an interesting read for a later day, and also looking forward to challenging the esteem of such a pr REVIEW I had never heard of Tobias Wolff before randomly finding this book in a thrift store, but a little internet research pre-read told me I should have. It turned out he was heavily lauded and showered with awards and adoration, and also published some semi-classics, such as In Pharoah's Army. Fortified with this information, I actually held off on the book, secure in the fact that it would be an interesting read for a later day, and also looking forward to challenging the esteem of such a praised author. Last week, I finally started reading The Night in Question, a collection of Wolff's short stories, and my sceptical hesitation and urge to pop this author's balloon slowly disappeared behind a one-track desire to explore the book. I was not instantly impressed, and warmed up slowly to his methods. Generally, Wolff's style in these stories is to create an interesting character and situation and then to shine light on the character from multiple perspectives, sometimes delving shockingly deep into the human psyche and putting characters which I had never seen written about before on cloud-topping pedestals. Thus, if you aren't that into the character/s/ of a particular story, you're probably not going to be that into the story -- but I'm pretty sure you'll be into them. Other times, however, he creates a story where the main character is obscured or the focus shifted to multiple characters or something less interesting, such as the first story in the book ("Mortals"), and also infuses his stories with a rambling quality, which will often see the introduction and partial exploration of new characters at any point in the tale, including the end (such as in the second tale, "Casualty.") I found the rambling nature very pleasing at times, as if I was on a theme park ride through tunnels of humanity, but also sometimes unsatisfying, whereby some sort of compromise of story length was achieved, with few of the characters being satisfyingly fleshed out or concluded. So what I'm trying to say is that the first two stories in Night, while still good, suffered from too much rambling and character muddling of an inconclusive nature for me to love them (though they also suffered from being first). After that, however, other than Wolff having a penchant for giving his characters immature, revenge-based concluding actions, I found most of the rest of the stories in Night to be brilliant. His stories are deceptively simple at face value, with basic moralistic platforms or cliché'd plot foundations, but are usually told so beautifully, with juicy details and asides, or enough levels of subtle complexity, that they soar beyond mundane heights. He definitely entertained me, definitely made me think, occasionally blew my mind a little, and had me mumbling out loud "oh yeah, this guy's good." I have to admit, I didn't totally understand some of his endings, and I imagine that under intense literature-analysis some may prove to be highly symbolic, but I think some of them may also be rambling bits designed to put the story back in its place in a powerful way; as just one of many in a wide, wide world. I'm not going to tell you anything else about the stories in the review, as I went into them blind, and I think you'll have a lot more fun going in blind too. I will say more about them in a short summary below, which I urge you to ignore until after your reading, due to spoilers -- unless you really like spoiling your own fun or don't like surprises. I encourage conversation too -- feel free to comment on my summaries/notes etc. and maybe we can learn more together. True Rating 4.5 Stars ----------------MINI-SUMMARIES/NOTES/SPOILERS------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (view spoiler)[ Ordered by Story 1. Mortals - The story of a frustrated writer working a job he'd rather not be working -- stuck writing obituaries everyday, a man who calls in his own obituary and ends of up getting the main character fired, and the conversation they have. - I didn't think the story's base message was all that exciting. So the man called in his own death to see what it would feel like, big deal. It's nowhere near as good as witnessing your own funeral, though Wolff seemed to link the two synonymously. So he made a point that you don't have to be a big star to be remembered or matter; that's nice. I also found the main character to be too forgiving of Givens' having him fired, and most of their conversation was boring and too obvious. - On the other hand, I loved how Wolff described the protagonist's boss giving him the axe, and the smile on the character's face which led up to/contributed to it: ["Let me get this straight. Just how long has this paper been running unconfirmed