The Night In Question: Stories
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The Night In Question: Stories

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,782 ratings  ·  195 reviews
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 Questi...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Maciek
I liked this collection - the first one I've read by Tobias Wolff, a writer that I always meant to read but somehow never did. Wolff is mainly a short story author, which is a declining profession in this day and age - instead of being published in various magazines as they were ages ago, short stories seem to be retreating back to literary journals which hardly anybody reads and fat anthologies which people purchase and put on their shelves. There's real perspective of the short story actually...more
Rick Strong
I discovered this collection of short stories in the small library in my co-op's laundry room, and what a happy chance meeting it has been. Every story in this collection made me say to myself: Damn, I wish I could write like that! Clear, unpretentious, economical, wry, emotionally authentic, and with unexpected twists and developments that knocked me on my mind's ass and made me think about the stories for hours after reading them. The last story in the book, Bullet In The Brain, stays with me...more
Andrea
All because of "Bullet in the Brain." The first time I encountered this story was at a Tobias Wolff reading, and those were shimmering minutes (especially the last half of the story). A few years later I was lucky enough to see the premiere of Word for Word's theatrical (and word-for-word) adaptation of the piece. I think of this story often, and it reminds me again and again to be present, to be present, to be awake and to enjoy.
Will Byrnes
Man bites dog. Of course the pooch had it coming.

In noted memoirist and short story master Tobias Wolff’s third collection of stories, that particular nibble leads to a sequence of events that would have made O Henry nod in appreciation. And this should come as no surprise. Wolff has won three O Henry awards for his short fiction. In addition he has won a Pen/Faulker, a Story Prize and Rea Award. His work is mentioned in the same breath as that of Raymond Carver. They were both on the Syracuse...more
Shaun
Wow. This is definitely a 6 or 7 star book/collection of short stories, IMO. Strong, memorable characters? Yes. Interesting and engaging plot lines? Yes. Lots of wisdom and insight? Yes. Plenty of humor and even a few laugh-out-loud moments? Yes. And perhaps the most important, a moment capable of giving you the shivers? Yes.

Excerpt from Sanity and referring to books written on sexual technique:

"People write about technique," she said, "as if it's the whole ball game, which is a complete joke. Y
...more
David Haight
I came across Tobais Wolff as a result of Carver and Cheever. I have to say that I am very happy that I did. Clearly someone who has mastered the short story form, Wolff writes about the small conflicts of every day life with a sharp eye, keen wit and palpable sensitivity and unlike Carver he isn't awash in booze and constant anguish (which isn't a critique of Carver who I love). The stories range from the heartbreaks of unrequited love as a teenager to class struggle to a man biting a dog's ear...more
Jacob
September/October 2011

An obituary writer discovers that one of his subjects is still alive, a soldier takes advantage of a bureaucratic mix-up, boys get side-tracked in their airplane-building project, and one man's retaliation against a dog attack leads to unforeseen but devastating consequences. And others. I haven't read Wolff before, so I don't really share the admiration and excitement expressed by other reviewers (really, I just bought it because there was a train on the cover), but I like...more
John
All of Wolff's stories, with the exception of maybe three, are exquisitely crafted. Putting on my pompous hat, I'd say Wolff masterfully distills the essence of the hidden miracles of everyday experience, effectuating something wonderfully blah blah blah, etc. etc. Gems include: "Two Boys and a Girl," "Smorgasbord," the eponymous story, "Firelight," and the first one about the obits writer. I'd even name the last one as a gem, too, if I were to re-read it.
Martha
واقعا مجموعه داستان فوق العاده ای بود. لذت بردم بیشتر از شیوه روایت که محشر بود...یک دنیاتشکر مجدد ازمهران نجفی برای اینکه این اثر را پیشنهاد کردند.با اجازه رعنا ولیلی دوستا خوبم میخوام از شیوه شان استفاده کنم و هر کدام از داستانهای این مجموعه را ستاره باران کنم.:)داستان قربانی واقعا داستان جذابی بود...شیوه سادستیک راوی در روایت محشر بود که در داستانهای دیگه به نوبه ی خود با تفاوت هایی تکرار شد.داستان قربانی 2ستاره ناقابل با اغماض می گیرد.داستان برف 3 ستاره؛ واقعا داستان دوست داشتنی بود. من واقع...more
Katherine
"'I'm a survivor,' I said. But I didn't think that claim would carry much weight in an obituary" (11).
"Through the crazed Plexiglass she could make out some small islands and the white glint of a shit in the apex of its wake" (34).
"Like being in a speedboat, only better. You can't go downhill in a boat" (37).
"At night, after he'd prepared his classes, he drank wine and read nineteenth-century novels. He didn't like modern fiction, its narcissism, its moral timidity, its silence in the face of gr...more
Hutarch
These stories exhibit Wolff's strengths: brisk narrative flow, memorable characters that come to life in a few strokes, the odd nugget of wisdom, and pithy metaphors.

