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Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,547 ratings  ·  185 reviews
“One of our most exquisite storytellers” (Esquire) gives us his first collection in over a decade: ten potent new stories that, along with twenty-one classics, display his mastery over a quarter century.

Tobias Wolff’s first two books, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs and Back in the World, were a powerful demonstration of how the short story can “provoke our ama
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Knopf (first published 2008)
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"Siete tutta fiducia nel futuro, il luogo dove ogni cosa andrà a posto. E compassione per il passato, il luogo dove ogni cosa può essere perdonata, una volta compresa. Guardi, lei non capisce niente di storia. Di quanto sia compiuta, storica, appunto. Non se ne può redimere un solo giorno, un solo istante, nemmeno con tutta la benevolenza e la comprensione del mondo. Si può solo frequentarla come si fa con un cimitero, cappello in mano. Si possono leggere le iscrizioni sulle lapidi. Riscriverle, ...more
Tobias Wolff is the acknowledged master of the short story form, and I would argue memoir as well. After briefly meeting the author for the first time, I know that the gravitas and succinctness of his language is balanced by an equally perceptive mind and a quickness of intelligence that seems to catch the slightness shimmer in the light of human discourse. It is here he pounces and finds the meat of these startling and gripping stories. There are new stories in this collection, reflecting the w ...more

When it comes to mapping the calibrations of the human heart, no writer working today is as exacting a cartographer as Tobias Wolff. Bucking the modernist tide, Wolff writes shapely short stories with structural integrity about ordinary people with desperation haunting their souls. No meditative drift or open-ended conclusions for this writer; he’s an old-fashioned storyteller in the best sense of that word.

As amply demonstrated in Our Story Begins, a brilliant collection of hi
Wolff is arguably our best short story writer, the American most likely to fall short of William Trevor or Alice Munro in the world competition. (If you’re interested in the argument there is Edward Jones and E. Annie Proulx to consider. And others I’m sure. For example, I’ve not yet read Deborah Eisenberg, whose name also hits such lists.) This collection of thirty-one stories spanning Wolff’s career has a number of choice stories (“In the Garden of the North American Martyrs,” “The Liar,” “The ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Acclaimed writer Marianne Wiggins notes in the Los Angles Times: "When it's done well, the economy, the rigor, the precision that the [short story] demands are hardly noticed by its consumer. But it is more difficult to write, in its line-to-line execution, than any other narrative conceit. And Tobias Wolff is a genius at it." That assessment sums up the general opinion of Wolff's many reviewers, who praise his mastery of the form, his compassion, and his openness to life's many twists and turns

Simon A. Smith
I may be a little bias on this one, cause if you ask me (go ahead, ask!) I'll tell you that I think Tobias Wolff is the greatest living American writer. This greatest hits collection has all of his best stories: "In the Garden of North American Martyrs," "Hunters in the Snow" (one of my all-time favs) "Flyboys," "The Other Miller," "Smorgasbord," "The Night in Question," and "Bullet in the Brain" (another all-time great.)

Reading Wolff is like taking a graduate level writing course on literary fi
A great collection, on the whole. There are many gems here, to be sure, but there also seems to be a lack of impact in some. Firelight, for example, has a slow and haunting resonance, as do The Other Miller and Bullet in the Brain-- others seem to miss the mark, leaving me without (as one reviewer put it)"the distant, gradual ache of understanding" I've come to expect from Wolff. So great is my faith in Wolff's skill that I find myself flipping back through those works that seem to disappoint, p ...more
دلم میخواد بهش3.5 بدم ولی دلم نمیاد بهش 4 بدم.چیکار باید کرد آیا؟؟
As a general rule I tend to shy away from books with photos of the author on the back cover. This one has an author photo on the front cover! Ahhh! At least his name isn't in larger font than the title....

I had not read anything by Tobias Wolff before this, and found the entire volume to be very satisfying. One of the reviews on the back cover compares him to Chekhov, which is funny because I just so happened to be reading Chekhov concurrently. I see the similarities the reviewer points out, but
Carly Safko
Tobias Wolff writes a short story the old-fashioned way: beginning, middle, end, with a climax and some resonance in there somewhere. In that he resembles luminaries like Flannery O'Connor and Jhumpa Lahiri, as well as more mechanical writers like O. Henry.

