One of the sinuous and subtly crafted stories in Tobias Wolff's new collection--his first in eleven years--begins with a man biting a dog. The fact that Wolff is reversing familiar expectations is only half the point. The other half is that Wolff makes the reversal seem inevitable: the dog has attacked his protagonist's young daughter. And everywhere in The Night in Question, we are reminded that truth is deceptive, volatile, and often the last thing we want to know.
A young reporter writes an obituary only to be fired when its subject walks into his office, very much alive. A soldier in Vietnam goads his lieutenant into sending him on increasingly dangerous missions. An impecunious mother and son go window-shopping for a domesticity that is forever beyond their grasp. Seamless, ironic, dizzying in their emotional aptness, these fifteen stories deliver small, exquisite shocks that leave us feeling invigorated and intensely alive.
The 14 stories in Tobias Wolff's third collection encompasses characters who are pitilessly revealed in the sometimes mundane, sometimes extreme circumstances of everyday life--many of them children, or soldiers in Vietnam. "The Chain" begins with a dog's attack on a child and moves through a series of horrifying vengeful events on the part of her father. "Smorgasbord" is set in a prep school and involves the sexy mother of a fabulously wealthy student. In "Flyboys," Wolff evokes the awkward world of adolescence in which few things are more frightening than family tragedy and the emotions that accompany it. In "Firelight"--an echo of Wolff's memoir THIS BOY'S LIFE--as a boy and his mother look at apartments they can't afford to rent, the child glimpses an idyllic scene that is forever closed to him--but that, in the end may not be what it seems. As always, Wolff writes with searing honesty and a pitch-perfect ear for the way people talk--and think.
- Fiction + Literature Themes
- Literary Genres + Types of Novels
- October 1, 1997
- October 1, 1997
- Tobias Wolff