Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review Tuesday: 'Our Story Begins'

Today’s ‘Review Tuesday’. Tobias Wolff [1]. He’s one of the US’s best and most acclaimed writers. Esquire magazine called him ‘one of our most exquisite storytellers’. I haven’t read his novels and memoirs. But I’ve loved his short stories. Especially those in his third collection: the 1996 The Night in Question. I’ve just finished his fourth and latest collection: Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories [2, 3]. Published in 2008 and sharing its name with a previous story of Wolff’s that’s not included here, it’s in two parts: 21 Selected (i.e. previously published) Stories, then 10 New Stories. Darling San Francisco daughter suggested I read Our Story Begins. I can’t recall what she thought of it. Me? I was disappointed. Esquire’s opinion of Wolff’s correct. He sure can write. No doubt about it. His 31 stories in this collection imaginatively span varied scenarios peopled with compelling characters. Wolff sets it all up expertly, authentically and exquisitely. But almost all the stories left me feeling let down. Unsatisfied. Frustrated. Maybe Wolff intended to make his readers feel this way. Or perhaps my expectations of short stories are idiosyncratic. I doubt it, though, as on average his ten New Stories satisfied me more than his 21 Selected Stories did. Despite all this, I’m pleased I read Our Story Begins. And I look forward to discussing it with darling San Francisco daughter. Soon, hopefully.

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