Wolff at Kepler's in Menlo Park, California, April 25, 2008
|Born||Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff|
(1945-06-19) June 19, 1945 (age 72)
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
|Genre||memoir, short story, novel|
|Spouse||Catherine Dolores Spohn (m. 1975; 3 children)|
Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff (born June 19, 1945) is an American short story writer, memoirist, and novelist. He is known for his memoirs, particularly This Boy's Life (1989) and In Pharaoh's Army (1994). He has written two short story collections, including The Barracks Thief (1984), which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Wolff received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in September 2015.
Life and career
Tobias Wolff was born in 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama, the son of Rosemary (Loftus) and Arthur Samuels Wolff, an aeronautical engineer. Wolff's father was from a Jewish background, though Wolff did not discover that until he was an adult (Wolff himself is Catholic). Wolff lived with his mother in Newhalem, Washington up in the North Cascade Mountains, while his brother and father lived on the East Coast. He and his mother had drifted from place to place before she finally remarried and relocated to Newhalem. As a kid Wolff busied himself with a local paper route as well as attending Boy Scouts. After attending Concrete High School in Concrete, Washington, Wolff applied to and was accepted by The Hill School under the self-embellished name Tobias Jonathan von Ansell-Wolff III. He had forged his transcripts and recommendation letters in order to get in and was later expelled. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era. He holds a First Class Honours degree in English from Hertford College, Oxford (1972) and an M.A. from Stanford University. In 1975, he was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford.
Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writing Program at Stanford from 2000 to 2002.
Prior to his current appointment at Stanford, Wolff taught at Syracuse University from 1980 to 1997. While at Syracuse he served on the faculty with Raymond Carver and was an instructor in the graduate writing program. Authors who worked with Wolff while they were students at Syracuse include Jay McInerney, Tom Perrotta, George Saunders, Alice Sebold, William Tester, Paul Griner, Ken Garcia, Dana C. Kabel, Jan–Marie Spanard, and Paul Watkins.
Wolff is best known for his work in two genres: the short story and the memoir. His first short story collection, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, was published in 1981. The collection was well received and several of its stories have since reappeared in a number of anthologies. Its publication coincided with a period in which several American authors who worked almost exclusively in the short story form were receiving wider recognition. As writers like Wolff, Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus became better known, many proclaimed that the United States was in the midst of a renaissance of the short story. (The 20th-century North American version of realism these writers used was often labelled Dirty realism).
Wolff repudiated this characterization. In 1994, in the introduction to The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, he wrote:
To judge from the respectful attention this renaissance has received from reviewers and academics, you would think that it actually happened. It did not. This is a rhetorical flourish to give glamour, even valor, to the succession of one generation by another. The problem with the word "renaissance" is that it needs a dark age to justify itself. I can't think of one, myself... The truth is that the short story form has reliably inspired brilliant performances by our best writers, in a line unbroken since the time of Poe.
Wolff's 1984 novella The Barracks Thief won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for 1985. Most of the action takes place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where three recent paratrooper training graduates are temporarily attached to an airborneinfantry company as they await orders to report to Vietnam. Because most of the men in the company fought together in Vietnam, the three newcomers are treated as outsiders and ignored. When money and personal property are discovered missing from the barracks, suspicion falls on the three newcomers. The narrative structure of the book contains several shifts of tone and point of view as the story unfolds.
In 1985, Wolff's second short story collection, Back in the World was published. Several of the stories in this collection, such as "The Missing Person," are significantly longer than the stories in his first collection.
Wolff chronicled his early life in two memoirs. This Boy's Life (1989), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Biography, concerns itself with the author's adolescence in Seattle and then Newhalem, a remote company town in the North Cascade mountains of Washington State. The memoir describes the nomadic and uncertain life Wolff and his mother experienced after the divorce of Wolff's parents and then his mother's subsequent marriage to an abusive husband and stepfather. In Pharaoh's Army (1994) records Wolff's U.S. Army tour of duty in Vietnam. A third collection of stories, The Night in Question, was published in 1997. Our Story Begins, a collection of new and previously-published stories, appeared in 2008.
Whether he is writing fiction or non-fiction, Wolff's prose is characterized by an exploration of personal/biographical and existential terrain. As Wyatt Mason wrote in the London Review of Books, "Typically, his protagonists face an acute moral dilemma, unable to reconcile what they know to be true with what they feel to be true. Duplicity is their great failing, and Wolff's main theme." He has also spoken of the personal nature of his work elsewhere: "I have to be able, with a straight face, to tell myself that something is nonfiction if I say it’s nonfiction. That’s why, although there are autobiographical elements in some of my stories, I still call them fiction because that’s what they are. Even though they may have been set into motion by some catalyst of memory."
