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This Boy's Life: A Memoir by Tobias…

This Boy's Life: A Memoir (original 1989; edition 2000)

by Tobias Wolff

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2,202322,946 (3.87)84
Title:This Boy's Life: A Memoir
Authors:Tobias Wolff
Info:Grove Press (2000), Edition: 1st Grove Press Ed, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff (1989)



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If it weren't free, I never would have touched it. Quite frankly, I'm still not certain why I never just quit it. Most of us have one of those relatives that came of age during the 60s/70s and who all seem to come prepackaged with the same obnoxious stories - fun "pranks" that would get you a stint in juvie today, them exercising their hatred of adults, lame Boy Scout stories that go nowhere, a beloved pet that had more personality than most of their friends, etc. That is what this book is. It is your senile father's ramblings of stories you got sick of hearing before you hit puberty. ( )
  benuathanasia | Jan 26, 2017 |
As a young boy, Toby Wolff and his divorced mother left Florida (and the abusive man they had been living with) for Utah, where his mother thought they could cash in on the "uranium rush". Eventually they ended up in Seattle where his mother married yet another controlling bastard, a Great Santini sort of character with a weaker moral compass and no hope of going down in a heroic blaze. Dwight was a master of subtle cruelty and psychological abuse, keeping physical violence to a minimum, but capable of it, nonetheless. Growing up with Dwight as a stepfather was similar to a shoplifter being sent to prison with the armed robbers---Jack learned to hone his techniques of deception by watching and sparring with a seasoned pro. Jack’s ultimate sting involved stealing school letterhead and transcript forms, writing bogus recommendation letters, and ultimately conning his way to a prep school scholarship, complete with an appropriate expensive wardrobe. The memoir is completely lacking in any sense of self-justification, rationalization or finger-pointing. I felt a good deal of sympathy for Jack, and that’s a tribute to the author’s skill, because reading about adolescent boys and their obnoxious or dangerous pranks usually just makes me really glad I didn’t have to raise one myself. One day I will undoubtedly carry on with his subsequent memoirs, Old School and In Pharoah’s Army, to learn how this sneaky conniving little whelp managed to become such a fine writer, and whether he turned out to be a human being I might like to meet.

This book won the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 1989; was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award that year; and received The Ambassador Book Award for Biography/ Autobiography in 1990. It is by way of being a classic of the memoir sub-genre of "Dysfunctional family/abusive childhood" stories.
Review written in January 2017 ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jan 8, 2017 |
Memoir of the author growing up in the 1950's in a dysfunctional and sometimes abusive family/step family. The setting is rural Washington state and Wolff does a good job of using the climate and terrain of the area as symbols of the pains of growing up. Perhaps if I were 1) male 2) a little older so that I could relate to the time frame 3) more knowledgeable about the Pacific Northwest or 4) interested in Boy Scouts, hunting, all male prep schools, I would have enjoyed the book a little more. There were escapades of Toby and his friends that were interesting, but I did not find universal meaning in his story. I would probably give it a 2.5 if that were allowed. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Several friends recommended this book to me. It took forever for me to get to it. And I read it after I read his brother's biography of their father, The Duke of Deceit, a pathological liar as both sons turn out to be. The writing in both books is excellent, but unfortunately, I didn't like any of the characters in either book. If you have never contemplated what "white privilege" means, you can begin here and add a dose of "class privilege." The poor choices that Toby makes repeatedly get overlooked and bailed out if they ever create adverse consequences. He gets dozens of "second chances" that no person of color or one without at least the modicum of "upbringing" that permits artful dodging would get. Prevarication, bamboozling, and posturing abound. I agree with the reviewer below, who described most of the book as reflecting Toby's younger life as a picture of "increasing entropy." ( )
  johnjmeyer | Jan 13, 2014 |
A high school friend once mentioned that his was her favorite book and since then this book has stuck in my head as something I should read. I’m glad I finally got around to it. That said, this story definitely challenged me. As a hardcore rule-follower it weirded me out that this kid was such a pathological liar. (I know it isn’t cool to say that you like following rules, I’m not a conservative asshole, I swear, it’s just that even breaking tiny rules makes me break out in hives. I have theories about why, but I won’t bore you with them here.) I still really enjoyed the story, but at moments I couldn’t fully understand how or why this guy did the stuff he did. Writing his uncle a bunch of lies behind his mother’s back to try to get himself sent to Paris? Fabricating all his transcripts and letters of recommendation to get into a prep school? Yikes. Just thinking about doing that stuff makes me break into a sweat. ( )
2 vote eenee | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tobias Wolffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wyman, OliverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"The first duty in life is to assume a pose. What the second is, no one has yet discovered." -Oscar Wilde
"He who fears corruption fears life." -- Saul Alinsky
My stepfather, Dwight, always said that what I didn't know could fill a book. Well, here it is.
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Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802136680, Paperback)

Fiction writer Tobias Wolff electrified critics with his scarifying 1989 memoir, which many deemed as notable for its artful structure and finely wrought prose as for the events it describes. The story is pretty grim: Teenaged Wolff moves with his divorced mother from Florida to Utah to Washington State to escape her violent boyfriend. When she remarries, Wolff finds himself in a bitter battle of wills with his abusive stepfather, a contest in which the two prove to be more evenly matched than might have been supposed. Deception, disguise, and illusion are the weapons the young man learns to employ as he grows up--not bad training for a writer-to-be. Somber though this tale of family strife is, it is also darkly funny and so artistically satisfying that most readers come away exhilarated rather than depressed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This unforgettable, bestselling memoir by a gifted writer introduces the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. A "New York Times" Notable Book of the Year.

(summary from another edition)

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