I love Wolff, and this collection is no disappointment. There are some fine stories here; my favorite is the title story. In it, Wolff is able to tell a one-scene story that magically, it would seem, conjures up the full lives and histories of a brother and sister and their family history. I also really like "The Life of the Body."

S...more
Larry Bassett
I am attracted to the idea of short stories so sometimes I have gone on a run of buying used short story books. So it makes sense that I might occasionally go on a run of reading short story books. I am not familiar with this author and had no special reason that I can recall for picking out The Night in Question.

But the first story intrigues me so I think I will read on. A writer has recently landed a job as the obituary man for the local paper but is fired when one of his subjects turns up ali...more
Roberta
Ci sentiamo obbligati a sorridere delle passioni dei giovani, e di ciò che ricordiamo delle nostre personali passioni giovanili, come se non fossero altro che una serie di dolci inganni con cui ci siamo baloccati, prima di mettere giudizio. Non parlo solo della passione che i ragazzi e le ragazze provano gli uni per gli altri ma anche delle altre passioni, la passione per la giustizia, la passione di fare ciò che è giusto fare a costo di rigirare il mondo come un guanto. Tutte queste passioni a...more
Matt Evans
I’ve grown weary of a certain type of fiction. Fiction that presents itself as fiction. Better said, fiction whose language strives (w/o precision) for poetry’s vague enchantments, and whose stories and details are of the kind that fruity old professors speak about in succulent terms, terms like pieces of brownly broiled chicken, these professors smacking their lips maddeningly on nothing but their ideas of something juicy. Somewhere a saucy Shakespearean actor shouts the word, “acting,” pronoun...more
Nick

REVIEW

I had never heard of Tobias Wolff before randomly finding this book in a thrift store, but a little internet research pre-read told me I should have. It turned out he was heavily lauded and showered with awards and adoration, and also published some semi-classics, such as In Pharoah's Army. Fortified with this information, I actually held off on the book, secure in the fact that it would be an interesting read for a later day, and also looking forward to challenging the esteem of such a pr...more
Michael Meyerhofer
I've only read Tobias Wolff's short stories--both this book and the ones from "In the Garden of the North American Martyrs"--but this collection left me speechless. Story after story elegantly focuses on the everyday happenings of mostly "ordinary" people with a keen, often whimsical attention to detail that reminds me of eastern poets. Yet Wolff blends his take on things with a distinctly "American" flavor--an American writer at his best. Stories like "The Chain" and "Bullet in the Brain" are b...more
Derek
The only thing stopping me from saying "Flyboys" is the best story in The Night in Question is the absolute perfection of "Bullet in the Brain," and the only thing stopping me from saying "Bullet in the Brain" is the best story ever is, well, I don't know. I had the awesome pleasure of getting to hear Tobias Wolff read that story (as well as some of Old School) when he gave a reading in Pittsburgh a few years ago. I had liked the story before, but after his reading I loved it, and I can't say at...more
Anne
Author of This Boy's Life, Wolff's writing is straight-forward and engaging, with characters who end up in situations that are not quite always what they seem, yet still always strangely familiar. This collection of short stories does not have a single narrative theme or subject matter - but rather is a collection of writing Wolff has earlier published in magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic. My favorites included "The Other Miller" about an American soldier in Vietnam who is told t...more
Jesse
What a masterful book of short stories. I agree with other reviewers who say that Wolff has matured and really found his voice. His first book of stories, while brilliant, had a tendency to peter out, while this collection contains stories that are well crafted and self-sustaining. He is a master at avoiding short story let down (defined as: the feelings of frustration that acompany the end of a short story; once you start to relate to a character and care about what happens to him, the story en...more
Joshua Rivera
The main story I loved from this book was Bullet in the Brain. I loved how Wolff displayed the character Anders from sarcastic ass when living to a young innocent kid who cherishes his life after the bullet entered his brain. It was a twist that I didn’t see coming, a twist that makes the reader hate Anders in the beginning to feeling sorry for him at the end. I learned how to better formulate character progression even if the character isn’t physically living and how to incorporate better twist...more
Michelle
This collection didn't really "wow" me. I think it was because the stories seemed like they were trying too hard to shock the reader, and it just wasn't working for me. Some of the stories were very good, others were just eh. I wondered why they were included at all.