In 1989, Wolff was chosen as recipient of the Rea Award for the Short Story. Wolff has received the O. Henry Award on three occasions, for the stories "In the Garden of North American Martyrs" (1981), "Next Door" (1982), and "Sister" (1985). In 2008, he was awarded The Story Prize for Our Story Begins.
Wolff's work has found a wider audience through its adaptation to film. This Boy's Life became a feature film directed by Michael Caton-Jones which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Ellen Barkin.
In 2001, Wolff's acclaimed short story "Bullet in the Brain" was adapted into a short film by David Von Ancken and CJ Follini starring Tom Noonan and Dean Winters.
Tobias Wolff's older brother is the author Geoffrey Wolff. A decade before Tobias Wolff wrote This Boy's Life, his brother wrote a memoir of his own about the boys' biological father, entitled The Duke of Deception.
Wolff's mother, having settled in Washington, D.C., eventually became president of the League of Women Voters.
Tobias Wolff is married and lives with his wife, Catherine Dolores Spohn, and three children in California.
Awards and honors
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
|Smokers||1976||Wolff, Tobias (December 1976). "Smokers". Atlantic Monthly.||First published short story.|
|Fortune||1988||Wolff, Tobias (Summer 1988). "Fortune". Granta. 24 (Inside Intelligence).|
|Memorial||1993||Wolff, Tobias (Summer 1993). "Memorial". Granta. 44 (The Last Place on Earth).|
|Bible||2007||Wolff, Tobias (Aug 2007). "Bible". The Atlantic.|
|All ahead of them||2013||Wolff, Tobias (July 8–15, 2013). "All ahead of them". The New Yorker. 89 (20): 74–79.|
- ^Adams, Tim (January 25, 2004). "Wolff at the door". The Observer. London. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- ^"Obama awards Stanford's Tobias Wolff a National Medal of Arts | The Dish". news.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
- ^"Tobias Wolff Biography". notablebiographies.com.
- ^Prose, Francine (February 5, 1989). "The Brothers Wolff". The New York Times.
- ^"Old School". neabigread.org.
- ^ abEnd notes for This Boy's Life
- ^Homes, A.M. "Tobias Wolff", ‘’BOMB Magazine’’ Fall, 1996. Retrieved on [2012-07-24]
- ^"Obama to award arts medals to Sally Field, Stephen King - Verizon". Retrieved 2015-09-05.
Below are three introductory paragraphs for three different essays about Tobias Wolff’s short story “Powder.” Using these paragraphs as models thin! about what ma!es a strong introductory paragraph. "s you analy#e these models as! yourself$
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of writing %tone word choice formatting etc&' Introduction to an essay about character$(erge to the (iddle$ )*ploring the +ontrast between ,ather and -onIn his story “Powder” Tobias Wolff e*plores the relationship between a father and son as they encounter a storm on the way home from the s!i slopes. It is +hristmas )e day and the father is supposed to bring his son home no later than dinnertime from s!iing. /oweer due to the father’s carefree attitude they wind up in some tric!y spots on the way home. The father and son are e*amples of two different e*treme personalities the father being a fun0loing irresponsible person and the son being an an*ious and almost oerly cautious person. Wolff wants to get across the idea that one can be a responsible and fun0loing person by ta!ing the good aspects from each character and eliminating the bad. The author deelops the theme that the reader needs to come to the middle of the character’s two e*treme’s through details from the father’s past the contrast of the father’s and son’s personalities the dialogue between father and son and the son’s final transformation. Introduction to an essay about symbolism$"naly#ing Powder$ The -ymbolism of the -nowIn Tobias Wolff’s short story “Powder” the snow proides an important symbol. In the story the father ta!es his son on a s!i trip and promises to hae him home to his mother by +hristmas )e dinner. 1n their way home they are caught by a heay snowfall that they must naigate through in order to get to bac! in time. The title “Powder” highlights snow in the story which symboli#esthe relationship between the boy and his father.Introduction to an essay about theme$ 2ot Perfect$ Unconditional 3oe in Tobias Wolff’s “Powder”In the short story “Powder” Tobias Wolff creates a story about acceptance and coming0of0age. In the story the father ta!es his son on a s!i trip and promises to hae him home to his mother by +hristmas )e dinner. The father and son hae a roc!y relationship due to the father’s carelessness and irresponsibility. “Powder” focuses on the boy’s epiphany in which he reali#es that his father is not perfect but that the boy can still loe his father unconditionally. Wolff deelops this theme through the imagery of the snow the contrasting personalities of the father and son and the final lines of the story.