Our Story Begins (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Although Tobias Wolff is probably best known as the author of the memoir This Boy’s Life (1989), an account of his youthful struggles with a brutal stepfather that was made into a 1993 film starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, his critical reputation rests largely on his three collections of short stories. Our Story Begins includes stories from each of these books, as well as ten new ones.
His first collection, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs (1981), was well received by critics, several stories becoming favorite anthology pieces read widely by university students. The title story centers on a female history professor who goes for a job interview, only to find out that she has been invited merely to satisfy an affirmative-action requirement. When she presents a public lecture as part of the interview, she ignores her prepared paper and launches into a passionate account of how the Iroquois once captured two Jesuit priests in the area, graphically describing the tortures they suffered. She quotes one of the priests who, just before his agonizing death, tells his torturers to mend their lives. When the professorial audience tries to shout her down, she continues to exhort them to turn from power to love, to walk humbly. She even turns off her hearing aid so she will not be distracted. The story is an example...
(The entire section is 1869 words.)
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