obituaries?" "About three months," I said. And as I made this admission I felt a smile on my lips, already there before I could fight it back or dissemble it. It was the rictus of panic, the same smile I'd given my mother when she told me my father had died. But of course the metro editor didn't know that. He leaned forward in his chair and gave his head a little shake, the way a horse will, and said, "Clean out your desk." I don't think he'd meant to fire me; he looked surprised by his own words. But he didn't take them back.] Pg 6 - I also loved Wolff's description of the protagonist's learned cynicism toward death: [But there was more to it than that. Since I was still on the bottom rung in metro, I wrote a lot of obituaries. Some days they gave me a choice between that and marriage bulletins, but most of the time obits were all I did, one after another, morning to night. After four months of this duty I was full of the consciousness of death. It soured me. It puffed me up with morbid snobbery, the feeling that I knew a secret nobody else had even begun to suspect. It made me wearily philosophical about the value of faith and passion and hard work, at a time when my life required all of these. It got me down.] Pg 5 --- the last two lines explaining why he didn't bother to check obits for months, and also why he got fired, as well as a degree of his non-reaction to such a traumatic event - I like how Wolff ended with a mime, it reminded me they exist and are fascinating 2. Casualty - This was a fairly boring Vietnam tale about two soldiers nearing the end of their tour: BD, who is kind of a motherly figure, and Ryan, a sarcastic clown. Ryan ends up dying because of his big mouth, which is no surprise, and meanwhile various interactions occur which were not overly interesting. Possibly the weakest story in the collection. - I did really like how Wolff described BD's inability to tell the story of Ryan's death to his girlfriend, and the dark message it leaves behind: that we are sometimes grateful when people we know, care about or love, die; and yet we deny it and feel we should cry and act like people do in the movies: [What a surprise, then, to have it all come out sounding like a lie. He couldn't get it right, couldn't put across what he had felt. He used the wrong words, words that somehow rang false, in sentimental cadences. The details sounded artful. His voice was halting and grave, self-aware, phony. It embarrassed him and he could see that it was embarrassing her, so he stopped. B.D. concluded that grief was impossible to describe. But that was not why he failed. He failed because he had not felt grief that day, finding Ryan gone. He had felt delivered -- set free.] Pg 30 3. Powder - A short, beautiful tale of father and son. Each learn more about the other and have a bonding experience together, the father risking much to pass a roadblock and blocked road, in order to have his son home with his ex-wife on Christmas Eve. - I really enjoyed how the father hummed as he drove the through difficult sections of road. I would say this is the humming of a man who claims to be and demonstrates his status as a 'great driver,' (and cool father) but still nervously hums, the pressures of impressing his son, keeping them alive, not getting arrested, getting home in time etc. weighing on him still. 4. The Life of the Body - The story of a High School English teacher who gets a little too drunk at a bar one night, and totally embarrasses himself by being the asshole in a situation he had never imagined himself being in. From there the story continues in fascinating style, with various repercussions including trauma, race relations in class, potential love affair, stalking, truth vs white lies (pun intended), and a life-continuation conclusion. Not a mind-blowing story, and not terribly satisfying, but quite interesting as a whole. 5. Flyboys - Fantastic tale of different family lives and the influence of income on those lives, told through the lens of several boys (narrator/Clark/Freddy) building a plane in 'the good old days of yesteryear.' Also a touching tale of old friends (Narrator/Freddy) who stopped hanging out for reasons which include the tragic death of Freddy's older brother, Tanker. This tragedy hangs from the story's rafters, draping it with its significance. It's kind of heartbreaking to watch Freddy and the narrator, so obviously well-matched as friends, be separated by Freddy's economic and mortal misfortune. 