You could say he specializes in unreliable narrators, but I think that's too narrow a characterization. Wolff's narrators are all lacking in common sense and self-awareness, often to the point of being tragically oblivious. In fact, you could
Angie Taylor
I'm not that good at critiquing the form and technique of books, and when I attempt to critique them I don't know the correct terminology and I end up babbling. Having said that, is easy to see that Tobias Wolff is a master at creating a short story with a beginning, middle, and end in just a few short pages. However, for me reading stories is so much driven by how I connect to the characters and the emotions evoked. Wolff is known for writing stories that illustrate the duplicitous nature in ev ...more
Wow, nearly all of them little polished gems. I liked the older ones better than the new ones, I think, and would like to sit down with some of my favorites and really look at the construction of each. They feel built, not in any artificial way but in a very careful structural fashion that works on a lot of levels at once. For short story folks, highly recommended.
Fille Fleur
This is a really really good collection of short stories. It's like I've found another brilliant short story writer after Raymond Carver and Alive Munro to adore :))

Tobias Wolff's stories tell me about ordinary American people, both rich and poor, blue-collar and white-collar, lucky and unlucky, content with life or in a mishap, but they all face the struggle to overcome the harshness life has given them, and all the shit other people have thrown at them, while trying their best to remain the pe
Quang Khuê
Truyện cuối cùng trong cuốn sách viết về một sự đầu tiên: cuộc tình đầu tiên. Tình cũ không rủ cũng tới, cái truyện này làm mình nhớ đến "Phía nam biên giới, phía tây mặt trời" của HM, mối tình đầu luôn có một sức hút mãnh liệt kéo người ta về quá khứ. Mọi thứ lần đầu đều khó quên. Hem phải vì nó đẹp, nó đau đớn, vui sướng hay gì gì, nó khó quên vì nó là lần đầu. Nguyên tắc quan trọng này có thể áp dụng trong mọi lĩnh vực. Nghe đâu hồi xưa trong chiến tranh lạnh, Mỹ với Nga cũng cố chen lấn nhau ...more
¡Odio las mudanzas! Llegas a tu nueva casa y no sabes dónde está nada. Te has de acostumbrar a la nueva distribución de habitaciones y de muebles. Las primeras noches apenas duermes porque no acabas de adaptarte a las nuevas vistas desde la cama. Y así con todo hasta que no pasan unos días o semanas. Pues para mí leer estos cuentos (y casi cualquier antología) me ha supuesto una mudanza constante. Comienzo el cuento, conozco a los personajes, unos empiezan a gustarme más que otros. Me adentro en ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Sally rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sally by: Word for Word
I attended a wonderful performance by Word for Word, a San Francisco-based professional acting troupe that narrated/acted out three of Tobias Wolff's short stories from this collection. An inspired performance that inspired me to pick up this book. Actually, I'm listening to the stories on audio during my commute (downloaded from the Northern California Digital Library/Overdrive - available for free from our Library).

I'm about half way into this collection of stories. The narrator (Anthony Heald
Jenny Shank

Master of the craft
Wolff's greatest hits so far share precision of language, humor, moral complexity
By Jenny Shank, Special to the Rocky
Published March 28, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

If any short story writer working today has earned the right to release his greatest hits, it's Tobias Wolff.

Wolff has been at the top of his game for a long time - so long that many young writers have probably grown old watching him hit homers while they sit on the bench, waiting for
On the back of my copy of Tobias Wolff’s Our Story Begins, there is one blurb from the San Francisco Chronicle that proclaims his stories as “sublime art.” Now, for me at least, when you toss that one around (“sublime art”) you’re getting into code words for Chekhov. Now, Chekhov is Mr. Sublime himself. The fact that this sublimity can continue to exist through the filter of translation is nothing short of astounding. That said, let me lay this marker down, Wolff is no Chekhov. What you’ll find ...more
These are piercing stories. Many of them are told by or about children of different ages, adolescents, but also adults. They usually start out in a state of hopelessness and are driven to despair by the end of the story, possibly elated by it.
Many stories juxtapose two different events, states or processes in the lives of their protagonists. This juxtaposition, in a subtle, irrational way defines precisely the person in question, like two points define a line. These people may be "unreliable", b
Eliza Victoria
The bullet is already in the brain; it won’t be outrun forever, or charmed to a halt. In the end it will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet’s tail of memory and hope and talent and love into the marble hall of commerce. That can’t be helped.

