Larry Alfred Woiwode (WI-wood-ee) grew up in Sykeston, North Dakota, a predominantly German settlement in a rugged, often forbidding, terrain. It is this area that was probably the source of the author’s appreciation of the effect of nature upon the individual. When he was ten years old, Woiwode and his family moved to Manito, Illinois, another evocatively Midwestern environment that fostered his descriptive powers. He attended the University of Illinois intermittently between 1960 and 1964 but failed to complete his B.A. After leaving with an associate of arts degree in rhetoric he married Carol Ann Patterson in 1965 and moved to New York, where he supported his family with freelance writing, publishing in The New Yorker and other periodicals while he worked on two novels simultaneously.
Woiwode’s first novel, What I’m Going to Do, I Think, appeared in 1969 and won the William Faulkner Foundation Award as the most notable first novel of 1969; it brought him immediate and favorable critical attention. An absorbing study of two newlyweds, the title accentuates the protagonists’ self-doubt and indecision as each contemplates the responsibility of couples and parents in an age lacking a transcendent faith in an all-wise, benevolent God. As an intense, psychological study of two troubled individuals, What I’m Going to Do, I Think stands in marked contrast to Woiwode’s later work in both narrative strategy and characterization, but it shares with all Woiwode’s output a commitment to portraying the value of “walking by faith, not by sight” in human relationships, of trusting one’s parents, spouse, and children to help one navigate through a hostile world.
Woiwode’s second novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall, is an expansive, comic novel that reads as a discontinuous montage of events, images, and personality. Published in 1975, but actually begun earlier than his first published novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall is an engaging homage to the seemingly evaporating nuclear and extended families of mid-twentieth century America. True to its subtitle, A Family Album, Woiwode parades before the reader sixty-three different characters before the beginning of chapter 3. Critics have remarked upon the sentimental, “old-fashioned” quality Woiwode achieves in this family chronicle and his eloquent evocation of once-embraced, now-lamented...
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