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Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories…

Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories

by Tobias Wolff

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Tobias Wolff, a writer more known for his short stories than novels, has been floating around on my to-read list ever since I read his short story “Bullet in the Brain” back in my first or second year of university. It’s funny how when it comes to reading I can mentally file something like that away and then not get around to doing it for seven years. Anyway, Our Story Begins is a collection of both old and new stories from across Wolff’s career.

What I liked about “Bullet in the Brain” – which can be read online here – is that it begins as a light-hearted jokey sort of story, with a book critic wearily sighing at the cliched demands of real-life bank robbers, and then – as he gets shot – suddenly turns into a serious and moving story, as his life flashes before his eyes and he remembers the joys of his younger years. Wolff has a talent for mixing the banal and the profound, the humourous and the terribly sad.

I mentioned in my review of Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? that I prefer short stories which are either plot-driven, or which have beautiful language. Wolff examines quotidian suburban life as much as Carver does, but writes in a way that’s actually interesting and poetic.

At the end we see the explorers sleeping in a meadow filled with white flowers. The blossoms are wet with dew and stick to their bodies, petals of columbine, clematis, blazing star, baby’s breath, larkspur, iris, rue – covering them completely, turning them white so you cannot tell one from another, man from woman, woman from man. The sun comes up. They stand and raise their arms, like white trees in a land where no one has ever been.

Now, certainly there are no stories in here quite as good as “Bullet in the Brain,” but that’s his most famous one for good reason. Stand-outs in the collection include “Hunters in the Snow,” about a chubby hunter bullied by his friends, “The Rich Brother,” about a wealthy man who rescues his aimless brother from a cult group, “A White Bible,” about the father of a disgraced schoolboy who abducts and threatens his teacher, “Her Dog,” about a widow taking his dead wife’s dog for a walk, and “Nightingale,” about a father driving his son to begin boarding at a military school.

Our Story Begins is an excellent anthology from one of America’s finest living short fiction writers. I typically just read short story collections to study the craft, and for something to read alongside longer novels, but this was a book I enjoyed for itself as well. ( )
1 vote edgeworth | Oct 5, 2014 |
Ugh, I'm embarrassed at how long it took me to finally finish this book. I started reviewing again for NewPages.com, so I've been reading several literary magazines each month. Some of these mags are thick, and so they have begun to dominate my reading. I stalled on Wolff's excellent collection only a few stories from the end and hung there for way too long. Wolff was a pal of Raymond Carver's in Carver's latter (sober) years, and the two writers share some similarities in subject matter. Wolff is definitely one of America's great contemporary short story writers, and like every good short story writer offers sharp insight into the human condition. This collection offers a selection of earlier stories from his career, as well as some new ones. They are all good, and together represent a rich and varied body of work from a seasoned writer. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys the short story form. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
I’m more than a little disappointed in Anthony Heald’s performance. He has thrown away the last lines of every story, giving each short a feeling of incompleteness. Moreover, there are times when he drops his voice so low, the words seem swallowed. Nonetheless, the quality of the writing somes through. ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Apr 4, 2013 |
I loved this collection. I'd previously only read the novella "The Barracks Thief" - which I thought was superb and perfectly formed - so I was looking forward to reading some of Wolff's selected earlier stories (from anthologies I already wanted to check out, and still do) as well as the precious newest offerings.

Others here have reviewed more eloquently what you might find intriguing and beautiful in these many little gems of contemporary literature. I don't think I disliked a single one, but those that really stood out for me were "Desert Breakdown '68", "The Other Miller", "Benefit of the Doubt", "Deep Kiss", and well, really I could go on and on, but I don't have my library copy to hand and these are the ones that occur to me now...

If you love short fiction or were curious to try it again after a disappointing earlier foray then read this book. Each story says so much and leaves you entirely wrapped up in the world that the author just created. If you've never read short fiction - Tobias Wolff is a master. I now want to read everything he has ever had published. ( )
  Polaris- | Apr 18, 2012 |
I tried every night this week and kept falling asleep. Guess this just wasnt the right time for this book.
  SenoraG163 | Sep 10, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tobias Wolffprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alberto, RobertoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Antolín Rato, MarianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Satué, EnricDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ten potent new stories that, along with twenty-one classics, display Wolff's mastery over a quarter century.

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