6. Sanity - Claire and April walk back from visiting Claire's boring, reliable, and now insane husband, while Claire tells April about her sexy old flame Darsh, who had the 'pent-up sexual energy of a 14 year old,' forever locked in a state of intense, unfulfilled desire due to the enticing inaction of a maid. In the end, April sets Claire up with a fox-like car salesman, a man like Darsh; out to satisfy his own selfish needs. - Nothing amazing here, a little shallow in fact, but enjoyable and nicely concluded 7. The Other Miller - A soldier with a strange maternal relationship (he swore to never speak to his mother again if she married a certain man, and then joined the army and ignored her communication attempts) thinks he's getting out of crappy training duty due to the death of the mother of another 'Miller' with the same initials as him. In the end, it is not 100% clear, but appears as if it was actually this Miller's mother who died, which will come as an incredible shock to a man who had no conception of living without his mother, and who came to a change of heart, deciding he would stop hurting himself and return home. - Neat story. Late in, it takes a bizarre twist, whereby Miller and the Privates taking him back to base stop to see a fortune teller. Miller freaks out and won't go in, perhaps scared or in denial of his mother's death. The privates also have odd reactions to Miller; really I found the privates to be weak characters with bad lines. As I say, neat though, for the beginning, maternal cuckoo-ness, and shocking conclusion. 8. Two Boys and a Girl - The story of Mary Ann, her boyfriend Rafe, and their friend, Gilbert. They have a memorable summer together wherein Mary Ann and Gilbert develop unspoken feelings for each other, demonstrated by speaking through Rafe to each other while conversing. Rafe goes away to Yale for a while, leaves his convertible and his girlfriend with Gilbert for safekeeping, and Gilbert and Mary Ann fall deeper in love. All the signs are there, but it never quite works out for these (possibly) star-crossed lovers. Mar Ann chooses to ignore her feelings and stays with Rafe, and Gilbert, who perhaps realizes that she really isn't that much of a catch anyway, takes immature revenge on the foolishly-straight girl. - all-in-all its an expertly told tale of 'what could have been,' of the awkward 'almost love' and unquenched desires felt by many of us, and perhaps of immature foolishness. The ending was silly, but maaaaybe appropriate. Arguably. 9. Migraine - The story of a highly cynical woman (Joyce) who gets terrible migraines, and whose roommate/lover (Dina) is moving out when she needs her most. She talks about people being unable to give freely, of all of us truly being alone, she rages and complains and is in pain, but in the end she succumbs to love and does not want her lover to go. It also appears as if Joyce is a very difficult person, who perhaps manifests migraines as a way to keep Dina -- who must love to be needed -- around. 10. The Chain - Nice story with simple themes, told well. A Jewish man watches in horror as his daughter is mauled by a dog, and then accepts the offer of his righteous Irish cousin to take revenge. Later, the self-loathing, violence-avoiding man returns the favour by denting the car of a drug dealer who had dented his cousin's car. This violent action, in turn begets much more violence, wherein the drug dealer shows up at the house of the man he thought had committed the crime, and accidentally murders a small boy. The Jewish man finds out and realizes his actions caused this, and mountains of Jewish-compacted guilt landslide on top of him. Like I said, pretty simple, but the meat makes for a good read. 11. Smorgasbord A fun, unique story about a poor, sexually-frustrated prep-school scholarship boy, and a muscle-bound loner, who end up going to supper with the incredibly sexy and fascinating step-mother of a rich, dictator-related classmate. It's a simple 'The Graduate/Sexual-Awakening' story, but more than that and unique; with failed love, how the other half live, and awkward friendship too. Moreover, it's full of witty asides and expertly-crafted life observations. It's well-paced, detailed, and tied-up: a very satisfying read. 12. Lady's Dream - Short, brilliant story of mismatched lovers, told in part through the dream of 'Lady,' while she sleeps in their speeding car. She seems to realize her husband, Robert, has slowly shut her up, cut her off from her joy, and molded her into the boring, proper woman he had always envisioned: a proper lady. In her dream (of their early relationship), it's more complex still, as she dreams of Robert and his realization that he chose Lady because she and her family are backward southerner's and would totally piss off his father; simple rebellion. He tells himself he will break up with Lady and confront his father instead of cruelly and unfairly using her this way, but thoughts of her delicious strawberries and her loving touch break his feeble will. She loves him, and he lets her love him until it's too late for them both. Lady knows all this, and tries to remain asleep to gaze as long as she can at the beautiful