- “Bullet in the Brain”, Tobias Wolff

Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain” is one of those stories that, no matter how many times I read it, will always bowl me over. Here, Anders, an obnoxious critic waiting in line inside a bank, is
Patrick McCoy
Tobias Wolff is one of the finest short story writers alive today and I was eagerly awaiting his latest collection Our Story Begins. I was a little disappointed to see that it was “new and selected stories”-mostly selected stories. But it turns out that he has re-edited the selected stories and there were several from the one collection I have yet to read: In The Garden of North American Martyrs. This includes the excellent title story, which was the first Wolff story I ever read in an anthology ...more
Jim Marshall
Toby Wolff is one of those writers--Richard Ford, Alice Munroe, Ian McEwan, and Phillip Roth are others--who always set me back on my heels with their unflinching, clear-eyed view of human aspiration and failure. This collection of Wolff's stories can be read front to back, and in every piece I found something to think hard about. There are some classics from Wolff's earlier work. "Hunters in the Snow"and "Desert Breakdown, 1968," for instance, are sobering reminders how characters can talk them ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
This is an amazing collection of short stories that anyone would enjoy. Wolff is capable of writing from the perspective of a diverse range of people of various ages, genders, stations in life, etc. with a true and natural voice. He can remember precisely what it was like to be a kid interacting with inscrutable and fallible parents, or a young parent, or a young lover, both the wronged and the wrong-doer. Some themes -- the military lifestyle, single-parent households, the death of a loved one ...more
Ally Armistead
A solid collection of stories from the one and only Tobias Wolff. Comprised of old and new, Wolff renders his stories in a voice so genuine and unselfconscious that you feel, at times, that the man is sitting right across from you, drinking a beer. My first encounter with Wolff was "This Boy's Life," and if you loved that memoir, you will most certainly enjoy this collection.

What I most admire about Wolff is his precision of the human psyche, of each character. He is disciplined, restrained, an
This was the first time I'd read anything by Tobias Wolff, although I've undoubtedly read some of his pieces in The New Yorker without really realizing they were by him. You know, you read The New Yorker, you read a lot of great stuff and then you go to next week's issue. That's a careless mistake I won't make again, I'll be on the lookout for anything he writes.

A friend suggested I read one of the stories in the collection, one about a brother and sister who were abused as children, and the sis
Ya va siendo hora que deje de fingir que voy a terminar este libro en un futuro cercano. Me encantó 'Vieja escuela' de Tobias Wolff (diría que es uno de los libros que más me han encantado en mi vida) y tenía muchas esperanzas puestas en esta recopilación de cuentos. Sólo que no hay manera. No es que sean malos. Simplemente son tediosos. Lo curioso del caso es que el primer cuento que encabeza el recopilatorio ('En el jardín de los mártires norteamericanos') es magistral. Cuenta la historia que ...more
M. M. Sana
I listened to this on audio cd. It is read by Anthony Heald, who did not do Tobias Wolff's stories any justice! However the stories were so well written that it actually made it easier to ignore Heald's flaws.

Very few of the stories were a little over my head, but I got the jist of them (i.e. Lavaithin).

The short stories in this book are:
-In the Garden of the North American Martyr
-Next Door
-Hunters in the Snow
-The Liar
-Soldier's Joy
-The Rich Brother
-Dessert Breakdown 1968
-Say Yes
Kevin Fanning
I skipped around and read about half of the stories, maybe a little more, but I'm ready to be done now. The stories strike me as well-crafted in a traditional sense, but they're incredibly depressing. Wolff seems to writing more from a morally instructive perspective than a loving perspective, i.e. "Look at the decisions THESE people are making, look at what this couple thinks passes for a conversation, can you BELIEVE these people?!?!" It doesn't make for fun reading, and I can't imagine it was ...more
Bojan Tunguz
For many decades Tobias Wolff has been considered one of the preeminent American short story writers. He also happens to be my own favorite modern short story writer, and I have been eagerly reading as many of his works as I was able to lay my hands on.

“Our Story Begins” is a collection of many of the Wolff’s “greatest hits,” as well as several stories that have only recently been published. Fans of Wolff’s oeuvre will doubtlessly be familiar with many of the stories in this collection, if not
My first encounter with Tobias Wolff was on a podcast there another author read one one his short stories out loud, and it was Bullet in the brain.. I was amazed, I couldn't grasp how someone could have written something so clever, with such an ease, and how he told so much with the things he didn't tell. So I wanted his book Our story begins so badly because I wanted to see if this cool story was just a fluke or if I would find more stories to fall in love with.

My boyfriend, the love of my lif
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Greatest American short story writer? 3 9 Apr 20, 2014 09:59AM  
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Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is a writer of fiction and nonfiction.

He is best known for his short stories and his memoirs, although he has written two novels.

Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writ
More about Tobias Wolff...
This Boy's Life Old School The Night in Question In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

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“Reasons always came with a purpose, to give the appearance of a struggle between principle and desire. Principle had power only until you found what you had to have.” 6 likes
“You can’t be selfish. But we men-it’s a wonder we forget ourselves long enough to buy a birthday card. As for love... we can love, but we’re always forgetting.” 4 likes
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