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A Step from Death: A Memoir by Larry Woiwode

A Step from Death: A Memoir

by Larry Woiwode

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This is the second Woiwode memoir I've read. Neither are "easy" reads. You have to pay pretty close attention to follow the circuitous paths of Woiwode's logic and writing style, which often seems unnecessarily elaborate and labyrinthian. But the effort pays off in the anecdotes he offers about his realtionships with his father (his mother died when he was nine) and his son. Woiwode is speaking throughtout the narrative to his son, Joseph, who was an army helicopter pilot in Iraq as he was writing this. There are also more stories here about Woiwode's long friendship with William Maxwell, who was the fiction editor at The New Yorker magazine. And anecdotes about other writers abound too, as was true in his first memoir, What I Think I Did. I was particularly taken with a story about Jim Harrison and pal Tom McGuane who came to do some bird hunting on some property Woiwode was renting in Michigan. You get the definite impression that Woiwode is a perfectionist in his writing to the point of obsessive compulsive disorder, as he documents a couple of near breakdowns trying to complete his magnum opus, Beyond the Bedroom Wall. Marital complications and separations are also given space here and Woiwode holds little back. Tempted as I was at times to simply toss the book aside, I'm glad I finished it. It's worth the slog. I may try to find Beyond the Bedroom Wall, if only because the book seems to have come close to killing its author. Larry Woiwode sounds like a very interesting guy. ( )
  TimBazzett | Jun 11, 2009 |
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The author of the 1969 classic What I'm Going to Do, I Think and the acclaimed Beyond the Bedroom Wall begins his story by relating a near-death experience with a malfunctioning hay baler--the kind of mistake that can kill a novice farmer. This episode is the first skein in a rich tapestry of memories, from colorful snippets of Woiwode's time in New York as a young writer working with the late, great William Maxwell, to his days as a young father, husband, and teacher trying to scrape enough together to buy a ranch in western North Dakota, and finally to the prospect of an empty nest and the step from death that he finds rapidly approaching.--From publisher description.… (more)

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