life she left behind for this...man. - Fantastic 13. The Night in Question - Messed up, interesting, difficult to fully understand, but: The story of Frank, Frances, and their father. In short, their father decided to deny everything to Frank, to teach him a lesson. One night, their father slapped Frank, and on that night (the night in question), their mother could have saved them all hardship and pain by standing up for Frank and letting the father know it was not OK to hit their son. But she didn't, she soon died, and the father beat the crap out of Frank and Frances -- who came to Frank's aid as sister/mother/protector and never denied him anything -- for years to come. Frank became an alcoholic, and Frances rescued him many times, then he became a born again Christian. Later, Frank relates to Frances the a tale (another 'night in question') whereby a man was forced to choose between saving his son or a train full of random people. When asked if he would choose Frances or the train, Frank initially chooses the train, due to 'Him/The Father/God,' but Frances knows he would save her, because she's always stuck up for him and no one should be alone. - Is 'He/God' their father? Probably. Frank notes how God sacrificed his son so that others could be free, when talking about the train choice. There's a fair bit of simple theme and a fair bit else going on here. I like it. 14. Firelight - A quirky little tale about a broke mother and her boy and their search for apartments. Their searches are all a part of fantasy it seems, as the mother can't afford the deposit/rent etc. and the two of them do many a shopping expedition and open house together, where they try on various things and various lives, but never buy or lead them. The search brings them to a university campus, where the boy falls in love with the place, the mother appreciates it, and they meet a large, bearded, incredibly deep-voiced, possible tenure-denied professor, who is done with the place (a unique and memorable character I've never seen written about). - Wolff sure likes tales of academic/future academic boy and mother together. I wonder if he was a momma's boy? 15. Bullet in the Brain - A critic is shot in the head during a bank robbery. - This seems like a very detailed and brilliant way for Wolff to take revenge on book critics, as he describes the life and death of one in his intricately-detailed, delicious-to-read style. He manages to kill the critic in fairly brutal fashion while still highlighting the depth and beauty of his life, thereby making this story quite difficult to criticize. Fabulous. (hide spoiler)]

  26. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I enjoyed reading these short stories, but I did not always appreciate the ending. More often than not, the ending left me perplexed or unsatisfied. 3.5 stars

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    Wow. This is definitely a 6 or 7 star book/collection of short stories, IMO. Strong, memorable characters? Yes. Interesting and engaging plot lines? Yes. Lots of wisdom and insight? Yes. Plenty of humor and even a few laugh-out-loud moments? Yes. And perhaps the most important, a moment capable of giving you the shivers? Yes. Excerpt from Sanity and referring to books written on sexual technique: "People write about technique," she said, "as if it's the whole ball game, which is a complete joke. Y Wow. This is definitely a 6 or 7 star book/collection of short stories, IMO. Strong, memorable characters? Yes. Interesting and engaging plot lines? Yes. Lots of wisdom and insight? Yes. Plenty of humor and even a few laugh-out-loud moments? Yes. And perhaps the most important, a moment capable of giving you the shivers? Yes. Excerpt from Sanity and referring to books written on sexual technique: "People write about technique," she said, "as if it's the whole ball game, which is a complete joke. You know who's really getting off on technique? Publishers, that's who. Because they can turn it into a commodity. The can merchandise it as know-how, like traveling in Mexico or building a redwood deck. The only problem is, it doesn't work. You know why? It turns sex into a literary experience." April couldn't stop herself from giggling. This made her sound foolish, as she knew. "I'm serious," Claire said. "You can tell right away that it's coming out of some book. You start seeing yourself in one of those little squiggly drawings, with your zones all marked out and some earnest little cartoon guy working his way through them being really considerate." "That's another reason those books are worthless," Claire said. "They're all about sharing, being tender, anticipating your partner's needs, etcetera etcetera. It's like Sunday school in bed. I'm not kidding, April. That's what it's all about, all this technique stuff. Judeo-Christian