24 julio 2009

Books I Liked


Por "la famosa escritora norteamericana"




Our story begins. TOBIAS WOLFF
400 pgs. Ed. Knof (2008)


"Tobias Wolff's latest collection of short stories, written over a period of thirty years, contains twenty-one previously published in book form with ten new stories added. The characters and situations are diverse although a good many stories take place in the snow; as one character says, however-- and I tend to agree with him-- snow is much overrated. I also agree with the writer Edward P. Jones whose definition of a good short story is one that "the world, for even one character, has shifted, whether to a large or a tiny degree." These stories (at least practically all of them) would interest Mr. Jones. In some of them the shift is enormous: a bank customer is shot in the head by a robber; one hunter shoots a friend, a fellow hunter; a young man in an act of definace paints a white picket fence red; a professor, having learned that she has been duped into interviewing for a teaching position that the search committee has already decided on, veers from her canned lecture on the Marshall Plan into an extemporaneous speech about the barbarism of the Iroquois. In others the world moves inside the head of the character. In "Awaiting Orders" a sergeant realizes that he is ashamed to take a woman and her child home with him, not because he has a male lover, but because she will see that he doesn't care for the lover as much as the lover cares for him. "What he feared, what he could not allow, was for her to see how Dixon [his lover] looked at him, and then to see that he coud not give back what he received. That things between them were unequal, and himself unloving." A man at the death watch for his mother no longer knows how to be a son but can be a father.

Mr. Wolff writes about relationships, the "shakiness" of families, young love, betrayal, characters who are down and out although they seldom whine-- in a word often decent people. One of my favorite stories is "The Night in Question," a beautiful moving account of a brother and sister who had an abusive father. The siblings are worlds apart because the brother has gone off the deep end with religion but still so close because of their love for each other. It bears reading again and again.


Wolff's seamless transparent prose is for the most part free of metaphor although older people have "wintry smiles" and a "wide woman" on a bus has flesh under her arms that "swings like hammocks." These stories are not for the lazy reader for they are as subtle and complex as anything Henry James ever wrote although Mr. Wolff certainly is a master of the short story himself
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