My favorite of the collection was called, "Chain." I also liked "Casualty" and "The Other Miller," both of which took place during the Vietnam War. I can't seem to get away from Vietnam stories lately. I don't normally read them, bu...more
Sara
It took me awhile to get through these stories and I'm glad to be done with them, but in like the best possible way. Wolff has a really brutal touch, and each story sort of curls up inside you as you read it, only to be ripped out once it's finished. I got into the habit of reading a few stories before going to sleep, and I think that's the best way to do it - that way each one can really settle into your bones. Dude's a genius, but I'm not sure I'll seek out his work again, there are only so ma...more
Timothy Limner
Excellent compilation of shorts capped off with possibly the best short story I've ever read, "Bullet In The Brain", a story of a jaded book critic that critiques everything and everyone around him. Of course, his mouth gets him in trouble and he gets shot in the head, but while the bullet travels through his brain he remembers a more innocent time from his childhood. Brilliantly written. I got a chance to go to a reading where Mr. Wolff read "Bullet..." and his delivery was amazing.
Carrie
So good.

I've been sitting here for a solid five minutes trying to nail down what it is about Wolff's style that I found so engaging, and I'm at a loss. I don't know that I could identify a throughline in these stories other than to say that they were each surprising in some way.

They are mostly really quick reads. I stayed up way too late because I wanted to finish reading it. I woke up, started to put the book in my bad, and was sad when I remembered that there was no more.
Mister
This is a short story collection I picked up on a whim and was impressed by. What I found engaging about these stories is how well they captured their subject at a particular moment in their life and often left ambiguous the consequences of the actions and decisions in the story. I found myself thinking about a number of these stories for some time after I read one. Well written stuff.
Malbadeen
reading these stories felt mostly like this:
chop, chop, chop, stomach knot, chop, chop, slam.

"The Chain" was my favorite until the over the top, hit you on the head, annoyingly obtuse last paragraph.
Carl Berger
An excellent anthology. The last story in the book is worth reading the entire book.
J
I really am reading this one too. Very slowly. One word at a time.
Jeremy
Wolff has this infuriating way of taking a story, introducing tension, and then abruptly ending it in a tangential way that leaves me thinking: What was this story...about...? Not that it's bad writing. On the contrary, at times it is *too* good, too perfect. I love fiction writing that tells me something about myself or the human condition with well-rounded, fleshed out characters. I think Wolff fails, for me, on the account that these stories seem (to me) shallow in those ways, while he is try...more
Paul
Dec 20, 2009 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Hmm. I don't know. I really don't. These stories are all well-written; Wolff has poise, control, restraint, his characters are efficiently and fully formed, the situations are both believable and resonant/touching, and he doesn't (for the most part) rely on style or unorthodox voice to drive his stories (not that there would be anything wrong with doing so). And yet, though. I think the problem I had most often with these stories was that so often he creates such a compelling context/etc. for th...more
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Is Wolff our greatest living short story writer? 6 12 Jan 14, 2014 04:23AM  
  • Rock Springs
  • The Pugilist at Rest
  • The Point and Other Stories
  • Selected Stories
  • The Watch
  • Emperor of the Air
  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Ice at the Bottom of the World: Stories
  • The Stories of Richard Bausch
  • Where You'll Find Me: And Other Stories
  • Among the Missing
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Coast of Chicago: Stories
  • Big Bad Love
  • Airships
  • Kentucky Straight: Stories
7371
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
More about Tobias Wolff...
This Boy's Life Old School In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

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“I'm a survivor, " I said. But I didn't think that claim would carry much weight in an obituary.” 4 likes
“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.”
4 likes
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