conscientiousness. The Golden Rule. You know what I mean?" And from Lady's Dream: Robert has picked up some psychology here and there, and he believes he understands how he got himself into this mess. It's rebellion. Subconscious, of course. A subconscious rebellion against his father, falling in love with a girl like Lady. Because you don't fall in love. No. Life isn't a song. You choose to fall in love. And there are reasons for that choice, just as there's reason for every choice, if you get to the bottom of it. Once you figure out your reasons, you master your choices. It's as simple as that.. And a final taste taken from Firelight: There is pleasure to be found in the purchase of goods and services. I enjoy it myself now, playing the part of a man who knows what he wants and can take it home with him. But in those days I was mostly happy just to look at things. And that was lucky for me, because we did a power of looking, and no buying. My mother wasn't one of those comparison shoppers who head straight for the price tag, shaking their faces and beefing about the markup to everyone in sight. She had no great interest in price. She had no money, either, but it went deeper than that. She liked to shop because she felt at home in stores and was interested in the merchandise. Sales clerks waited on her without impatience, seeing there was nothing mean or trivial in her curiosity, this curiosity that kept her so young and drove her so hard. She just had to see what was out there. We'd always shopped, but that first fall in Seattle, when we were more broke than we'd ever been, we really hit our stride. We looked at leather luggage. We looked at televisions in large Mediterranean consoles. We looked at antiques and Oriental rugs. Looking at Oriental rugs isn't something you do lightly, because the men who sell them have to work like dogs, dragging them down from these tall teetering piles and them humping them over to you, sweating and gasping, staggering under the weight, their faces woolly with lint. They tend to be small men. You can't be squeamish. You have to be free of shame, absolutely sure of your right to look at what you cannot buy. And so we were. These and so many more make this a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys good writing combined with good storytelling that provides worthwhile insight capable of staying with you long after the stories fade.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Turner

    I first came across Tobias Wolff when I saw the 1993 movie "This Boy's Life." The story is about the relationship between a rebellious 1950s teenager (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his abusive stepfather (Robert De Niro), based on the memoirs of writer and Stanford literature Professor Tobias Wolff. The movie, also starring Ellen Bakin as DiCaprio's man-crazy mother, was tightly written and extremely well acted. DeNero was as sinister as his character in "Cale Fear," an unrelenting, abusive drunk. Rela I first came across Tobias Wolff when I saw the 1993 movie "This Boy's Life." The story is about the relationship between a rebellious 1950s teenager (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his abusive stepfather (Robert De Niro), based on the memoirs of writer and Stanford literature Professor Tobias Wolff. The movie, also starring Ellen Bakin as DiCaprio's man-crazy mother, was tightly written and extremely well acted. DeNero was as sinister as his character in "Cale Fear," an unrelenting, abusive drunk. Relatively new to the big screen, DeCaprio held his own against his two leading stars. The storyline was so compelling, I had to read the book and discover the author. The book was 5 star --I enjoyed it immensely. Recently I was ordering books from Thruft Books, particularly several collections of short stories by William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather and Pearl S. Buck. Before I placed my order, their search engine suggested a "you-may-like-these-too" list. The title "The Night in Question" by Wolff was suggested, a collection of 15 short stories that I found, upon reading them, absolutely entertaining and delightful. Stories like "Mortals," about a cub reporter who writes an obituary only to be fired when it's subject walks into his office, very much alive. Or my favorite, "Firelight," of which a character includes the landlord of an apartment who the narrator quotes, "What can I do for you?" And goes on to describe, "His voice was so deep I could almost feel it, like coal rumbling down a chute." He goes on,"He had the kind of size (tall and rotund with a massive head) that provokes, almost inevitably, the nickname "Tiny." What descriptive and colorful language. Seek out this book. It's a joy to read. P.S. In further research on Wolff, I discovered that he served in my same Army Division, the 9th Infantry Division, in the Mekong Delta. During the Vietnam War era, Wolff served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1972, when he trained for Special Forces, learned Vietnamese, and served as an adviser in Vietnam. This collection includes a couple of stories featuring Army soldiers. He has also written two novels with a military theme: "In Pharaoh's Army" and "The Barracks Thief," of which I've added both to my To Read list.