William Hoffman Criticism - Essay

Gloria Galloway (review date 7 April 1968)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Author First Wrote Love Letters for a Fee,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, April 7, 1968, p. H14.

[In the following essay, Galloway traces Hoffman's early experiences as a writer, his relationship with his wife, and discusses with the author aspects of Hoffman's house in the town of Charlotte Court House, Virginia.]

Author William Hoffman, who got his “professional” writing start composing love letters for classmates at the tender age of 16, now finds himself cast in the role of country squire.

As author-in-residence at Hampden-Sydney College, he teaches creative writing, a field dear to his heart, and as the owner of “Wynard,” a pre...

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Robert Buffington (review date Winter 1972)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Intolerable Wrestle,” in Modern Age, Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter, 1972, pp. 109-11.

[In the following review of A Walk to the River, Buffington discusses Hoffman's Southern concerns and prose style, finding shortcomings in the novel's dramatization.]

William Hoffman is one of the writers indicted in Floyd C. Watkins’ The Death of Art: Black and White in the Recent Southern Novel (University of Georgia Press, 1970). Professor Watkins’ thesis, simple to argue, is that the fictions of Hoffman, Carson McCullers, Elizabeth Spencer, Harper Lee, Jesse Hill Ford, Peter S. Feibleman, and others, including even William Faulkner and Robert Penn...

(The entire section is 1109 words.)

Gary Davenport (review date Summer 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Fugitive Hero in New Southern Fiction,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. XCI, No. 3, Summer, 1983, pp. 439-45.

[In the following excerpt, Davenport offers a positive assessment of The Land That Drank the Rain.]

Being an American, over a century after Henry James’s celebrated remark, is still a complex fate. What is perhaps more noteworthy in our age of easy mobility, mass communication, and increasing national uniformity is that it is still a complex fate—and a virtually unique fate—to be a southerner. More accurately it is a paradoxical fate. The southerner exists at the intersection of two deeply rooted conflicting traditions: on the one hand stand...

(The entire section is 1568 words.)

Walter Sullivan (review date Fall 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “About Any Kind of Meanness You Can Name,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. XCIII, No. 4, Fall, 1985, pp. 649-56.

[In the following excerpt, Sullivan commends Hoffman's prose style but finds Godfires to be a reprise of well-worn views and attitudes about the contemporary American South.]

The three novels discussed here are all more or less southern, but otherwise they are about as different as they could be. The hero of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, from which I take my title, is born in Tennessee, but the action of the novel occurs in the American West. Lewis Green's The Silence of Snakes is set in the mountains of North Carolina between the world wars,...

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Robert Merritt (review date 3 April 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Spirit Prevails in Well-Crafted Tales,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, April 3, 1988, p. F5.

[In the following review of By Land, By Sea, Merritt praises Hoffman's abilities as a literary craftsman and poignant storyteller.]

William Hoffman is an old-fashioned writer, and this seems to account for both the pleasures of his stories and for some of their annoying traits.

Being an old-fashioned writer from Virginia—Hoffman lives in Charlotte County and was for seven years writer-in-residence at Hampden-Sydney College—means that these stories are close to the land and occasionally to the Chesapeake Bay, and they belong to the sense of...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Christine Neuberger (review date 15 May 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Southside Life Inspires Author,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, May 15, 1988, pp. C1–C2.

[In the following review, Neuberger relates how Hoffman enjoys living in a small, agrarian community in Virginia, and discusses the inspiration Hoffman draws from the landscape and the people around him.]

Like almost everyone else in this small Southside town. Bill Hoffman can be seen each morning ambling to the post office, greeting others along the way.

In the afternoons, Hoffman will do chores around the small farm he and his wife share with their horses, dogs and cats.

But a typical resident of Southside, Hoffman is not.


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Greg Johnson (review date Summer 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Wonderful Geographies,” in Georgia Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, Summer, 1989, pp. 406-16.

[In the following excerpt, Johnson offers a favorable evaluation of By Land, By Sea, though arguing that some of the stories “lapse into melodrama.”]

“The truth is,” Eudora Welty has written, “fiction depends for its life on place.” Her well-known essay, “Place in Fiction,” champions the significance of a story’s setting: “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable as art, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.” The importance of location, according to Welty, transcends any critical commonplaces about...

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William Frank (review date 21 March 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman Doesn't Dodge Life,” in the Farmville Herald, March 21, 1990, pp. A1, A3.

[The following review of Furors Dieprovides a plot summary of the novel and lauds Hoffman's abilities as a skilled writer, praising his proficiency with symbolism, language, satire, and setting.]

To the followers of the fiction of William Hoffman, it will come as no surprise that he has dedicated his latest novel—his tenth, Furors Die—to his former minister and his wife. In the first place, Bill Hoffman has always been interested in, and, in his fiction, has never dodged questions of a moral, philosophical, or theological nature: One recalls immediately Tod...

