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IN THE GARDEN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN MARTYRS – “The Best short stories I have ever re-read”

May 1, 2010

Tobias Wolff

This is one of the best books of short stories. I read it years ago and have just finished reading it again. I am a huge Raymond Carver fan and always will be, but his masterpieces are now starting to seem a bit dated, whereas the Tobias Wolff stories shine with new luster that I don’t think I fully appreciated the frist time around. “Next Door” and “Hunters in the Snow” are Carver like but with “Smokes” we are in Holden Caufield’s world and “Passengers and “Wingfield” find parallels in relationships at a whole deeper level…  

It’s almost as if  Wolff decided to go vertically into his stories and forget the horrizontal direction of plot and it is this self-exploration that is ultimately so courageous and so moving. There is more. Each story ends with a symbolic microcosm that is better an any resolution. A little found diamond of truth. With the title story, it is a professor asked to try out for a teaching position she discovers she was only offered because of legal requirements to consider women as well as men for the job. In her trial class she launches into a tirade about the Iroquois’ treatment of their prisoners, mirroring her own victimization. The selection committee is yelling for her to stop: “But Mary had more to say, so much more, she waved back at Louise, then turned off her hearing aid so that she would not be distracted again.”

By the time we read “Poaching” and “The Liar” we are converts. Can anyone ever write a short story the same way again. I don’t know whether to get more Tobias Wolff books or simply go back and start reading this one all over again.

“He has somehow gotten his hands on our shard secrets, and he’s out to tell everything he knows. I have not read a book of stories in years that has given me such a shock of amazement and recognition–and such pleasure.” – Raymond Carver

Order this book directly from amazon for   $10.88. Click: In The Garden Of The North American Martyrs: Stories

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