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    Started yesterday with "Mortals" - typically deadpan and mysterious. Woolf has been compared to Raymond Carver for good reason. The second story, "Casualty," is set in Vietnam. More good, gritty stuff. The stuff that "dirty fiction" is made of I suppose. Last night's story(Powder) brought back memories of me in the company of my bad-acting father. Even down to the little sports car. More short-and-sweet(bitter) reality. I've been reading several stories the past few days by battery light while my p Started yesterday with "Mortals" - typically deadpan and mysterious. Woolf has been compared to Raymond Carver for good reason. The second story, "Casualty," is set in Vietnam. More good, gritty stuff. The stuff that "dirty fiction" is made of I suppose. Last night's story(Powder) brought back memories of me in the company of my bad-acting father. Even down to the little sports car. More short-and-sweet(bitter) reality. I've been reading several stories the past few days by battery light while my power is out. We just had a WHOPPER of a storm, a mini-hurricane, that blew a lot of big trees down on various necessary man-made objects like power lines, cars, houses etc. Still waiting now(3 days) for power. Gotta have that power! My observation is that the author uses some elements and characters from his own trying youth in these stories. "The Life of the Body"(San Francisco), "Flyboys"(Washington), "Sanity"(SoCal), "The Other Miller(central Cali), "Two Boys and a Girl"(more Washington - the author's boyhood state I do believe. All good ... Moving on through "Migraine" and "The Chain"(strong echoes of "In the Bedroom") and I have to say that I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed at times. Nothing drastic, but TW seems in this collection, at least, to not have equaled or surpassed "The Barracks Thief." He's not quite up to Richard Ford or Raymond Carver. Certainly not Alice Munro either ... Three stories to go, two of which appeared in The New Yorker. The best for last I suppose. "Lady's Dream" contains another likely reference to the author's mother and wacko/abusive stepfather. "The Night in Question" is another story on the abusive parent theme, and it's a good one. Appeared in the New Yorker, so I might have already read it, but I don't recall. Finished up with "Firelight" and "A Bullet in the Brain," the second story that appeared in The New Yorker. What more can I say? I like Tobias Wolff a lot, but not as much as some other SS writers. This one's pretty easy to rate. 3.75* rounds up to 4*.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt Evans

    I’ve grown weary of a certain type of fiction. Fiction that presents itself as fiction. Better said, fiction whose language strives (w/o precision) for poetry’s vague enchantments, and whose stories and details are of the kind that fruity old professors speak about in succulent terms, terms like pieces of brownly broiled chicken, these professors smacking their lips maddeningly on nothing but their ideas of something juicy. Somewhere a saucy Shakespearean actor shouts the word, “acting,” pronoun I’ve grown weary of a certain type of fiction. Fiction that presents itself as fiction. Better said, fiction whose language strives (w/o precision) for poetry’s vague enchantments, and whose stories and details are of the kind that fruity old professors speak about in succulent terms, terms like pieces of brownly broiled chicken, these professors smacking their lips maddeningly on nothing but their ideas of something juicy. Somewhere a saucy Shakespearean actor shouts the word, “acting,” pronouncing it “ahkh-teen!” and shakes a soft fist at the audience. Anyway, et cetera. It’s unseemly, this kind of fiction. The fiction I like now is more like non-fiction. Tobias Wolffe’s fiction isn't like this; it's both real and precisely poetic. Wolffe is funny and exacting. He goes after hard detail and doesn’t repeat himself. His stories’ structures are intricate and interesting. He seemed to me to reveal in his stories the basic structure of life, as if opening the hood of an exotic sports car and slowly taking apart the engine, piece by gleaming piece. And he’s very funny, not just haha funny. And he’s wise. I’m certainly going to read him again.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.