The thirty-three stories in this volume prove that American short fiction
maybe be our most distinctive national art form. As selected and
introduced by Tobias Wolff, they also make up an alternate map of the
United States that represents not just geography but narrative
traditions, cultural heritage, and divergent approaches. Contributors
and stories include: Mary Gaitskill, "A Romantic Weekend"; Thom
Jones, "A White Horse"; Andre Dubus, "The Fat Girl"; Tim O'Brien, "The
Things They Carried"; Chris Offutt, "Aunt Granny Lith"; Raymond
Carver, "Cathedral"; Joyce Carol Oates, "Where Are You Going, Where
Have You Been?"; Robert Stone, "Helping"; Mona Simpson, "Lawns";
Ann Beattie, "A Vintage Thunderbird"; Jamaica Kincaid, "Girl"; Stuart
Dybek, "Chopin in Water"; Barry Hannah, "Testimony of Pilot"; John
Edgar Wideman, "Daddy Garbage"; Ron Hansen, "Wickedness"; Denis
Johnson, "Emergency"; Edward P. Jones, "The First Day"; John
L'Heureux, "Departures"; Ralph Lombreglia, "Men Under Water";
Leonard Michaels, "Murderers"; Robert Olmstead, "Cody's Story"; Jayne
Anne Phillips, "Home"; Susan Power, "Moonwalk"; Amy Tan, "Rules of
the Game"; Stephanie Vaughn, "Dog Heaven"; Joy Williams, "Train";
Dorothy Allison, "River of Names"; Richard Bausch, "All The Way in
Flagstaff, Arizona"; Carol Bly, "Talk of Heroes"; Scott Bradfield, "The
Darling"; Kate Braverman, "Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta"; Richard
Ford, "Rock Springs"; and Allan Gurganus, "Minor Heroism."
The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories
Editor Wolff (This Boy's Life, LJ 1/89) describes the stories he selected for
this volume as representing a reaction to the postmodern, self-conscious
fictional attitude emerging from the Sixties. Realistic and convincing,
these voices of the past decade and a half create a sense of kinship that
remains with readers as insistently as do their own memories. This
collection gives us 33 well-chosen stories. Side by side with classics by
favorite writers-Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Richard Ford-are recent
contributions by Dennis Johnson, Allan Gurganus, Thom Jones, and
others. While these diverse stories defy categorization as an identifiable
trend in writing, they do share exuberance and clarity, offering depictions
of often painful contemporary situations softened by humor and honesty.
Highly recommended.-Eleanor Mitchell Arizona State Univ., West Phoenix.
Meet The Author
Current Home:Northern California
Date of Birth:May 19, 1945
Place of Birth:Birmingham, Alabama
Education:B.A., Oxford University, 1972; M.A., Stanford University, 1975
Awards:PEN/Faulkner Award, Saint Lawrence Award, O. Henry Awards,
American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature
Although Tobias Wolff has described his own youthful self as a liar and an
imposter, he has achieved in his writing a level of honesty so unflinching
it is almost painful to read. The author of two groundbreaking literary
memoirs and several volumes of autobiographical fiction (short and long),
Wolff is not just willing to lay bare his pretenses and self-deceptions; he
feels an obligation to do so. Like Rumpelstilskin, he has spun experience,
memory, and a remarkable gift for storytelling into literary gold.
Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Wolff barely knew his largely absent
father, a man he and his older brother Geoffrey (also a writer) have
described as a con artist and a compulsive liar. While he was still young,
Wolff's parents officially split up. Geoffrey went to live with his father;
Tobias stayed with his mother, who moved around from state to state in a
steady, westerly progression that finally landed them in Washington.
Never a good judge of character where men were concerned, his mother
married an abusive martinet who made her son's life miserable. Wolff
recounted his misspent, miserable youth in This Boy's Life, a
groundbreaking 1989 memoir that later became a movie starring
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Barkin, and Robert De Niro.
Wolfe escaped his troubled home environment by falsifying an application
to a private boys' school in the East and fabricating a resumé so
remarkable it got him in. He flunked out before graduating, enlisted in the
military, and was sent to Vietnam -- an experience he chronicled in a
second memoir, In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War, published
in 1994. When he was discharged from service, he visited England, fell in
love with the country, and studied, with the help of tutors, to gain
entrance to Oxford. He graduated with honors in 1972 and received a
scholarship to Stanford, where he received his master's degree.
A three-time winner of the O. Henry Award, Wolff is widely respected for
his short stories. His first collection, In the Garden of the North American
Martyrs, was published in 1981 and received rave reviews from such past
masters of the genre as Annie Dillard and Joyce Carol Oates. Subsequent
anthologies have only served to solidify his reputation as a preternaturally
gifted storyteller. His 1984 novella The Barracks Thief won the
PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; and in 2003, he published his first novel,
Old School, a shrewdly observed, heavily autobiographical coming-of-age
tale set in an elite boys' boarding school.
Nearly as famous for his teaching as for his books, Wolff served on the
faculty of Syracuse University for 17 years before accepting a position at
Stanford in 1997 as a professor of English literature and creative writing.
He is also a crackerjack editor and has shepherded several short story
anthologies through to publication.
Good To Know
•Leonardo DiCaprio beat out 400 hopefuls from Los Angeles, New York,
Florida, and all places in between to star as Tobias Wolff in the film
version of This Boy's Life.
•Separated at a young age by their parent's divorce, Tobias and Geoffrey
Wolff both grew up to become successful writers. Geoffrey's 1979 memoir
of life with his con-artist father is called The Duke of Deception.
•In an interview with The Boston Book Review, Tobias Wolfe discussed
the phenomenon of selective memory this way: " Memory is something
that you do; it is not something that you have. You remember, and when
you remember you bring in all the resources of invention, calculation,
self-interest and self-protection. Imagination is part of it too."