(The entire section is 985 words.)

Robert Merritt (review date 20 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Old-Fashioned Values,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, May 20, 1990, p. G5.

[In the following brief review of Furors Die, Merritt praises Hoffman's talent for describing character and place, but denounces the novel for its old-fashioned attitudes, particularly in regard to its portrayal of sexual relations.]

When William Hoffman is described as an “old-fashioned” writer, what it means is that he's a Southern writer who tries to maintain the old Southern values—to life, as well as literature—in a changing world. In this, his 10th novel, the former writer-in-residence at Hampden-Sydney College and longtime resident of Charlotte Courthouse tries to...

(The entire section is 342 words.)

William L. Frank (essay date February 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Fiction of William Hoffman: An Introduction,” in Hollins Critic, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, February, 1991, pp. 1-10.

[In the following essay, Frank provides an overview of the central themes, regional settings and motifs, prose style, and narrative presentation in Hoffman's fiction. Frank's analysis, which aims to enlarge Hoffman's readership, focuses on several representative works—the novels The Trumpet Unblown, The Land That Drank the Rain, and Godfires, and the short story collection By Land, By Sea.]

During the past thirty-five years William Hoffman has published ten novels, two collections of short stories, and over three dozen...

(The entire section is 5852 words.)

Gary Davenport (review date Spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fiction and the Furniture of Consciousness,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. C, No. 2, Spring, 1992, pp. 323-30.

[In the following excerpt, Davenport praises Hoffman's skill as a novelist and offers a positive assessment of Furors Die.]

“Caelum, non animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt”: those who rush across the sea change their climate, not their minds. Thus ran Horace’s advice to his travelling friend Bullatius. Given the right sort of mind, you will find what you seek anywhere, even at squalid Ulubrae—or, given the wrong sort, nowhere. Horace’s line has enjoyed a modicum of fame, no doubt because there have always been enough impenetrably...

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Ron Carter (review date 11 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman Energizes His Tales,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, September 11, 1994, p. F4.

[In the following brief review of the short stories in Follow Me Home, Carter deems the tales to be carefully constructed, humorous, and compelling, but denounces Hoffman for the fact that some of the stories and dialogue seem contrived.]

“We read to know we're not alone,” says a character in the recent film, Shadowlands. Literature comforts us with the knowledge that others share our doubts and fears, our disappointments and heartaches. And it extends this comfort by letting us enter the lives of others and experience the secret longings and broken...

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Fred Chappell (essay date Summer 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Taking Measure: Violent Intruders in William Hoffman's Short Fiction,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. CIV, No. 3, Summer, 1996, pp. 396-412.

[In the following essay, Chappell draws attention to the recurring motif of an outsider entering into an insular community, or “pocket society,” in Hoffman's short fiction. As Chappell notes, this theme in Hoffman's stories is often dramatized by episodes of violence and menacing reversals that give depth, suspense, and resolution to his narratives.]

The term pocket society describes a definable aggregate of individual people that possesses recognizable dynamic qualities and important, though often changeable,...

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Bill Frank (review date 1 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman's Novel ‘Tight, Taut, Compelling …’,” in Farmville Herald, April 1, 1998, p. 2B.

[In the following review, Frank enthusiastically praises the literary merits and compelling, thrilling story in Tidewater Blood.]

Move over John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell and Sue Grafton—there's a new kid on the mystery writer's block! Charlotte County novelist William Hoffman's Tidewater Blood is tight, taut, compelling and convincing.

Two months ago my wife and I were on our way to visit my brother in New Port Richey, Florida via Savannah, Georgia. Courtesy of my wife's sister we had with us a twelve hour tape of Dean Koontz'...

(The entire section is 1229 words.)

Ron Carter (review date 12 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman Turns to Suspense,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, April 12, 1998, p. F4.

[In the following review, Carter lauds Hoffman's characterization and sense of place in Tidewater Blood,but denounces the author for couching the deeper story about the conflict between Virginians and West Virginians within the trappings of a murder mystery.]

Although Cold Mountain and Paradise have managed recently to elbow their way onto the bestseller lists, the top slots are still populated mainly by novels about secret political/economic/terrorist cabals threatening to destroy entire populations unless their demands are met.

In such...

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Bill McKelway (review date 29 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Surprise Ending,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, April 29, 1998, p. D1, D3.

[In the following review, McKelway extols the virtues of Tidewater Blood, noting that the book marks a departure for Hoffman due to its suspense thriller characteristics, whereas his other works typically feature philosophical examinations and deeper symbolic levels at their core.]

He doesn't remember exactly when the idea came to him, but it dawned on Virginia writer William Hoffman that murdering someone with a time-delayed explosion would make for a novel crime.

Fortunately, the idea has spawned a possible best seller rather than a police record.


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Steve Clark (review date 30 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “His Novel's Success is ‘Thrilling’ News,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, April 30, 1998, p. B1.

[In the following review, Clark discusses the release of Tidewater Blood, noting Hoffman's easy-going affability and the author's venture into the suspense thriller market with the novel.]

William “Bill” Hoffman came to town yesterday to promote his new novel, Tidewater Blood.

The book, a modern suspense thriller involving an aristocratic Virginia family whose roots go way back, is off to a fine start artistically and commercially.

It has been proclaimed a page-turner by some literary critics, and it is...

(The entire section is 697 words.)

William L. Frank with William Hoffman (interview date 24 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman Opens His Door: Author Discusses Writing, New Short Story Collection,” in Farmville Herald, June 4, 1999, pp. 1, 10.

[In the following interview, Hoffman discusses his approach to writing, his short story collection Doors,and the thematic concerns of his fiction.]

Editor’s Note: The following interview took place at the home of Bill and Susan Hoffman at their home, Wynyard, in Charlotte Court House, on Monday, May 24. The occasion was the publication of Mr. Hoffman’s fifteenth book and fourth short story collection, Doors. … The interview was conducted on behalf of the Farmville Herald by Bill Frank, Professor Emeritus of...

(The entire section is 2074 words.)

Gordon Van Ness (review date 4 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman's Doors Offers Look at Human Nature,” in Farmville Herald, June 4, 1999, p. 8.

[In the following review, Van Ness offers a positive assessment of Doors.]

“Begin with an individual,” Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1926, “and before you know it you find you have created a type.” Fitzgerald’s “type,” a determined, upper-class young woman, courageous and attractive and independent, competing at life and love for the highest stakes—her future—, centered all his stories. William Hoffman’s fourth collection of stories, titled Doors, also presents a type, though one not so readily defined—an outsider who is not restricted to...

(The entire section is 686 words.)

Ron Carter (review date 27 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hoffman Evokes Sense of Place,” in Richmond Times Dispatch, June 27, 1999, p. F4.

[In the following brief review, Carter offers a positive evaluation of the stories in Doors.]

Few writers have an ear so finely attuned to the pulsebeat of a place as William Hoffman. In the 10 stories collected here [in Doors], all of which appeared previously in prestigious literary quarterlies, Hoffman creates a rich and lovingly detailed tapestry that encapsulates the life of Southside Virginia from its fox-hunting elite to its harried tobacco farmers, confident “come-heres,” and watermen (or, in this case, waterwomen). In the spare, precise prose that...

(The entire section is 538 words.)

William L. Frank (essay date 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Novels of William Hoffman: One Writer's Spiritual Odyssey from World War II to the Twenty-First Century,” in The Fictional World of William Hoffman, edited by William L. Frank, University of Missouri Press, 2000, pp. 58-87.

[In the following essay, Frank provides an overview of Hoffman's novels, which he divides into “war novels,” “Virginia/West Virginia novels,” and “philosophical/spiritual novels,” and examines the recurring motif of spiritual longing, disillusionment, and redemption in these works. According to Frank, “Hoffman's real subject is not initiation, but his own spiritual odyssey.” A portion of this essay originally appeared as a review of...

(The entire section is 12450 words.)

Gordon Van Ness (essay date 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The American Adam in the Southern Wasteland: William Hoffman's Follow Me Home and the Ethics of Redemption,” in The Fictional World of William Hoffman, edited by William L. Frank, University of Missouri Press, 2000, pp. 24-45.

[In the following essay, Van Ness examines the theme of spiritual redemption in the short stories of Follow Me Home. Van Ness identifies Hoffman's protagonists as American incarnations of the biblical Adam, situated in a fallen “southern wasteland.” As such, Hoffman's protagonists are viewed as independent, self-reliant individuals whose rediscovery of old-fashioned morality and the virtues of the heart lead to renewal and “a spiritual...

(The entire section is 8485 words.)

Paula Span (essay date 4 February 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Bestseller Dreams,” in Washington Post, February 4, 2001, p. W11.

[In the following essay, Span surveys Hoffman's career as a writer who has been critically acclaimed but has yet to achieve the status of bestselling author, focusing upon the promotion of his novel Blood and Guile.]

Bill Hoffman walks into the Volume II Bookstore in Blacksburg, Va., on a Wednesday evening and immediately wishes he could walk right out again.

It's the chairs. Past the poster promising “10٪ Off William Hoffman Books During Event,” past the stacks of his novels Tidewater Blood and the just-published Blood and Guile, in the center of this...

(The entire section is 8026 words.)